Working for a PR agency means my cell phone number is widely available. It’s in my email signature. It’s published on news releases that cross the wire and are uploaded to clients’ online pressrooms. While it is great resource for reporters, it also means I get my fair share of random requests, like the few times people called me because they wanted to enroll their child in school. Or the time a woman called, desperate to know if I received her husband’s job application for a trucking position.
Recently, when my phone rang after hours, I fully expected a question that I could not answer. To my surprise, the call was from the executive news editor of a high school newspaper. He was anxious to connect with my client who had administered a playground contest. An essay nominating St. Norbert School in Northbrook, Illinois, highlighted Kyle Caraher, a 17-year-old varsity football player who lost his life in a car accident in the summer of 2012. The touching essay was selected as one of two winners. The editor on the phone was from the Torch, the student-run newspaper of Glenbrook North High School, where Caraher had been a student.
He wanted to schedule an interview to learn more about the contest and why the essay nominating St. Norbert School (where Caraher attended elementary school) was selected as a winner. Knowing my client spokesperson’s time was tight, I asked if he could send me questions via email. The editor said if that was the only option, he could, but that he would prefer to conduct a phone interview. He mentioned his faculty advisors look down on email interviews and they are to be avoided if at all possible.
In that moment I realized it was important to facilitate a phone interview.
So often PR people, reporters and spokespeople are short on time. Is an interview conducted via email the most ideal? No, but it gets the information where it needs to go. But this high school newspaper editor is likely part of the next generation of journalists we’ll be working with – helping him hone his interview skills is important and something I’m happy my client was able to facilitate. Though I’m not convinced we’re going to see more journalists requesting phone interviews vs. email because their resources are squeezed more than ever.It was important for me to show him a PR professional was his ally. After all, he even offered Saturday availability for the interview. If he was willing to go above and beyond for his paper, wasn’t it our job to help?
The editor conducted a thorough interview with my client and we probably weren’t on the phone for much longer than 15-20 minutes. He sent follow-up questions and was responsive all communications. He was a pleasure to work with and his final article was some of the most in-depth coverage the project received.
At RoseComm, we strive to generate results that move the needle for our clients’ businesses. So why was a high school newspaper worth our client’s time? A few reasons: the contest covered was voted on by the public – likely including teachers and students from Glenbrook North High – so showing appreciation for their participation was important. Additionally, parents and school administrators are key audiences for my client.
You can read the young journalist’s work here: Caraher’s dream plays into reality at St. Norbert’s.