“They're feeding lines to the executive over IM during our interview!"
"Every quote they give me is approved, edited and filtered!"
"They’re just there to make sure every pre-determined talking point is uttered!”
At least, that's what some tech reporters seem to think about PR people who join their clients on press calls. But the truth is usually much less sinister: Good tech PR people know their job is to foster clear communications between a company and a journalist, and help drive inspired conversations. Making sure the client says interesting, quotable things about the industry and their company is the whole goal.
Some reporters might be skeptical at this notion. If so, this post is for you. Here’s five reasons why it’s a good idea why we’re on your calls:
We need to hold our clients accountable to you. Sometimes executives forget about an interview and need to be tracked down, or when they do, come unprepared. (Not that any of our clients ever do this!) It’s inconvenient for you (and us), and also is not the outcome the client is likely looking for either, who probably wants to talk with you and do a good job doing it. A PR person helps ensure you get the discussion you were promised, and if a client stands you up—that’s something the PR person should be taking very seriously.
It helps us do a better job. Being good at tech PR requires a deep understanding of our clients’ industries and products, and how both are perceived by reporters and analysts. But it doesn’t stop there—it also means taking what we learn and improving and iterating. If we notice a reporter is having trouble understanding how a product works, that’s not the reporter’s problem—it’s ours, and our job is to work with our clients afterward to develop sounder messaging.
We want to get you what you need—quickly. Promised logos and headshots on the call? Supporting stats? An exclusive? Executives are often big picture people. While they can talk forever about their industry with great enthusiasm, details are the last thing they want to think about after they get off the phone with you. The PR person makes it their duty to get you what you said you’d need from a company, and (if they’re really good) anticipate in advance what you might need from them.
We need to know what was said this time, so we can better prep the executive next time. This might sting a little, but a lot of the time, an executive may not remember you. And if they do remember, might not recall the last time you spoke or what was discussed then. (Hey, it happens when you’re a busy person who meets with countless people daily.) A big part of our job at theMIX is to prep executives before meeting reporters so the interview can be as productive—and as personalized—as possible.
We correct inaccuracies. Believe it or not, our job is to make sure the truth is told. It’s not uncommon for an executive—for whatever reason—to mistakenly say something that’s not entirely accurate in an interview. e.g. “We give 100,000 rides daily” when really it just bumped up to 150,000. A good PR person will listen for these sort of errors, and correct any mistakes with a reporter to protect the truth.
With all of the above said, a time and place exists for PR people to sit things out. When a client has a personal relationship with a reporter, for instance, it’s usually more effective for their conversation to be strictly one-to-one. But having read this, reporters, you may miss us when we’re not there.