Phone Interviews — Keep Them One-on-One

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When it’s time for that phone interview you’ve promised a reporter at an important outlet, it’s sometimes tempting to put several sources on the line simultaneously to assure your team can answer all possible questions. It seems natural enough. Don’t we often have several people around a speaker phone for conference calls?

Well, yes we do. But reporter interviews are different, and I’d recommend thinking long and hard before coming at reporters with multiple sources on one call.

The reason is simple. It’s confusing.

Remember, the reporter may be on the phone with your folks for the first time. It’s hard enough to get to know one person on the telephone. But two, three or four? That is very difficult — perhaps impossible.

Also, from a nuts-and-bolts standpoint reporters take notes during interviews and will try to get a few quotes down verbatim. If you’ve got multiple new voices, it’s sometimes hard to know who’s talking. That makes it far tougher for the reporter to get the quotes he or she needs.

Now, there may be times when you feel you simply must have more than one source on the line. Say, for example, you’ve got someone new to the organization and you want a second source with more experience to help out and assure errors aren’t made. In that case, it’s important to limit your call to just two sources and make sure they re-introduce themselves frequently when they resume talking. Something like, “Hi. This is Bill again …”

Ideally, however, one person on the phone is enough. If you want to schedule interviews with mutliple sources within the company, that’s fine. Just hold separate calls. That way, the reporter can prepare for each.

I recall my days as a reporter, and I’d always dread the mutliple-source calls PR folks liked to set up. It was more efficient for them, but far more difficult for me. Perhaps because of this, I work very hard to make it as easy as possible for the reporter — whose happiness is always one of my top priorities.