There’s a running joke at Computer Weekly: whenever a CIO gets in touch out of the blue to say they are available for interview, we know they are looking for a new job. It’s true that some IT leaders see talking to the press only as a chance for self-promotion. But why would an IT chief otherwise want to talk to the media?
These days, there is hardly any organization that does not rely on IT. More importantly, there has been a growing recognition that the health of your technology reflects the success of your company. Customers, business partners, shareholders, analysts and employees all look to your IT to assess how well your operation is run.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of the successful CIO to be an ambassador for the IT they manage. The media wants to write about how technology is changing the way we all work and live, and you – the IT leader – are the person that makes it happen. That makes you of interest to the press. And yes, it’s a good opportunity to let a wider audience know what you and your company are doing.
Most CIO coaches and mentors that I know recommend building a press profile and journalist contacts to help develop your “personal brand” and career opportunities. So what is the best way to engage with the tech press?
The first thing I would recommend is to check the publications you read to see which regularly interview CIOs. See what sort of people they talk to, the sort of topics they discuss and the questions they ask. Use your personal network to talk to peers who have been interviewed to find out what they did and what they thought of the journalist. Build a relationship with a small number of journalists whose articles you like to read, and who are trusted by the IT leadership community.
Your press officers will put you through your paces before they let you near a journalist, walking you through phrases like “off the record,” “the Chatham House rule” and “background information.” That is all well and good, but the only thing you really need to remember is the following: if you don’t want the journalist to know, don’t say it. Remember, most journalists will want to interview you again one day – we want a productive long-term relationship. But of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t ask some searching questions too. In my experience, the best CIOs enjoy answering the toughest questions.
Bryan Glick is Editor in Chief of Computer Weekly, the UK’s leading business technology publication. You can find a selection of Computer Weekly’s regular CIO interviews and articles here.