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Transparency In Media Relations…

Steve has an interesting post on transparent interviews. This is something David and I have been chatting about for awhile.

Wouldn’t it be great if not only communicators but also journalists posted all transcripts from interviews? And with the advent of Podcasting, just post the verbal if you don’t have time to transcribe. So, no excuses. (And make them available via an RSS feed).

But, it’s wrong to expect journalists to conform to live posting of the interview. In fact it’s ludicrous to respond with "Mr. Reporter, send me your interview questions and I will post my responses on my blog." No matter how powerful you are, any journo worth their salt is simply going to tell you to take a hike. This kind of arrogance will only damage relations with the media and lead to a very polarized dialog. Neither of which is desirable. This response is probably the last resort of the pissed-off Exec or company.

The starting point is being clear up front that you reserve the right to also record the interview and post the transcript on publication of the story. And they reserve the right to do the same.

Media advantage comes from breaking stories and news and its only fair that they get to preserve that. But that doesn’t mean the transcript can’t be posted on publication of the story. And at that time, the interviewee gets the right to point to that transcript and question the reporting.

And now, rather than difficult calls with the media – and all the normal excuses – the interviewee and PR pro gets to correct it in public. I’ve heard so many excuses:- "My editor changed my story". "I didn’t write that bit". "He might not have said specifically that, but that’s what he was saying". "Let me look at my notes and get back to you". "I’m on deadline and can’t find my notes right now – can’t this wait". "Send a letter to the Ed if you have a problem with the story". "I’d be happy to print a correction – in 5pt type in the bottom left hand corner of page 9,000". "Bummer". "I’ve written plenty of good stories on you guys so get over it". What, you are going to complain every time I write something you don’t like".

But be warned, more than often when I’ve questioned a quote I’ve gone back to a transcript, stepped back, and seen how the journalist got there. And discovered I was wrong. (Saul did this here). So, record those interviews and transcribe them where possible. But more importantly, make your point very succinctly and clearly. And make it again if you think it wasn’t clear enough. Communicating is a tricky business. What is often thought of as a misquote can in reality be the result of trimming a 10 minute diatribe to a sentence. That’s tough. Interviews definitely favor the expert communicator.

The most important outcome of the blooging between Saul of the NYTimes and John Batelle is that the conversation is taking place. Interviews were once very final events. Now they are conversations. Like Fred, I didn’t read the NYT piece – I did read the conversation.

So while transparency in media relations is going to lead to lots of whingeing about journalistic tone and bias I’m willing to put up with that if it means more accurate reporting and more transparency. And more conversations.

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