When reporters talk to a CEO: new survey shows what the media in Europe really want from interviews – and what the boss better be ready to provide
• Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) partner agencies conducted study with 165 business journalists in 14 European countries
• Annual reports are most important research source for European journalists, before previous media coverage and interviews
• Top tips for CEOs: demonstrate outstanding knowledge of the company and the market; be true to your personality, but don’t be arrogant
• Key differences in journalistic independence: Anglo -Saxon and Southern European countries are much less willing to allow review of quotes and texts compared with Central, Eastern and Northern Europe
German and Italian economic journalists take a close look at a CEO’s private life in preparation for an interview – and only 16 % of European journalists see social media as an important research source.
These and other insightful results are reported by cometis AG, a German consultancy for strategic financial and corporate communications. The company worked with 13 other European partners in the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) to conduct the survey in spring 2014.
The European PRGN firms, which are among 47 member agencies on six continents, examined the requirements and habits of journalists in connection with CEO interviews through an English-language online survey of
165 economic journalists in a total of 14 European countries. They included Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and eight other countries.
The major findings (European average expressed in %):
– Top research sources for journalists: Annual reports (64%), press releases (59%) and past media coverage (58%). Social media ranked 10th (with 16%)
– Journalist’s preferred places for CEO interviews: Company’s office or production site (67%), restaurants/bar (55%) and telephone interviews (53%)
– Journalist’s key expectations of CEOs: outstanding knowledge of the company and market (92%), personality (86%) and track record/performance (72%)
– Top interview ”No Go’s” for CEOs: arrogant behavior (75%), not answering critical questions (73%) and talking in platitudes (62%)
– Journalists sometimes willing to negotiate: 41% of journalists always allow the review of quotes. However, 21% allow the review of the whole article depending on the relationship with the company/PR agency
The PRGN agencies concluded from this extensive study that there are six key recommendations for CEOs to follow in their interviews with European media:
1. Be well versed on your investor and public relations documents
2. Be well informed about what the media have written about you and the company
3. Offer to meet journalists at your office
4. Demonstrate extensive knowledge of your organization and be conscious of how your personality affects media judgment
5. Be humble, open and factual
6. Respect the rules of the game regarding media independence, which differ from country to country
There are important differences between the European average and country-specific customs:
– Media independence is cultural: Anglo-Saxon (UK and Ireland) and Southern European countries (Spain, Italy, Portugal) are much less willing to allow review of quotes or articles, compared to journalists in the Central, Eastern and Northern European countries (e.g. Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark). In Germany, there was a noteworthy exception: 54 % of the journalists would allow the review of quotes – reviewing the entire article, however, is taboo for 75 % of the Germans surveyed.
– Swiss journalists follow the swarm: media coverage on a company and its CEO is the most important research source for 94 % of the Swiss journalists surveyed (vs. 58 % European average). This should make it difficult to change the perception, once a CEO or a company starts being written about in a certain way.
– British and Irish journalists prefer to stay close to the newsroom: While on-site interviews have a high priority in the European average (67 %), only 33 and 43 % of the UK and Irish journalists prefer them. Interviews via phone are much more popular there, as well as in Denmark. It remains unclear how the personality of the interviewee should be adequately valued this way, while the journalists in these three countries place value on that. A personal meeting seems to be much more suitable.
– Spanish journalists expect good manners: Arrogant chairmen rarely go over well with journalists – in Spain, such behavior can damage the image of the company as a whole. For 94 % of the Spanish journalists arrogant behavior is therefore the main “no-go” in interviews (vs. 75 % European average).
Alessandra Malvermi, Managing Partner of Sound PR states: “Understanding the peculiarities of each Country is essential for Italian companies which mean to export and promote their products and/or services beyond the national borders. Also while dealing with media it is important to be aware of cultural and structural differences that can entail, at times, very different behaviours. Sound PR and the PRGN offer their clients a solid support to help them to effectively communicate, not only locally, but also in global markets which increasingly request interactions on a worldwide-scale”.
Uwe Schmidt, CEO of the second German PRGN partner agency Industrie-Contact and current president of the network, added: “We are very glad about the beneficial results of our survey, which will be an outstanding surplus value especially for the PRGN clients. We are looking forward to conducting the study in the Americas as well as in Asia in the near future.”
The detailed study results – the analysis and all q&a for each country surveys – are available for free download at: