E-mail interviews: Too much is lost for the sake of convenience

Why sacrifice your fresh, human voice to get it ‘just so’ for a reporter?

Why sacrifice your fresh, human voice to get it ‘just so’ for a reporter?

Today, an increasing amount of media relations is handled through e-mail correspondence. Pitches are made by e-mail; e-mails are used for follow-up purposes; and in some cases, e-mail is even used for interviews and giving quotes to reporters.

On the surface, e-mail correspondence for dealing with the media seems like a great idea. You have time to perfectly tailor your responses, ensuring no mistakes are made, and e-mail is convenient. It can be much easier than trying to find the time for a phone conversation with a busy reporter. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about being misquoted, because everything is right there on the screen in black and white.

But there are serious drawbacks to answering a reporter’s questions by e-mail.

  • Your quotes lose their edge. Truthfully, e-mail interviews are typically more boring than watching “The English Patient.” The conversation comes across as stilted and unrealistic. Quotes lose their zip, because you’ve spent so much time ensuring they’re just right that they end up all wrong. Sure, you won’t slip up and say something stupid when you have time to respond to questions by e-mail, but your quotes won’t have the pop that reporters are looking for.
  • Building a relationship is more challenging. There’s only so far you can take your relationship when all correspondence is handled by e-mail. It’s good to get on the phone with reporters, and, if they are local, it’s even better to try to meet them face to face at some point. Why? Once reporters are able to put a voice and a face to you, they’re likelier to do the right thing by you.
  • Tone of voice gets lost. One of the biggest pitfalls of all online communication is that it’s incredibly difficult to interpret one’s tone of voice, especially when it’s someone you don’t know. Whether you’re trying to be funny or very serious, tone just doesn’t read well in e-mail correspondence. As a result, your answers can very easily get misinterpreted, making you look bad.
  • Conversations don’t reach their full potential. E-mail conversations are inherently limited. If the reporter sends over three questions, that’s all you end up answering; whereas with a phone interview, the reporter will ask follow-up questions as the conversation begins to take shape and carve out its course. As a result, important points end up getting glossed over in e-mail correspondence.

What are your thoughts? Do you handle interviews by e-mail?

Mickie Kennedy is the CEO and founder of eReleases and blogs at PR Fuel.

Topics: PR

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