A kindly reader has somehow obtained the full transcript of an internal Intel document on how to deal with the European press. We were only able to publish snatches of the document earlier this year. (See this one and this one.)
The document reveals that Intel deals with different European countries very differently indeed. Here it is in its entirety. ®
Due to our record of technological and product innovation, events at Intel are closely followed by the press. We are often the center of attention whether the news is good or bad. Usually, press and broadcast media requests for interviews and information come to our Public Relations departments, which route the press to the appropriate person. However, you can never know: your next phone call may be from a journalist. Whatever the situation, it's important that your response takes note of the information within this booklet. To maintain Intel's position in the industry and community, we have an obligation to respond to the press in the proper manner. Over the years, Intel has benefited from a positive working relationship with the press. We earned that relationship by being prepared and responding honestly, promptly and courteously to their requests. Although you shouldn't view the press as adversaries, neither should you regard them as trusted friends. We believe by maintaining the proper balance, we can assist the press in properly reporting the news. This booklet provides guidelines for working with the press. They are meant to prepare you for that unexpected phone call. Following these guidelines and using your common sense will ensure that the relationship between Intel and the press remains mutually beneficial. Andrew S. Grove President
The Role of Intel Public Relations Departments
In Europe, each of the major countries has a local in-house Public Relations department and some of these departments also occasionally use Public Relations firms. In addition to these Public Relations departments, we also have a European Central Public Relations programs group which develops strategy and materials, and works with the PR staff and the media in each country to implement our PR programs as appropriate to each country's needs. The role of Public Relations is varied: as proactive co-ordinator for Intel with the media seeking out opportunities and managing the interface between us and them
- as spokesperson on behalf of the corporation to convey key messages directly
- to support spokespeople who might not be prepared when they receive unexpected calls
- as co-ordinator of incoming requests
Interview requests usually come to Intel in one of four ways:
- the press calls the local Public Relations departments directly
- the call comes through to our Central PR Programs group
- our local public relations firm is contacted direct
- calls by the press into the operations asking for an interview
In all cases, it is important for the local Public Relations department to be involved in the request for an interview or information. Your first step upon receiving a call should be to try and put the call through to your appropriate local PR person. If you are unable to pass the call to your local PR contact, you should progress through the 'discovery agreement' process with the journalist as outlined in the next section.
There may also be times when you are contemplating a major organisational change or a key person is considering leaving Intel. It is important to keep your local Intel PR department or the Central PR programs department appraised of such events before the situation is finalised. The PR department will maintain the confidentiality of the situation; by knowing in advance, the PR staff can help structure messages that may be needed.
There will be times when you pick up the phone and it's an editor/journalist seeking information for a story under a tight deadline. If you have the choice (e.g. via your admin.), do not accept the call directly. Have the call passed directly to PR or get your admin. to take the name and telephone number and get PR to call back. If the journalist/editor insists this is urgent, accept the call and then pursue the following procedure. This will allow you to handle the situation adequately.
A discovery agreement is when you 'interview' the journalist to find out the timing of the story, the story's thrust, any competitive aspects and other important areas or deadlines (including whether there might be a hidden agenda). After collecting this information, you usually have a period of time (a few hours or days) to respond to the journalist on whether we will participate. A discovery agreement gives us the opportunity to collect our thoughts and assure that we have the proper spokespeople. When confronted with this type of situation, be calm, be polite and collect some basic information before answering the journalist's first question:
- the journalist's name
- the publication
- the phone number and address (for sending materials)
- deadline/scheduling requirements
- the subject of inquiry,
- and the issue in which the story is targeted to appear
Ask for a list of questions and the angle of the story. Is the journalist seeking technical, market-oriented, application-oriented, or business/corporate information? How familiar is the journalist with Intel? Who else have they/will they speak to for the story? Based on this information, you can determine whether you are the appropriate contact or not, whether to offer to call back when you have more time (and agree when), or whether to pass the story back to PR (to protect, defend, or redirect).
Any questions regarding an unannounced product, legal issues, technology exchanges, personnel moves or other corporate issues should be referred to your Public Relations department. Tell the journalist that you are not the appropriate person to answer his/her questions, but that you will have the correct person call him/her.
