A PR agency is often tasked with ensuring clients are interviewed and quoted in the media. The results are almost always incredibly positive. Published articles generally contain the message that our client wants to convey. Such articles reach a significant proportion of the intended audience and are a particularly trusted source.
However, it is sometimes difficult for our clients to understand the impact and effect that an interview can actually have. Think about it this way: many companies are part of an industry that only a few individual Swedish media outlets regularly write about. People who are interested in the subject will keenly follow absolutely everything that these media outlets publish.
An example is where a B2B company can count on over half their total target audience having read an article about them. That huge advert they took out in the paper? No-one saw it, because we’re all really good at avoiding adverts.
It’s not always easy to get stressed journalists to take the time for a longer conversation; often it is just a brief telephone interview. The topic is discussed so quickly that it is hard for the journalist to manage to ask about and digest all the relevant details; plus journalists may misunderstand or want to talk about something that our client feels is not especially interesting.
Ultimately, things are almost always fine, but the uncertainty of how an interview comes across means that we as a PR agency often say to our clients:
“Checking the quotes doesn’t mean correcting them”.
Journalists usually ask their source to read the quotes. In this situation however, the quotes are the property of the journalist and not the person who said them. The media will simply write what they decide to write. Our job is primarily to react to factual errors. We could potentially suggest adding something that wasn’t revealed during the interview. However, we do not comment on the language, criticise the angle, or rewrite a quote to make it more ‘corporate’. This type of thing is viewed as solely negative and risks complicating any future contact.
“Articles are not published when we want them to be.”
It is also common for a newspaper to publish an article slightly later than we and the client would like. In the worst-case scenario, an article is written in order for the newspaper to have something to publish during the holidays. The PR agency will issue regular reminders to the newspaper, but we cannot do any more than that.
“The quote does not exactly express what was said in the interview.”
What is said during a conversation is often more complicated than the simplified version which ends up in the article. Journalists also tweak the quote to suit the whole article. This distances them slightly from what was actually said. Our advice is to accept that this is how the media functions. As long as it is not incorrect, there isn’t much to be done about it. Often it actually makes the article better and therefore more people will read it.
“An interview is no guarantee of publicity”
Even if an interview goes well, it might not result in an article. The journalist may have interviewed several people and it was someone else who gave the best quote. Or perhaps the interview was merely intended as fact-gathering, or to learn more about a subject. Our advice is to think long term. An interview is just the beginning of a contact that can last for quite some time. And it is useful to gain practice with messages and quotes.
So interviews are quite simply a very effective PR method. The results are often incredibly positive, but occasionally slightly unexpected.