Monday, May 17, 2004

How Not to Take Control 

A PR person working with Secretary of State Colin Powell showed how not take control of an interview Sunday. You must have read by now that the woman had the camera panned away from Powell and told the famously grouchy interviewer, Tim Russert, that the interview was over. Needless to say, Russert did not take intrusion into his interview kindly. It took the intervention of Powell himself to keep the interview going. Powell told the PR person to back off and the interview was concluded, but Russert got his revenge by making it known far and wide that it was "press management gone berserk."

In the press aide's defense, the interview had run over its allotted time and Powell's people had tried to get it wound up, but Russert wouldn't stop. Powell, a much smarter media relations person than his aide, knew Russert should be allowed to run on.

I can appreciate the quandary of a PR practitioner who tried too hard to take control. There are times when you need to get a person out of the room and on to the next appointment. You have to intrude in one way or another. That's your job. But, there are journalists who don't care a fig for your job. They are going to continue their interviews until they are done with whatever they have to ask. I have played the heavy in the past, but I'm not sure I would have the courage to do what Powell's press aide did, especially with such a hard core interviewer like Russert.

I'll bet she never does it again.


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