It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, mostly because it has been a while since I’ve been inspired to do so…but I know this one is a Knock Out!
Kevin Allen from PR Daily wrote an interesting article (http://bit.ly/Kulyjv) about Mike Elk, a reporter with In These Times’, who is pressing charges against Honeywell’s external communication director, Rob Ferris. Rob allegedly barricaded Mike in a room for a short time. Let me repeat– BARRICADED. It all happened during the ‘Revitalizing America: Encouraging Entrepreneurship’ summit in Washington, D.C. Mike is now pressing charges against Rob, and the U.S. Capitol Police are currently investigating his claims.
While I haven’t seen any footage regarding the barricade, Kevin did include a video in which the reporter was attempting to ask questions about an unrelated labor issue the company spokesperson didn’t wish to discuss. Rob is seen several times trying to physically rip the microphone out of Mike’s hand.
In some public relations circles Rob’s actions may be applauded since his attempt to deter the reporter from asking the question, and more importantly, from getting an answer worked. He was effective in that effort. However, the untold damage to his company is unknown and may be irrepariable to some extent among those beat reporters covering the company. If Rob understood how tightly reporters stand together among these kinds of issues he may have reacted differently. Journalistic integrity is forthcoming among the reporters I’ve worked with…it lives and breathes in their veins. To see one of their own mistreated, and in this case mishandled, can cause a negative chain reaction among beat reporters who cover this public company.
What does the blogger of MotherofAllPR think about this? As most children are taught: we do not hit, we do not grab, and we take turns! This is an important socialization concept on the playground that should be, and in most cases, is a part of mainstream business conduct. In this case, the reporter simply could have asked his question, and the CEO could have simply used one of the many canned responses such as “Mike that is a really good question, but I’m going to stay on target with the topics of the summit. I’ll be available to talk about this with you another time, preferable one on one.” From what I could hear, it was only at the end of the “Great Microphone War” ( as I like to call it) that the CEO attempted to interject with a similar response. Should the CEO have stated this immediately and Mike resisted, security would have come in to do their job, which would be to escort Mike from conference.
Today’s blog comes with a second lesson from the playground…children will always ask the questions you never want to answer. Sound familiar? I never let a spokesperson take to the stage or talk to reporters without media training him or her first. This includes making sure my client has acceptable answers or a statement to help him/her transition back to the core message.
I encourage you to check out Kevin’s article and the video at: http://bit.ly/Kulyjv.