Tag Archives: publicists

The Interview That Wasn’t

1 Mar

Image by Bill Couch, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Some time ago, a PR I hadn’t worked with before pitched me an interview with their client, and I agreed. The client fitted in to a piece I was planning, and the show looked like it would be good fun.

The interview never happened.

Here is why.

The interview was scheduled for a Friday afternoon. The client was based in the US, the PR in London, and I’m in Edinburgh. This is not unusual, this sometimes makes it more interesting, and for these types of interviews, I’ve found that Skype works best.

A week before the interview, I when I was on my way to meet a potential writer for a coffee and an informal interview, the PR emailed me.

The client mistakenly thought they had offered to speak to you today not next Friday.

They are free NOW but not next Friday.

Any chance you can speak to them now?

They’re on: [US Number]

Unfortunately, when I got this email, I was on a bus, on my way to meet a writer, with no recording equipment to hand. Besides, I did not have the budget to phone a US number, it would cost more than the fee I’d be paid for the interview.

I emailed back a sympathetic no, explained I was busy, and asked if we could arrange an alternative date. The PR agreed. And the following week we agreed to do the interview on the Thursday afternoon.

A few days before the interview, I email the PR to ask if we’re still ok for that date and to ask if the interview can be done by Skype. This is what is usually offered when the client is in another city and country, and more importantly, it’s free.

The PR doesn’t email back until the day of the interview, three days later.

Hi Amy, I hope the interview goes well today. The Client doesn’t have Skype, but here is their number. [US Number]

It’s the same number as before.

I emailed back and explained that my fee for the interview would not cover the cost of calling the US. Would an email interview be a suitable compromise?

No. I’ll set up a conference call. 

They send over the dial-in information. I thank them, and say I’ll email once the interview, which is scheduled for 14:30, finishes.

I prepare, and dial in just before 14:30, and I wait. The waiting is not unusual, I don’t think I’ve ever done an interview like this that’s started on time, even when the client has my number and calls me themselves.

I wait, and watch the clock on my laptop whenever I look up from my notes,

14:30.

14:33.

14:38

When I worked in online marketing, I can remember the guys in my office advising me to never wait too long for a client to dial in on a conference call. I think they’d wait for around ten minutes and then hang up. I once waited 20 and they said to just hang up and get on with my work. The client would reschedule.

But, this is a little bit different. I’ve heard of journalists being made to wait hours for their interviewee. Not that I have hours to wait, but I’m feeling anxious now.

Finally, I email the PR:

14:47

Hi, is the client still ok to chat? I’m on the line, and they haven’t dialled in yet.

14:48

Can you just call their number and I’ll pay for the call by BACS transfer?

I hang up.

I read the email a few times.

Can you just call their number and I’ll pay for the call by BACS transfer?

Can you just call their number and I’ll pay for the call by BACS transfer?

Can you just

call

their number

I’ll pay you

by BACS transfer?

The offer is a solution to a problem, but it’s problematic. First of all, the admin; doing the call, getting the bill, sending an invoice.

Secondly, and most importantly, they have offered to pay for the cost of an international phone call because I said my interview fee wouldn’t cover it. But accepting the money makes me feel uncomfortable. Questions run through my head as I weigh up my options:

If people found out I’d taken money from a PR company for the cost of an international phone call, all they’ll hear is:

JOURNALIST ACCEPTED MONEY FROM A PR COMPANY

(for the cost of an international phone call. )

What if I accept the money and totally destroy my reputation in the process?

What if I accept the money and they then use against me?

What if they emailed me again with another client and said something like:

Oh, hey. Remember that time I helped you out with the phone call? Well, I’ve got someone else I want you to interview.

Yes, it’s dramatic but, it could happen, and I don’t really know what to do and if I take th-

It’s funny, interrupts a little voice in my head. That’s the second time they’ve tried to get you to phone the client with no warning.

I get in touch with my editor.

She listens to the whole story, from the payment offer, to the US phone number, to the changing of the interview time and asks me a very important question that I hadn’t considered.

“Do you still want to do the interview?”

“No.”

“Then don’t do it. The onus is on them to make the client available for interview.”

I email the PR, and tell them that this arrangement won’t work for me or the magazine.

They email back almost instantly.

Please call me.

I don’t.

My editor messages me.

“The PR has just phoned the office.”

Minutes later, another email arrives.

I’m waiting for the editor to phone me to sort out. 

I message her.

No, I won’t be, she says.

I look at his email again. There’s a kind of smugness to it.

I’m waiting for the editor to phone me to sort out. 

The calm little voice pipes up again.

It’s almost as if he phoned the editor to try and force you to do the interview. Just like he tried to get you to phone the client’s US number on short notice.

I log out of my email and get on with other things. He emails again later that evening.

Hi Amy,

Sorry about today

How about you send a Q&A and I’ll get it back to you ASAP

Suddenly, that email interview I’d suggested a few hours ago was a suitable compromise after all? I forward it to my editor.

“How about no?”

The next morning, another email is waiting for me.

Hi Amy

I am speaking to the client tomorrow before they go away for a 2-week holiday so can get your answers done if you send me a Q&A today

Oh look, says the familiar small voice, it’s another time dependent demand, because all the other demands and the attempt to get you in trouble with your editor didn’t work.

And this is the first time that this holiday has been mentioned, too.

I don’t reply.

That evening, I go to an event and when I get there, I bump into my editor.

“Oh,” said my editor, “That PR phoned the office today and said you’d agreed to do an email interview.”

I tell her I hadn’t.

“We knew it was bullshit.”

I try to laugh it off, but I’m angry.

I’m still angry.

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