Much has been written about JP Morgan’s bad bet on credit default swaps, but PR professionals can take a great lesson from a minor paragraph I stumbled upon in The Wall Street Journal last week. The Journal published an insider’s account (linked here) of JP Morgan’s betting strategy and how Chairman Jamie Dimon responded when the bets went south. Here’s the paragraph PR folks should flag:
“Mr. Dimon returned to his office the next morning, jotting on a folded piece of paper a reference to “self-inflicted” losses. Meeting with executives in his personal conference room, they staged a mock conference call with investors, which would take place later in the afternoon. They quizzed him: How big could the losses be? Will the firm claw back pay? They tried to trip him up into revealing the firm’s trading positions.”
For PR professionals, the mock conference call with investors is no different from the mock interviews we ought to be conducting with our principals before they speak with a reporter – especially when they’re delivering bad news. It matters little whether that reporter writes for The Wall Street Journal, a trade publication, or your community newspaper. We’re paid to think like journalists and have a responsibility to put that perspective to use. It’s not enough to ask generic questions, either. Like Dimon’s team, we need to sit down with our executives before an interview, ask tough, skeptical, and – yes – unfair questions of them to make sure they respond with poise, clarity, and the company’s best interests at heart.
The more reluctant we are to challenge their messaging on tough issues, the more likely they are to get tripped up by a reporter. We wrote about this last year when Standard & Poors found itself in hot water.
Unsure how to put such a process in place? Campfire can help. You can contact us at www.Campfirecomm.com.