More often than not, an IR conference will include a session entitled 'dealing with the media'. I have attended some of these sessions (which are often packed out with IROs) and sat through countless strategies on how to deal with hacks. I've heard suggestions ranging from 'don't speak to them, ever!' to the advice from one journalist to 'take us out to dinner and ply us with alcohol and we'll be more likely to give you the time of day when your share price goes down the pan.'
I wouldn't advocate any of these strategies as a matter of course, (well, maybe the latter) but I do have a couple of gripes with attitudes towards financial journalists:
Firstly, calling a conference session 'dealing with the financial media' in the first place is a bit of an insult. It makes us sound like some kind of stomach complaint. To cure a nasty bout of financial media intrusion, simply refuse to answer the phone/speak to anyone and deny all knowledge of anything at all (even your own name/the company you work for, etc).
Gripe number two is the underlying belief that we are evil and all out to get you. Yes some journalists are evil, but most are just out to write interesting and informative articles that you, the audience will (hopefully) enjoy reading. Sometimes a call from a financial journalist will provoke great suspicion. What do you want? And if you do manage to extract a quote from the person on the other end of the phone they may plead: 'Please don't make me look bad.'
But all this I can deal with, it comes with the job. However, I must draw the line at my least favourite brush off: 'Ring the press office.' This will often set off a chain of events rather like the following: Journalist calls IRO with inquiry, journalist gets told that IRO is not allowed to speak to journalist directly and refers them to press office. Journalist rings press office, press office has no clue what journalist is on about. Press officer says will ring journalist back. If lucky, press officer may ring back. But more often than not the onus is on us to ring press officer back the next day. At which point the press officer asks: What did you want again? Journalist repeats request to speak to IRO, press officer puts hack on hold then says will ring back later… And already a day or two has passed and the issue has ceased to be news. Frustrating isn't it? Surely it isn't the company's intention to miss out on press coverage. And most corporations don't operate this ineffectively when they communicate with the market/ distribute their products. So why does media relations seem to be such a stumbling block for so many? Time for another 'dealing with the media' session anyone?