When Being Shallow is a Good Thing

I love telling this story about a CEO who messed up a once-in-a-lifetime New York Times interview. (Granted, he should have been forced fed interview training.)

The problem with this CEO was that he went too deep. Too deep into explaining what his company did, when the article’s focus was not at all about him or his company. He failed to stay on theme.

He also failed to listen, resulting in the reporter’s inability to pose a question.

The CEO simply fire-hosed the interviewer. The result? A one-word mention. This, after talking non-stop for an hour.

A basic interview rule was breached: The interviewee is there to service the interviewer, not vice-versa.

As PR pros, we have to remind our clients that the story/article must come first. We are there to service the press. We are there to service the story. We should be doing everything we can to help the writer write the best story they possibly can.

An interview is not a platform to sermonize how great your “solution” is. Wikipedia editors who are gifted with well-developed draconian noses for smelling puffery, call this kind of puffery “peacocking.”

Expert sources are sought after by the press. Since most stories are about people and not companies, we need experts to humanize our pitches. So-called “domain experts,” like to show off their expertise, more so if they had to suffer through long classroom lectures to earn a coveted certification. And when this happens the interview can suffer. The expert source goes too deep. He goes subterranean. He images himself a professor standing before a lectern.

The interview was about the gains in speed, agility, and convenience that can be achieved by a flying car. The pontificator instead chose to talk about the physics and mathematics involved in making the car fly.
He got too myopic, and he failed to listen. He was the expert, after all.

But he didn’t service the call. A grade ‘F’ showing appeared on the final published report.


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