Stay the interview course – nothing is ‘off limits’

There’s nothing that gets everyone talking (and sharing), quite like a good ‘walk off camera’ story. The drama of the escalating conflict, the anticipation of ‘the moment’, the post walk-off analysis.. it’s all very entertaining, particularly if it’s a celebrity or CEO with skeletons in the closet.

For person doing the walking off, however, the situation is far from fun.

Today Persimmon boss Jeff Fairburn became the latest high-profile business person to find himself in this position during a BBC interview – not so much walking off (although this is how the BBC billed it), but refusing to go on when asked about his £75m bonus, on the advice of his off-camera PR adviser.

The serious question for the PR industry is why?  Why was Persimmon’s PR team not prepared for such an obvious media ambush?  And why, instead of trying to enforce what is, at best, a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ (that the BBC journalist not ask about the CEO’s controversial bonus), did they not simply brief him on how to answer, or at least handle, the question in an authentic way.

By instead trying to micro manage a broadcast interview and stepping in to enforce ‘off limits’ subjects they’ve simply embarrassed their CEO and drawn greater attention to the issue. It’s now a more prominent story for all the wrong reasons.