On PRForum, a discussion list for PR professionals and academics, there has been discussion about how to prepare a high ranking federal government official to brief a newspaper’s editorial board. In response to a post from a good friend of mine, Kathy Gill, professor of new media at the University of Washington, I said:
Well, Kathy, I can speak for the “dark side” now (grin):
We call ’em “press tours.”
We average one a week.
As an editor, here’s what I prefer (and most emphatically not what I usually get, of course):
1. Send me your Powerpoint presentation at least 1 day in advance. The meeting is much more useful if I have a chance to read the presentation first, so I can ask more detailed, deeper questions. I actually like to do my homework…maybe I’m unusual, but I prepare for a press briefing by thoroughly investigating the company and the exec doing the briefing.
2. If you are making an embargoed announcement, send it to me early, note the embargo. I don’t think surprise announcements make for good meetings. This is about information transfer, not drama.
3. Keep to the schedule. If you say you’ll show up at 9, show up at 9, dammit. I spend hours waiting for immediately arriving PR people, company execs in tow…and I can’t really do anything else important while I’m waiting.
4. Make sure your exec doesn’t just read his slides to me. I HATE THAT!!! Now I’ll tell you how I really feel about it: it makes me think poorly of the exec’s ability, and it tends to tell me that the exec thinks I’m a moron, whether or not he/she really thinks that.
5. When I ask a question, I expect an honest answer. Make sure your exec understands that waffling and non-answer answers drive editors nuts. Leave out all the marketing-speak, too. Chances are, I do it as well as you do…maybe better. What I want are “Just the facts, ma’am.”
6. I expect to ask hard questions. I’m not trying to insult the exec, or his company. I am trying to get to the meat of what we’re talking about. If your exec is pumping out smoke and wiggling his mirrors, make sure he/she expects to be called on it.
Now recognize that I run a trade magazine, and not a newspaper. Newspaper editors may do it differently. I don’t have time to screw around, and I like briefings to be tight, detailed, and information rich…