When the Government announces some good news for your industry – such as the go-ahead today for a company to resume the controversial technique of fracking to extract gas in Lancashire – you might feel Father Christmas has come early.
Then, when you’re invited, as an industry “expert”, on to national radio to talk about the announcement, you might think that not only has Santa come early, his quota of gifts for you has doubled this year.
This is how I would have felt if I’d been Dr Christopher Green from the energy consultancy G Frac Technologies.
Despite months of negative headlines about fracking, highlighting minor earthquakes in Lancashire, seeping chemicals and water pollution, here was a gift of good news from energy secretary Ed Davey’s tinsel-trimmed sack. And here too was a gift of a media opportunity, courtesy of Nicky Campbell’s Your Call programme on Radio 5 Live.
But Campbell soon discovered getting Dr Green to expound on the virtues of fracking was like trying to extract blood from a stone. (Let’s hope extracting gas from shale is easier.)
Instead Green talked about the problems with the first foray into fracking in the UK and its “increased seismicity” (more earthquakes?)…”research”…”measures in place to mitigate any risk” and that real showstopper, “a field development plan”. At this point Campbell was clearly puzzled by his interviewee, who sounded as flat as slab of slate, so he dropped a hint: “This could be fantastic could it?”. Steady on there Campbell. No, the industry expert would only say, “It looks good for shale”.
So Campbell tried a more direct approach: “You sound like you’ve got your doubts about this, even though you’re a director of G Frac. You’re not ‘selling’ it to me.” When Green continued to go on about shale “being difficult”and the long timescales involved, enough was enough: “Let’s listen to the people” said Campbell and we were treated to caller Vanessa who gave us “colour” in spades, with talk of an “eco-cidal technology”, red herrings, heavy tanker traffic and dying livestock.
Boom! That lot woke me up.
As a result, she was rewarded with what the PR industry terms “a greater share of voice”.
So remember, almost every media interview should be regarded as a sales exercise – a chance to raise your brand profile, highlight your expertise, mention the advantages of your products – subtly though, especially on the tax-payer-funded BBC – whilst endeavouring to shine some light on a darkened corner for the listeners/viewers/readers.
If you don’t, you may have merely done the journalist a favour. That sounds more like charity than commercial wisdom.
So when there’s some good news to spread, do it with a bit of “ho-ho-ho”, not “bah humbug!”