Phones are awesome, especially cell phones. They make our lives so easy, especially now with the smart phones and the many apps, games and other benefits you can access. They’ve come a long way since the early days when cell phones were the size and weight of a brick.
Phones can be used for so many different purposes. You can take pictures and video with them. You can play games, download apps, track calories consumed and burned and listen to music. As a kid I used to love to make prank calls. Even with caller ID you can still make prank calls with them. In fact, one of my favorite comedians, Tom Mabe makes his living off prank calls.
In public relations, one of the most effective ways we have of connecting our clients to the media is via the telephone. Often the media wants to talk to our clients but are located in different cities so face-to-face meetings aren’t possible. In these events, an interview conducted via phone or SKYPE is the next best thing to meeting in person.
Just as with a face-to-face meetings, there are certain rules and best practices for conducting phone interviews and other phone meetings. I’ve included these best practices below:
- Don’t whisper. In one phone interview I scheduled for a client the Vice President of Marketing and CEO participated. During the interview The VP of Marketing wanted to communicate something to the CEO. The message he wanted to convey was pertinent to the conversation and was something the CEO had overlooked as he answered a specific question. During a pause in the CEO’s response, the VP of Marketing attempted to whisper his message. While he thought he was being secretive and quite, on our end of the line, we could hear loud and clear what the VP of Marketing was saying. It was obvious he was trying to whisper, but he did it directly into the phone for all to hear. It prompted the reporter to ask the CEO who else was on the call coaching him? It wasn’t an issue that the VP was on the line with him, but it distracted the flow of the call.
- Be clear about who you are and who you represent. In a famous Seinfeld episode, Jerry Seinfeld is dating a women who after only a short time dating when she calls identifies herself as simply, “It’s me”. In retaliation, Jerry pulls the “old switch-aroo” by calling the girl and simply saying, “It’s me.” The girlfriend mistakes him for a different male friend and proceeds to have a conversation with Jerry about something he knows nothing about. When on the phone be sure to identify yourself so all parties involved know who is on the line and who they are talking to. Don’t be the “it’s me” person.
- Make sure you hang up. When I finish a call, especially a phone interview, I always pick the receiver up to make sure the line has been disconnected. Remember, you’re always on the record and if you don’t hang up the phone and say something you wouldn’t want a reporter to know or hear, the reporter can use that information. By checking to make sure the call has been ended properly you’ll avoid a lot of embarrassment. In one instance, I was on a phone call with a colleague and he did something I thought was unwise. As I finished the conversation and set the phone down, I proceeded to tell the person in my office what an idiot my colleague was. As I explained the reasons for his idiocy, I could hear a little voice. I paused and realized that my phone was still on. As I picked it up my colleague was saying how I hadn’t hung up the phone and that he could hear every word I was saying. Needless to say, it caused a fair share of awkward moments.
- Avoid taking or making calls in inappropriate places. Everyone’s probably been surprised at one time or another when a phone rings and the person receiving the call answers the phone. Usually it’s the bathroom where you would normally expect not to hear somebody on the phone. There are certainly other places that would seem inappropriate but we won’t make a list of these places on this blog entry. Suffice it to say, for a phone interview with the media you should prepare to be in a place that offers a nice quite environment where you’ll have as few chances for interruption as possible. A nice tranquil venue will enable you to focus on the interview and hear and communicate effectively without disturbance. In the event that you can’t find a place like this, for example, due to travel or other unexpected happenings, politely explain to the reporter that you’re traveling and are at the airport. If an editor knows this in advance they have the option of rescheduling or planning on some potential distractions. You never want to be in a place like the bathroom thinking you have some peace and quite only to have a toilet flush unexpectedly in the background and then have to answer, “what was that, are you in the bathroom?” It’s bad form and reflects poorly on you.
- Good manners still apply. Apply the same manners to a phone interview that you would to any other face-to-face meeting. Be polite. Be punctual. Be prepared. Usually you’ll know in advance what the reporter wants to talk about so be prepared to discuss those topics and to provide any supporting materials. Be attentive and listen to what the reporter is saying. Don’t do or say anything that will embarrass your company or your mother. My friend taught me this and if you apply this to your interactions with the media you’ll do a lot to avoid unnecessary embarrassment.
By following these guidelines you’ll save yourself a lot of grief and embarrassment. The phone is a great way to communicate and allows us incredible flexibility. You hear all the time about butt dialing, wrong numbers and other phone faux pas but if you pay attention to details, the benefits phones provide will far outweigh any embarrassing situations you may encounter.
About Jeremy Kartchner
Jeremy Kartchner is a Partner at Snapp Conner PR and has more than 15 years experience in both technology and sports PR. In addition to his responsibilities with Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.
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