Paul Curran, who is one of our media training team, was a reporter for the BBC for over 20 years. He has experienced at first hand how the internet has revolutionised the way the media operates. Here he talks about the impact of Google on his working life, and how PR departments – and those doing interviews with journalists – need to react.
When I started reporting on BBC TV in the early 90s research was hard work.
You needed to get on the phone and actually talk to people or if you were lucky you could dig up a few newspaper articles from a database. It took time and you had to be organised.
Of course time is a luxury in the fast paced world of news so more often than not you’re sent out on a job with a few scant details scribbled on your pad, with the news desk promising to ring with more when you were on your way.
But then Google (and other search engines) changed it all.
Nowadays I could find out stacks of information about any company or organisation in minutes simply using a mobile phone.
So what, you may be thinking?
Well, back in the day you stood a good chance of a journalist rocking up at your door (or press conference) armed only with their instincts and the fall back pack of questions – the 5Ws (Who, What, Where, When and Why). So if you were briefed by your PR to answer them you were pretty much in control.
No such luck these days because any reporter worth their salt will know loads about you and your company/organisation from a simple search of the internet.
They’ll know what your customers/competitors/detractors think and will be only to happy to ask the questions those people want answered.
More worryingly they’ll probably have a few “facts” wrong but will be convinced they are right because they read them on Wikipedia!
So if you find yourself in this situation, your PR department or agency needs to do its own research. Do what the journalists do.
Search online – see what articles your organisation/company crops up in. What are you opponents saying about you? Are there mistakes/misconceptions out there? Basically stress test your set up.
It’s a cliche but if you fail to prepare you should prepare to fail. Preparation is one of the key lessons we teach in our training courses for getting the best out of media opportunities.
I can’t tell you the number of times I was complimented for my knowledge of a particular subject. Little did they know that I, like most journalists, was just good at ingesting a lot of information quickly and working out the pressure points.
It’s not too difficult to appear clever. That worked in reverse too -I was always amazed when a senior executive failed to have an answer for a tricky question that they would have expected if they’d thought about it and Googled it!
If you would like more information about how to prepare for media interviews, then contact us on 020 8332 6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.