Anyone who read the Gordon Ramsay interview in the Observer last Sunday http://bit.ly/Kv2NIy would have enjoyed some spirited sparring between a spiky journalist and a prickly chef. From a communications perspective though, the role of the legion of PRs that Ramsay apparently brought with him was fascinating but ultimately did more harm than good.
Does an opinionated, forthright character like Ramsay really need a public relations team with him to guide the conversation? Of course he should have someone along to make sure the interview happens and that there is someone to listen in and make sure facts are recorded accurately, and any necessary follow-up takes place (or even post interview damage limitation, although it’s rarely effective – just look back at the Observer piece where the PR’s comments on Ramsay’s football injuries also get used in a slightly disparaging way).
In my book, if the journalist has to refer to the PR in their piece then the PR has failed. It’s a bit like the referee in a game of football. If you get to the end of a game and you don’t know the referee’s name then you know they’ve had a good match; they kept control without having to overly draw attention to themselves.
At one point in the Ramsay interview, the exasperated journalist turns to the PR and asks if they would prefer to conduct the interview. It’s not reasonable to pitch Ramsay for an interview ostensibly on his latest project and expect the conversation to stick firmly to the PR’s preferred topic – especially someone as colourful as Ramsay. To then repeatedly try and blunderingly guide the interview just makes it worse. Having said that, it does make for great reading!