American CEOs Preparing to be Interviewed By European Journalists Should Expect Different Practices, Reports New Study by PRGN

NEW YORK (May 19, 2014) --- Preparing to be interviewed by a German or Italian journalist? Make sure there’s nothing in your personal life that you wouldn’t want included in a news story. That’s among the findings of a new survey on “European Journalistic Practices in Covering CEOs” conducted by the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN).

“One of the biggest dangers facing CEOs who engage in global media relations is failing to appreciate how cultural practices in journalism vary from one part of the world to another,” said Aaron Blank, president and CEO of The Fearey Group and a member of PRGN.  “Ignorance of cultural norms can be costly to a CEO or her company.”

PRGN, which is about to conduct a similar study in the U.S. and Canada, surveyed 165 business journalists in 14 European countries during the spring of 2014. Among its findings:

  • European journalists may be more accommodating to their interview subjects than are their American counterparts. Forty-one percent of journalists said they always allowed the CEO or the PR firm to review the CEO’s quotes before publication. And 21 percent said they allowed a CEO or PR firm to review the entire article in advance, depending on the relationship with the company or PR agency.

  • The top sources for interview preparation by European journalists were annual reports (64 percent), news releases (59 percent) and past media coverage (58 percent).  Interestingly, social media barely scored as an information source (16 percent), ranking tenth.

  • Most European journalists prefer to conduct executive interviews in the CEO’s office or at a production site (67 percent), followed by restaurants / bars (55 percent) and telephone interviews (53 percent).

  • During an interview, European journalists expect a CEO to demonstrate: outstanding knowledge of the company and market (92 percent), an engaging personality (86 percent) and a strong track record of performance (72 percent).

  • The biggest interview turn-offs for European journalists are: arrogant behavior (75 percent), failing to answer critical questions (73 percent) and talking in platitudes (62 percent).

The study also uncovered the following differences in European country practices.

Media independence varies from country to country. Journalists in the U.K., Ireland, Spain, Italy and Portugal are much less willing to allow pre-publication review of quotes or articles, compared to journalists in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark. One notable exception: While more than half of German journalists permit a review of CEO quotes, 75 percent of them draw the line at reviewing the entire article.  

German and Italian journalists consider a CEO’s private life when forming an impression of him or her. Forty-four percent of Italian journalists and 42 percent of German reporters said a CEO’s private life was important in helping them assess the CEO.

Pay particular attention to media coverage in Switzerland. Swiss journalists, by a large margin (94 percent vs. 58 percent as the European average), rely primarily on past media coverage to prepare for a CEO interview. “Once a particular story angle has taken hold in Switzerland, it can be very difficult to change the narrative,” noted Blank.

British and Irish journalists prefer to conduct CEO interviews by phone. While on-site interviews are preferred by European journalists as a whole (67 percent), only 33 percent and 43 percent, respectively, of U.K. and Irish journalists prefer them. They would rather conduct the interview by phone.

Mind your manners in Spain. Arrogant CEOs rarely go over well with Spanish journalists. Ninety-four percent of them said arrogant behavior was the worst offense a CEO could commit – a sharp deviation from the 75 percent of European journalists who felt the same way.  

“Our increasingly globalized economy requires that today’s CEO be prepared for media interest outside of a company’s home market,” said Blank. “CEOs who fail to account for cultural differences and practices in journalism around the world may pay a price in terms of their – or their company’s – reputation and image.” 

About the Survey

One-hundred sixty-five business journalists from 14 European countries completed an online survey in March and April 2014. PRGN will conduct a similar survey of American and Canadian business journalists this summer.

About PRGN

The Public Relations Global Network ( is one of the world’s top four international public relations networks. Nearly 50 independently owned and operated PR firms in 80 markets belong to the invitation-only network. Collectively, PRGN firms have revenue in excess of $110 million, employ more than 900, and operate 65 offices.

About The Fearey Group 

The Fearey Group is one of the leading independent public relations and public affairs firms in the Pacific Northwest. For more than 33 years, the full-service integrated communications agency has provided professional services for some of the region’s leading public, private and non-profit organizations and has strong practices in the areas of health care, biotechnology, real estate and land use, nonprofit, government, consumer and crisis communications. The firm is also a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network, an international organization of leading independent, owner-operated public relations agencies. PRGN has extraordinary global reach and includes more than 50 member agencies hailing from the United States, Central and South America, Europe, Canada, the Pacific Rim, South Asia and the Caribbean. 

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Media Contact: Chris Guizo, The Fearey Group, 206.422.2394,