Preparing to be interviewed by a German or Italian journalist? Make sure there’s nothing in your personal life that you wouldn’t want included in a news story. That is among the findings of a new survey, “European Journalistic Practices in Covering CEOs,” conducted by the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN).
“One of the biggest dangers facing CEOs who engage in global media relations is failing to appreciate how cultural practices in journalism vary from one part of the world to another,” said Scott Hanson, APR, Fellow PRSA, of HMA Public Relations, a founding member of PRGN. “Ignorance of cultural norms can be costly to a CEO or his/her company.”
PRGN, an international network of independent public relations firms, which is about to conduct a similar study in the U.S. and Canada, surveyed 165 business journalists in 14 European countries during the spring of 2014. Among the findings:
European journalists may be more accommodating to their interview subjects than are their American counterparts. Forty-one percent of journalists said they always allowed the CEO or the PR firm to review the CEO’s quotes before publication. And 21 percent said they allowed a CEO or PR firm to review the entire article in advance, depending on the relationship with the company or PR agency.
The top sources for interview preparation by European journalists were annual reports (64 percent), news releases (59 percent) and past media coverage (58 percent). Interestingly, social media barely scored as an information source (16 percent), ranking 10th.
Most European journalists prefer to conduct executive interviews in the CEO’s office or at a production site (67 percent), followed by restaurants / bars (55 percent) and telephone interviews (53 percent).
During an interview, European journalists expect a CEO to demonstrate: outstanding knowledge of the company and market (92 percent), an engaging personality (86 percent) and a strong track record of performance (72 percent).
The biggest interview turn-offs for European journalists are: arrogant behavior (75 percent), failing to answer critical questions (73 percent) and talking in platitudes (62 percent).
The study also uncovered the following differences in European country practices.
Media independence varies from country to country. Journalists in the U.K., Ireland, Spain, Italy and Portugal are much less willing to allow pre-publication review of quotes or articles, compared to journalists in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark. One notable exception: While more than half of German journalists permit a review of CEO quotes, 75 percent of them draw the line at reviewing the entire article.
German and Italian journalists consider a CEO’s private life when forming an impression of him or her. Forty-four percent of Italian journalists and 42 percent of German reporters said a CEO’s private life was important in helping them assess the CEO.
Pay particular attention to media coverage in Switzerland. Swiss journalists, by a large margin (94 percent vs. 58 percent as the European average), rely primarily on past media coverage to prepare for a CEO interview. “Once a particular story angle has taken hold in Switzerland, it can be very difficult to change the narrative,” noted Buchanan.
British and Irish journalists prefer to conduct CEO interviews by phone. While on-site interviews are preferred by European journalists as a whole (67 percent), only 33 percent and 43 percent, respectively, of U.K. and Irish journalists prefer them. They would rather conduct the interview by phone.
Mind your manners in Spain. Arrogant CEOs rarely go over well with Spanish journalists. Ninety-four percent of them said arrogant behavior was the worst offense a CEO could commit – a sharp deviation from the 75 percent of European journalists who felt the same way.
“Our increasingly globalized economy requires that today’s CEO be prepared for media interest outside of a company’s home market,” said Hanson. “CEOs who fail to account for cultural differences and practices in journalism around the world may pay a price in terms of their – or their company’s – reputation and image.”
About the Survey
One-hundred sixty-five business journalists from 14 European countries completed an online survey in March and April 2014. PRGN will conduct a similar survey of American business journalists this summer.
About HMA Public Relations
HMA Public Relations is a full-service marketing communications agency whose experience encompasses work in the traditional marketing communications disciplines including public relations, traditional media relations and digital communications, marketing communications, issues management, community relations and special events. Located at 3610 N. 44th St., Suite 110 in Phoenix, HMA Public Relations can be reached at (602) 957-8881. Its web address is www.hmapr.com.
The Public Relations Global Network (www.prgn.com) is one of the world’s top four international public relations networks. Nearly 50 independently owned and operated PR firms in 80 markets belong to the invitation-only network. Collectively, PRGN firms have revenue in excess of $110 million, employ more than 900, and operate 65 offices.