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Journalists using LinkedIn profiles to “vet” interviewees?

As I noted in my recent Online PR whitepaper, there are some novel digital twists occurring within traditional media relations. Take the good old journalist interview. In the past, a journalist would probably have to take at face value a bio provided by the PR person of a prospective interviewee.  On LinkedIn, although the background info provided by the person themselves might be of relevance, more value is to be had from what other people think of them ie LinkedIn recommendations.

Here is a practical example.  We began working with information risk management specialists ArmstrongAdams in December last year. Tim Kipps is ArmstrongAdams’ spokesperson on all issues related to information risk management and IT security.  Tim certainly knows his onions when it comes to his subject matter. However, another thing that I found very impressive were the huge number of recommendations he has on his LinkedIn profile (46). The frequency with which words and phrases like “expertise” and “high integrity” appear has certainly been reassuring to me that in terms of media interviews, we are putting forward someone who is clearly respected in his field and really does know what he is talking about.  And is trustworthy.  For journalists, that surely has to be a good thing.

It’s also a good thing for a PR too. It is easy to overlook the fact that a PR is often judged by the quality of the spokesperson he/she pitches to the media. Rightly or wrongly, a journalist may view a PR less favourably if the quality of interviewee they pitch is seen as sub-optimal. If both PR and client have a mutual interest in ensuring that only the most qualified and worthwhile spokespeople/interviewees are pitched to the media, then surely that too has to be a good thing.

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How U2 producer Brian Eno solves the paradox of choice (lessons for online PR)

A recent Daily Telegraph interview with legendary music producer Brian Eno contained an instructive quote about dealing with too many choices:

“In modern recording one of the biggest problems is that you’re in a world of endless possibilities. So I try to close down possibilities early on. I limit choices. I confine people to a small area of manoeuvre. There’s a reason that guitar players invariably produce more interesting music than synthesizer players: you can go through the options on a guitar in about a minute, after that you have to start making aesthetic and stylistic decisions. This computer can contain a thousand synths, each with a thousand sounds. I try to provide constraints for people.”

Whereas in the past these recording choices would only have been available to a small number of well funded bands, the problem is now one faced by anyone who has played around with Apple’s Garageband software.  It is all too easy to get sidetracked into tinkering with different instrument settings and effects (how about trying a bit more phasing on that clavier?). Before you know it, hours have passed, and you haven’t actually recorded anything meaningful.

In many ways, a similar problem faces marketing and PR clients. The range of possible choice in terms of the composition of the marketing mix grows by the day. A mind blowing selection of agencies, tools and offerings that serve to make your brain fuse. Experimenting with Twitter and Facebook is similar to agonising over Pinch or Flutter Harmonics – and the million and one permutations of digital effects.

Brian Eno thus seems to belong to the same “Less is More” camp as Clay “filter failure” Shirky, Barry “Paradox of Choice” Schwartz and Richard “80/20” Koch.  You have to set up some boundaries and constraints up front to prevent getting sucked into an endless cycle of fruitless tinkering.