Warning: Do not try to respond to issues that you know little about or have not been approved/authorised by Intel Public Relations to speak about on Intel's behalf. It is better to defer a question. No journalist expects you to answer every question with authority. Your Public Relations department will arrange a follow-up interview. If you can answer the questions without further research, and have the authority to speak on the subject, do so, but, please remember to let your local PR department know afterwards who the call was from and what was discussed. If you are unsure about how to handle the call, ask for some time and commit to get back to the journalist. Be prepared, alert and consult with your local PR department, and get back to the journalist as quickly as possible, and within the agreed timeframe even if only to say that you don't yet have the answers. Don't miss your commitment. In no case should a journalist be left dangling.
If you cannot contact your local PR department, for whatever reason, contact the Central PR programs department in iMU or iSW for advice and guidance. They will pass on all necessary information at the earliest opportunity to your local PR department.
The Care & Feeding of the Media: Do’s & Don'ts
Do capitalise on interview opportunities. While there are good reasons to refuse an interview, as a general rule it is unwise to do so. Rejected by Intel, the journalist may piece together his/her own story from outside sources. If the news is unfavourable, it is better to have Intel's position accurately represented rather than letting the media speculate. Also, journalists (like most people) don't like to be rejected unless they believe there is a good reason (e.g. postponing the interview to a more appropriate time). Refusing an interview today may also limit opportunities to be interviewed in the future.
Do ensure you receive full briefing. If you do have the privilege of time before your interview, ensure you receive the fullest possible briefing from your local PR person or Central PR programs on the journalist and the publication. If time allows, this will encompass details of the publication/journalist, their style and previous Intel coverage, as well as direction on how to 'spin' the story.
Do prepare for interviews. If you are slated for an interview in advance, you have the obligation to prepare yourself to answer the journalist's questions well. Conducting a strategy session with your Public Relations department to review Intel's position on the topic and select two or three main messages to stress during the interview can help. Together, you should identify 'tough' or embarrassing questions that are likely to be asked and how you intend to respond. If any reference materials are available, have PR send them to the journalist in advance. This will save time and make the journalist's job easier. It also helps ensure the accuracy of the final piece since the journalist has written specifications on our products or strategy.
Do have a PR person with you at the interview. When you have the opportunity, ensure you have a PR representative with you at an interview, even if it is a phone interview. Their role will be one of advisor, guide, protector and recorder, as well as AR taker to ensure follow through happens.
Do treat the interview/interviewer seriously. Allot enough time for the interview process. A pre-briefing for a pre-arranged interview of 20-30 minutes, plus a one hour interview and a 15-minute debrief/summary/critique is a good guideline.
Do listen. Listen to what the journalist is saying or asking. Does he/she understand what you are saying? It is easy to get caught up on Intel's 'lingo', but our specialised language can leave the journalist thoroughly confused.
Do remember you're representing Intel. Be positive. If you think the journalist has overlooked something pertinent, bring it up. Make the interview interesting. Give examples or anecdotes that illustrate your points. Be enthusiastic and confident, courteous and polite, but not arrogant! Believe in the company and in your messages. You are responsible for reflecting the company's credibility and excitement.
Do analyse the interview after it's completed. After the interview, determine what went well and what went poorly. Decide whether any corrective actions are necessary. Anything that was promised during the interview should be collected and sent to the journalist immediately. A post-interview critique is particularly helpful in learning the publication's view on a given topic, the journalist's view, hot buttons, etc. This information can be valuable in refining our messages for future contact with the media, our customers, or the competition. In modifying our messages, we can address 'styles' (how it was said), or 'content' (to clarify why we are saying it,).
Don't be afraid of the "tough" questions. A good journalist will ask tough questions. It doesn't mean the journalist is out to write a damaging story about Intel. He/she is trying to gather the facts and do a thorough job. Be prepared to answer these types of questions.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Representing the truth without exaggeration or hedging will minimise mistakes. But if one "is made, don't be afraid to admit it. Everyone runs into problems from time to time. If you realise during or after the interview that you gave an incorrect fact or may not have explained something clearly enough, don't be afraid to clarify with the journalist during or after the interview by calling him/her to correct or clarify the information. The journalist will appreciate the effort since he/she wants to have an accurate story. If you do call the journalist back, please inform your local PR department afterwards.
Don't lie. Don't exaggerate the facts or make claims that cannot be substantiated or that are self-serving statements. If you do not know the correct answer, or are unsure of your facts, it's more than acceptable to say '1 don't know' and offer to get a reply to the journalist later.
