I interview a lot of people and coach almost as many in talking to the press. Here are a few of the howlers I see often.
Telling me something more interesting than the story they need to promote. I was interviewing one guy and asked him the opening “tell me about yourself” – honestly, just a name and job title would have been fine. Instead he replied “Ah, I think I know what you’ve heard”, and told me about how he definitely hadn’t been sacked from his previous job. He was so emphatic that even if it had been true and he hadn’t been fired, I wouldn’t have believed him. I certainly wasn’t interested in anything else he had to say – the opening story was far too entertaining.
Assume I work for you and will allow retrospective editing of your comments. It’s a point I’ve made before and I’ll no doubt return to it again. I once went to a company’s premises and interviewed all of the directors. The marketing manager was then distressed to find that I’d used their comments instead of simply reproducing his brochure. For someone who was portraying themselves as a marketing manager to a company in the financing sector this was astonishingly naive. He was also distressed when I disclosed things his company regarded as confidential – and which they’d told a reporter who’d come in at his invitation, without any indication that there was anything not to be repeated. Look, if you don’t want a reporter to report something, don’t tell them.
Withhold non-confidential information. There was an episode of “The Apprentice” in which one of the candidates was horrified to see that someone had got hold of her company’s accounts. These are publicly-available documents and you can’t suppress them if you’re a limited company. I’ve had people tell me they don’t disclose their profit figures because they’re privately held and it just tells me they don’t know much about how their business works; Companies House will disclose any company’s declared figures.
None of which was as much fun as the guy who, when I pointed out that I could find out his profit relatively easily, came out with the response “No, you can just find out about the profit I declare to Companies House, the actual profits are a load more.”
I was young and inexperienced, and I still regret not publishing that quote in full!
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