(By Tim O’Brien) Over the years, I’ve had the chance to study the relationship between the media and the public relations industry from several angles. First as a reporter and a broadcaster, then through decades in the PR field as a consultant to clients and sometimes as a spokesperson.
Over the past year, I’ve once again had the chance to see this relationship from a new point of view, that of a podcaster.
What I’ve learned is that, given the sheer size of the podcasting business, there is a tendency for many podcasters to be largely unfamiliar with the unsaid rules and protocols, along with the risks and benefits of working with PR people.
While each one of these points can be an article in itself, here are the primary things podcasters need to know about working with PR people.
What PR People Don’t Know About Podcasting
Most don’t understand podcasting and are likely to treat you as less important than what they may perceive as “real” media like television, newspapers, and radio. For this reason, even if they tell you they will call you tomorrow, it’s best not to wait too long to follow up. Persistence is key.
When they do commit to working with you, chances are they and the people they represent will treat your interview like a radio interview, which means they will prepare for a short interview built around sound bites of 30-40 seconds in length. As a result, you may feel like you’re pulling teeth to get your interviewee to open up and tell a story or two that may go longer than your typical sound bite.
Almost all of the PR representatives you meet, no matter how many years of experience they have, will underestimate your need for high-quality audio. They will likely not prep the interviewee to have a good Skype connection, a good landline, or even a broadcast-quality headset. You and your interviewee will most likely be on your own here.
In addition to audio quality, the PR person will probably not brief the interviewee to do the interview in a quiet place where they can focus on the interview and not try to multi-task, creating distracting background noises and leading to unfocused answers.
What You Can Do
Make sure to invest the time in educating the PR person you’re dealing with about every little detail that will give you the audio quality and positive experience you seek. Create tip sheets or checklists for the PR person to give to their interviewee or client. Don’t assume that as experienced public relations pros they know what you need.
If possible, ask to be able to communicate directly with the interviewee in advance. Usually this communication may need to be via email since it’s likely the interviewee is a busy person and won’t devote the time to do a pre-interview for a podcast. Still, you can send the same tip sheet and other guidance to give the person an idea of what you’re doing to make the interview as good as it can be.
In that checklist, make sure to include some guidance on what types of interview responses you are seeking, such as personal stories, career tips, how-to advice, or whatever it is that you feel will give your listeners what they need and want. By giving your guest a heads up in advance, they can put some thought into the kinds of responses that will work best for you and them.
One thing you don’t need to do is provide a list of questions in advance, and you shouldn’t need to share a review recording with anyone prior to you posting it live. In this sense, you have the same rights as any journalist might.
I have a tip sheet I use for interviewees of the Shaping Opinion podcast. If you’d like a copy of it, feel free to get in touch.
Tim O’Brien is the producer and host of the Shaping Opinion podcast and the founder of the Pittsburgh-based communications consultancy O’Brien Communications. He can be reached at 412.854.8845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.