Once upon a time a PR firm accidentally sent a British journalist the profile it held on him. It started "This guy’s a lush." Oh dear.
Well it’s happened again, more or less. This time it’s Wired contributing editor Fred Vogelstein who has been accidentally (or maybe not!) sent briefing notes from Waggener Edstrom prior to interviews with Microsoft executives.
Although it contains a short briefing on the journalist, it is mostly a backgrounder and ‘game plan’ for the Microsoft executives for a feature on its "video blogging initiative, Channel 9, and its overall campaign to embrace corporate transparency". From this perspective, it’s an excellent insight to how thoroughly Microsoft is briefed for interviews with influential publications.
If you’ve ever wondered about how to brief and steer your executives, it’s worth a read. Scale your approach to the importance of the publication otherwise you’ll end up paying PRs a fortune in bloated briefings.
I can’t help wondering whether Waggener Edstrom deliberately copied the information to the journalist. He and the PR know the game. Both know that preparation on both sides is key. So why not be transparent and pretend to reveal all? Then, with the journalist suitably off guard, send a second, confidential briefing to the executives that takes them deeper into the journalist’s psyche and the interview strategy.
The journalist would have a great resource to get him up to speed in the areas that Microsoft wants to talk about. Result: a fast start and an implied boundary to the conversation.
But, regardless of whether the leak was deliberate or accidental, any self-respecting journalist would still find ways to throws interviewees on the back foot and not let it change their approach in the slightest.
Waggener Edstrom president Frank Shaw comments on the fuss.
Fred Vogelstein blogs his perspective.