Last Updated Mar 6, 2008 6:09 PM EST
So Mills flies across the country to sit down with Schmidt after his press conference, and before the interview starts, the
PR person tells her she can only ask questions about Google Health. Mills tries a couple of other questions anyway, and Schmidt declines to answer. The only wiggle room she finds is to ask some general questions about Google tied to Google Health. Here's the link to Mills' story about the Schmidt interview.
In my media training programs I teach the art of "controlling the interview." It's an important skill for a spokesperson to learn. But I think Schmidt and Google took this way too far in this situation -- and for no apparent reason.
There are two objectives for teaching spokespeople to control the interview: to increase the spokesperson's confidence in giving the interview and therefore delivering the key messages, and to give the spokesperson the tools to make sure those topics are addressed and to help them avoid topics they are unprepared to address.
Note that "payback for pissing us off" isn't one of the uses for this approach. Neither is "because I can."
Google is perhaps the most admired company in the world right now. Its service is fantastic and they have been richly rewarded for providing it. They've got a great story, right? Of course, they have business challenges, but so does everyone. So why not let Schmidt respond to whatever questions he is able to respond to? What in the world are they afraid of?
Furthermore, you can't "control" the interview in such a way that it is blatantly transparent. You learn the techniques, you practice them, and they become natural. If it is obvious to the reporter, you've messed up and dinged your corporate reputation.
PS -- Here's a link to CNET's News.com's Dan Farber's critique of Schmidt's behavior.