The New York Times has a great piece today on how blogs are forcing a change in how reporters use interviews. It talks about how some organizations--upset about how they were portrayed in a particular story or how their quotes were used out of context--are fighting back by posting full transcripts. It also mentions how reporters are now posting source material as a matter of course.
It's a good piece, but also a bit of a cautionary tale for PR people. Most of my clients are smaller companies that fight for ink; very different than a major player like Google that is in a much better position to dictate its terms.
For clients like mine the article has this:
Posting of original material may be somewhat less common in the corporate world than among individuals representing themselves. Steven Rubenstein, president of Rubenstein Communications, the New York public relations firm, said that posting raw material was "another tool in the tool chest" and that if a corporate client had been damaged, "you'll certainly want to get something out that's Google-able."We in PR spend a lot of time working to court favor with reporters so they'll take our clients seriously. If a client lashes out at that reporter you can bet the next time a relevant story comes up, it's going to be much more difficult to earn a mention. I'm sure we all have stories of clients calling us, angry, and wanting to find out "what we can do" about a particular reporter or story. The trick is to use this new weapon wisely and not to have a quick trigger finger.
But, he said, a corporation must also consider whether publishing such material would alienate an influential beat reporter as well as an entire news outlet and possibly reporters for other outlets. "You have to balance the incident over the long-term relationship," he said. "But you can get your side out in a benign way. It doesn't have to be antagonistic."
The ability for anyone to be a publisher means that everyone is always on the record. During media training, we regularly tell our clients stories of post-interview, off-hand comments made on the way to the elevator that ended up in articles. When talking to a reporter you never use the phrase "off the record," because you rarely are.
I had a journalism professor who taught us ways to get information back ON the record if a subject said to keep it off. It can be done. If you want it off the record, don't say it.
It also means that everything is fair game. As a PR person I tend to be behind the scenes. In fact, most reporters would probably prefer not to tell their readers that I'm even part of the process. They run interviews with my clients and don't normally say "I got a call from a PR person and then decided to interview his/her client."
But a blogger or podcaster is a different story. I recently pitched my client to the Bluebox Podcast and found my pitch read as a reader comment.
Not my intention but I am, in fact, speaking into the microphone with every call and email.