Chris Edwards vents his spleen here about getting press invites to meet a CEO (or presumably any other senior exec), on the (apparent) basis that they just happen to be in town.
Charles Arthur picks up the baton here.
As someone who has had to organise this kind of thing on many occasions in the past, I'm well aware of some of the issues involved. I have to say, most companies are savvy enough not to want press meetings set up for the CEO just because he happens to be coming UK/Europe, usually for reasons other than meeting the press eg conference, customer meetings, troop rallying, etc. However, there are times when the sales guys can't come up with enough customer meetings for him (or the UK management team don't want the CEO hanging around with nothing to do), and somebody has the bright idea of getting him to meet with some journalists. The in-house marketing or PR person is duly leant on, who in turn leans on the PR agency to "organise something" (and no doubt at very short notice).
Agencies should of course ask the tough question of "why are we doing this?" Occupying the CEOs time is not a good enough reason to get journalists to take several hours out of their day unless they can justify it. The other questions that should be asked are:
- is a face to face meeting the only way in which we can deliver this story/information to the journalist? As others have pointed out, the vast majority of information can (or should) be available in others ways eg web site, email, blog, podcast, hey, even a phone call.
- does the story/angle/opinion/information really have value to the journalist (or more importantly, the journalists readers). Even assuming you do persuade the journalist to turn up, will they actually write anything - journalist attendance is not a result in its own right.
Another typical issue is that the journalist is expected to fit around the CEOs schedule - not the other way round. So the time slots for press meetings are secondary to things like customer meetings - hence the arm twisting to persuade the journalist to turn up at a precise time eg 2.15pm to 3.15pm. Or the frantic call to try and shift the time of the meeting when a customer meeting gets changed and trashes the original agenda.
(I'd hazard a guess that big important customers would never get treated like this. Journalists are a special kind of customer - so should be afforded the same courtesy. Saying: "We think you are very important" is one thing - if your behaviour doesn't mirror your words, it sends the wrong kind of message),
Having said that, there is no question that the tech PR industry still lays great store by the face to face press meeting. And under the right circumstances, it can be very valuable for all parties concerned. Though Chris Edwards does seem to have been at the receiving end of a particular ill considered invite.