Nobody likes a know-it-all. It might be someone refusing to give an interview without payment, or perhaps your gobby friend claiming they know a secret about your sister’s boyfriend’s brother and refusing to say without some gossip in exchange. They make everyone’s blood boil.
Why? Because it’s so difficult to trust them. People have become wise to the fact that people who want something before divulging information must be trying it on. And they often are.
This can make things tricky in the world of PR. The media is geared in such a way that expert advice on a plethora of niche subjects is sought. Whether an expert’s specialism is on the global economy or the hibernation pattern of the Canadian Wood Frog, their insight is useful to a journalist somewhere.
That is, if they’re willing to comment.
Give it away
Many businesses can be wary about giving away advice, seeing it as tantamount to giving away the Managing Director’s beloved car. Their reluctance is understandable from a commercial perspective, although ultimately misplaced.
You see, real experts are generally perfectly happy to offer insight without anything in return. They understand that by being selfless about the information they’re imparting, they’re more likely to be taken seriously. That, in turn, shows them and the organisation they represent to be a true authority on the topic.
Giving away trade secrets isn’t what it’s about. The aim, depending on the subject, is to give an initial take, outline the situation and summarise possible outcomes. What you should avoid is saying how you or your organisation would handle the situation – people will find this out when they become customers.
Of course, this won’t necessarily happen if the comment is attributed to the Head of Marketing. While they may be every bit as knowledgeable on the latest sewerage technology as an expert, putting their name to the quote is essentially the same as being asked to be paid for the advice, only in publicity. Back to square one.
Assigning the appropriate person to be the mouthpiece of a company, campaign or comment is a surprisingly delicate thing. While the right spokesperson will add coveted authority to a piece, the wrong one will likely be met with a disdainful snort. The person you choose should be the most authoritative on the subject being addressed. If it relates to a specific area of an organisation’s work, the head of that department is usually a good bet.
Alternatively, the Managing Director, CEO or company owner should be the default choice if you aren’t sure who to go for, as they have the ultimate responsibility for the attitude of their staff and what the company does.
The absolute no-no? Unfortunately, attributing industry insight to a Marketing Executive is the sure-fire way to elicit a scoff from a journalist. It’s a cruel world.
In short, it’s not about being tight-fisted with advice or names. Be brave and generous, and you’ll find that a good piece of advice can open more doors than a police battering ram.