This weekend, New York Jets star Darrelle Revis was instructed to hang up during a live radio interview by a member of the team’s PR staff after the conversation started to get testy. It seemed that the host was baiting Revis into saying something he’d regret (which could have hurt the image and selling power of one of the franchise’s top stars, and even the team.) The PR staffer has since admitted he made a mistake, however, saying he should have simply suggested moving on to a new topic.
When is it truly necessary for a PR person to step in and kill a live media interview? It’s highly debatable, and some may say that it should never be done, given the possible relationship consequences of the “dead air” that can result. In my opinion, it’s a reasonable option for the following examples.
The client is doing irreparable harm to his career or image (Charlie Sheen)
This is an extreme example, but it was impossible to avoid and hard to look away. This drugged up version of Charlie Sheen desperately needed a PR person to step in and end the interview. He clearly wasn’t in a healthy state of mind, by his own admission. He ended up losing his job and forever tarnishing his image. If a client is doing career-ending damage during an interview, any good PR pro will step in and pull the plug. (If only it had been that simple.)
The reporter isn’t playing by the rules (Matt Lauer vs. Kanye West)
It could very well be necessary to stop a live interview if the reporter fails to follow a set of pre-determined guidelines and starts discussing off-limit topics. It’s unprofessional and sets your client up to be ambushed unfairly. In the example above, Matt Lauer all but admits doing just that to Kanye West by playing his infamous VMA clip while asking him if he is a racist. It would be tough for just about anyone to answer that question.
The client appears “out of sorts” (Paula Abdul)
This one is pretty obvious. It’s the PR pro’s job to protect the reputation of the client being interviewed while making sure the correct message gets across. This fluff piece promoting American Idol quickly turned into a joke, and the “Paula is stoned” meme was born. Whether she was just exhausted, took some bad medication, or was actually intoxicated, the interview never should have been allowed to go as long as it did.
Please add to our list of “when to kill an interview” examples right here.