Don't speculate. Don't speculate or respond to a journalist's hypothetical questions. You may lend credibility to something that is purely rumour or innuendo. Be prepared to say 'I am afraid I am not well informed enough to comment on that' or 'You'll have to ask company XYZ.' In Europe in general, do not answer 'No comment' as that can be viewed as substantiation.
Don't knock the competition. It's one thing to say our product is superior to our competitor's, or to position the competitor in a lower class of application. It is another to say that our competitor has done a lousy job. We want to take the 'higher ground.' Let's focus on the positives of Intel's products. If a journalist leads by saying "I understand that XYZ's memory business is in trouble ..... "let that be his/her view. Don't express any opinion that names individuals, products or companies in a manner that could be construed as slanderous.
Don't respond in anger. Don't become defensive or respond angrily to a journalist's probing questions. This will work against you and Intel. The journalist has the final say when he/she prints the story and the freedom to use it. "
Don't give information "off the record". While there may be times to go 'off the record' (such as to clarify a point or maintain credibility with a journalist), there is really no such thing as a completely private exchange with a journalist – no matter how trusted. 'Off the record' means the journalist cannot use the information. If you don't want him/her to use the information, don't give it to them. Once the information is given, they can always substantiate it elsewhere and use that information instead. Asking not to be quoted usually results in the infamous 'unnamed Intel spokesperson' attribution. If you don't want to see something in print, don't talk about it. If a journalist presses the point, explain that the subject is one you can't discuss at the present time, but will be willing to discuss with the journalist at the appropriate time. (Note: When the timing is right, make sure to keep your commitment. It will go a long way toward building your credibility.)
Don't expect to see the story before it's published. Except for very technical stories, it is inappropriate to ask for, or expect to see, an article before it is published. If a journalist offers to let you review his/her material, it should be considered a privilege and treated as a rare courtesy. Consequently, you should confine your comments entirely to matters of fact, not style. A news style story is not an advertisement bought from the publication. Intel doesn't have ultimate control over what is printed. We supply facts on which the story is based. Any publication that sold its editorial space would be one that no reader would trust.
Don't assume a bad headline means a bad story. The journalist who interviews you is not the person who writes the article headline. Headlines sell publications and it is important not to get too defensive about a headline that is less than favourable to Intel. Check the story to see if the article is a fair representation of the interview.
There are topics that should not be discussed. Generally, they include proprietary information and matters relating to corporate strategy. Some examples follow:
Forecasts of orders, shipments, prices, earnings, company book-to-bill ratios and other related numbers that have not been released by Intel's PR department.
Divisional operating results
Intel doesn't divulge any sales or profit figures for a specific division, operation, product line or product. Country-by-country operating results are also off limits, unless they have been released by Intel's PR department.
Market share information
Discussion of Intel's market share is usually taboo. Quoting independent market researchers (Dataquest, Infocorp etc.) or referring the question to them is more appropriate.
Product introduction plans, information on unannounced products, expenditures, advertising plans, pricing plans, etc. should not be discussed.
Unannounced products or products under development
Leaking news of a new product can be fatal to a successful product introduction. It can have damaging effects on customers designing in the products under non-disclosure agreements. Please do not discuss.
Unless you are the spokesperson designated by PR, you should also not speak about the following topics.
Legal matters: Patent infringements, pending lawsuits, technology disputes and technology exchanges are particularly sensitive issues that should not be discussed.
Personnel matters: Pending organisational changes, exiting employees, layoffs, plant expansions, etc., should not be discussed.
Intel/OEM relationships: Please refer such inquiries to your PR department. "Deals" under development, existing partnerships, alliances, cooperations etc. Speaking to non-lntel personnel about any of these 'deals' is strictly taboo.
Responding to Unfair Coverage
There will be times when, despite our best efforts, an article will run that contains substantial factual errors or is just plain unfair. Do not handle directly, no matter how much it angers you. Work with your local PR department when such instances occur. We may want to write a letter to the editor or arrange for a personal call or meeting to right a legitimate wrong. These matters should be handled speedily or we miss the value of responding.
If presented with an opportunity to talk to the media, the best rule of thumb is to be prepared and use your common sense. Intel's local or Central PR program departments are available to assist in answering your questions or helping you to prepare for your interview. We hope you make this encounter beneficial for you, Intel and the media.
