A peek behind the PR curtain

March 28, 2007 at 4:04 pm Leave a comment

Oh the irony. During the course of researching an article about Microsoft’s new-found transparency, Wired contributing editor Fred Vogelstein accidentally receives the confidential briefing document destined for the Microsoft executives he was about to interview. The 13-page document outlines the company’s meticulous plan to shape the article, and includes advice on how to handle Vogelstein, as well as detailed messages for each executive.

You can read Fred Vogelstein’s views on the “secret dossier” here. Frank Shaw, worldwide president of Microsoft’s PR agency Waggener Edstrom, makes a valiant attempt to explain away the document and defuse the situation here.

So is this a real peek behind the PR curtain? Is this typical of the way PR works? Yes and no.

Yes, PR will always put together an executive briefing document for every media interview. Everyone likes to prep before a meeting. Mostly we do this in the hopes that the executive will come to the interview with something interesting to say. No, briefing documents do not normally run to 13 pages. More like one or two. Yes, we include some background on the journalist in the briefing document – usually a quick bio and whether or not they’ve met that executive/company before. No, we don’t keep dossiers on journalists. Yes, all PR people try to influence articles. That’s the job, and we do it by talking to journalists, providing them with information and putting them in touch with executives. No, we don’t normally plan it like a military manoeuvre.

I’ve been thinking about starting a series of PR tips on this blog. So here is number one: always always re-read an email and check the recipient before you send it.

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Entry filed under: PR.

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