I’ve never been a big fan of confrontation, whether it’s avoiding complaining at a restaurant or being diplomatic when myself and a colleague disagree. This has always stood me in good stead with colleagues, journalists and clients alike; negotiation and persuasion are fine but being aggressive or threatening does nothing for long term relationships, even if there are short term gains.
I was surprised therefore, when I read about the spat between FT columnist Lucy Kellaway and HP’s head of marketing and communications. Following a piece by Kellaway on HP’s Meg Whitman, the PR emailed her to voice his displeasure and suggest in a not-so-subtle way that such ‘biased’ reporting might jeopardise the firm’s advertising relationship with the FT. The email proved somewhat counterproductive when Ms Kellaway was compelled to reply publicly in her column last week.
To imply that editorial might be influenced by advertising spend, to me is crossing a red line. As a PR, editorial independence is incredibly important as it is that independence that makes positive column inches for a client so valuable. As for being aggressive and threatening, such behaviour is rarely effective and is high risk – far better to put your point across diplomatically, point out any truly factual errors and pave the way to facilitate a better ongoing relationship.
You say the FT management should think about “unacceptable biases” and its relationship with its advertisers. My piece was not biased and I fear you misunderstand our business model. It is my editors’ steadfast refusal to consider the impact of stories on advertisers that makes us the decent newspaper we are. It is why I want to go on working here. It is why the FT goes on paying me.