More detailed country guidelines are available via your relevant Central PR programs contact and local PR departments. You will receive detailed guidelines/recommendations prior to any interviews.
Always be smartly dressed (Israel is an exception) Never trade positive editorial for advertising Do not be confrontational in style
Be direct and straightforward. Do not try and bluff Politeness and economic power are respected and valued Journalists are well educated and knowledgeable Dress formally for interviews The Czechs are proud of the level of computerisation in business and the home computing market is beginning to grow
Handshaking is a must before and after a meeting Never show irritation to a journalist. Always be agreeable, polite and calm Speak the language if you can Be benefits oriented, not technology oriented, but cover technology with technical press too Broadcast and consumer journalists require diplomatic handling
Former Soviet Union
Adopt UK/US style (see page 21) but be prepared for a cooler response from the media Be sensitive to the different nationalities and cultures within the FSU Never be patronising or arrogant. Always recognise the progress being made in FSU Be polite/agreeable but strident and aggressive as appropriate/advised In FSU, journalists are 'overworked and underpaid' intellectuals
Use direct eye contact, otherwise you are thought to be avoiding the other person Handshake on meeting and leaving, but do not use hands in conversation Suit and tie for men/business attire for women People tend to stand close, and prefer German speakers Expect criticism and some confrontation. This sounds like rudeness, but they are merely trying to understand the concept or look for weaknesses in the argument High tech gets a lot of respect from the media. Intel is highly regarded, but there is a feeling that we are a big, unapproachable company Germans are a technology-minded people and tend to want the latest in technology
Use standard US/UK body language and formal dress Avoid political issues Technology is an important/relevant issue and positively perceived The media is interested in all topics and journalists are well respected Price and reliability are strong issues
US/UK physical distances are appropriate. Use of hands for emphasis is OK Do not use 'no comment'. It means 'maybe' Do not be confrontational or aggressive in style, but do be direct as it is highly valued (and expected) in Israel Dress is relaxed. Not suit and tie. Formal dress for dinner receptions only Significant interest in technology in general
Warmer and more intimate than Northern Europeans, as reflected in body language Hands are used to 'add colour' and emphasis to the point being made Always shake hands on meeting and departure Italians are often late - to 1:1 s and press conferences. This is NOT a mark of disrespect Always be courteous and polite irrespective of what happens. Anger and negative feelings or responses are not acceptable. Look for the positive Always pick up the check/bill
US/UK in style but not always as formal Do not use 'no comment' unless to deliberately hide something Do not be aggressive/confrontational in style, but do be direct/open and polite The Dutch are very 'down to earth' and dislike the 'Goliath's ' of this world. There's a contramove against anything successful The media is highly technology oriented as is the country in general
Maintain physical distance and do not use hands to demonstrate a point Shaking hands is appropriate before and after a meeting Poles are very open but not confrontational. There are few taboos Poles prefer to learn about benefits and do not like intricate technical details Dress is formal. Wear a smart suit and tie
Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, etc.)
Very much like the US/UK and formal, although the Danish are more emotional in their response than other Scandinavians Avoid using Swedish examples in other Scandinavian countries Acknowledge that the Scandinavian markets are at the leading edge of technology There is a large 'home-market' Although the media is interested in technology, try to find the human or environmental angle to the story
Behave in a normal US or British way in approach and a UK style in dress. The same cultural rules apply in general Do not use 'No comment' unless as a joke Do not take an aggressive stance. This is viewed as 'old culture' and has negative implications. In general, back off the topic Avoid politics and race/creed at all costs Technology is NOT 'hot' here and home PC uptake limited to the richer classes Intel is known as a major player
Eye contact is very important, as are physical gestures which are used continually in conversation Politeness is highly valued Physical contact is common and shows the level of confidence between two persons, but shaking hands is regarded as very formal Spanish language is a must Financial figures are liked and news of Spanish subsidiaries is important Suit and tie is expected but jacket can be removed in summer providing you have asked if it is OK Women should be well dressed Spaniards are not particularly interested in technology
Journalists are cynical in the extreme. Be clear and firm about your arguments The British dislike the 'Goliath's' of this world and always support the underdog Each sentence is carefully monitored in or out of context for 'quoteworthiness' Never be negative about anyone or anything, never 'go off the record' Be discrete in tone and volume, and especially about picking up the check/bill Praise local customers, local innovation (Dear me, us UK journalists don't get much of Intel's time of day, do we? ®)