A Washington Post column by Howard Kurtz on the popularity and pitfalls of the email interview continues to be a topic for PR bloggers. Here’s an excerpt from the column, referencing the interview process:
“It is a transaction that clearly favors the person asking the questions. A print reporter writes down someone’s answers, then picks and chooses how much, if any, to use, how to frame the quotes and where to put any contrary information. Television correspondents slice and dice taped interviews in similar fashion. But in the digital age, some executives and commentators are saying they will respond only by e-mail, which allows them to post the entire exchange if they feel they have been misrepresented, truncated or otherwise disrespected. And some go further, saying, You want to know what I think? Read my blog.”
Implications for those in the communications business will continue to evolve, but here are some points to consider:
1. If your spokesperson is horrible in front of the media, see if the email interview format is acceptable and try to go that route right away. If not, time for more media training…or a new spokesperson.
2. Realize that the rules of the game will be dictated by the reporter…and that some journalism traditionalists will not allow a source to hide behind a keyboard. Who knows who’s actually typing on the other end, they’ll think.
3. There are always exceptions, such as the source who is so newsworthy that the media will take the information any way they can get it, so email will be acceptable.
4. If an email interview is the only way your spokeperson will communicate with the media, consider the fact that a reporter might move on to someone more willing to speak face-to-face (or over the phone), thereby losing your opportunity for exposure.
5. As we’ve all experienced at one point, cold words on a screen can be wildly misinterpreted, making it difficult to capture the source’s intentions. Body language, voice tones and facial expressions are all part of the interview. A cutesy emoticon won’t cut it during an email interview 😉
6. And finally, consider this one more reason to have a blog. As Kurtz points out, the fact that the interview took place can be “covered” by the corporate blog, a transcript of the email exchange can be posted for all to see and a follow-up comment can be posted to promote, expand upon or critique the eventual story.