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CNBC's Schacknow: When A Company PR Dept. Calls

A Belated Return: The breaking news desk blog has returned after a longer than expected absence - upon my return to work yesterday after vacation, my computer somehow fried its innards, necessitating a complete overhaul. As I told my very understanding CNBC.com bosses, the dog really DID eat my homework!

Frankly, We’re Bushed: When you listened to the President’s State of the Union address - some people undoubtedly wondered ...“Hmmm, how can I make a quick buck out of this?” Of course, YOU weren’t one of those people, but the speech most definitely had both short and long term investment implications.

As details leaked Tuesday about the President’s plan to cut gasoline consumption by 20 percent and double the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, oil prices soared. This morning, we brought you a variety of expert opinion on whether your investment portfolio should include alternative energy stocks like Pacific Ethanol , VeraSun Energy , Xethanol , and Archer Daniels Midland . The leaked details Tuesday were helpful: as soon as we heard what would be in the speech, our segment producers leaped for the phones and booked a variety of guests who were on hand to provide reaction through the day today.

Pre-emptive Strike: Home Depot got plenty of abuse heaped upon it for former CEO Bob Nardelli’s $210 million severance package, but the nation’s biggest home improvement retailer wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice. It hit the wires this morning with details of new CEO Frank Blake’s pay - emphasizing that 89% of his $8.9 million dollar pay package for this year was risk based - meaning it could fluctuate (up or down) depending on how the company did. "Squawk Box" first reported this in the 7:30 am half hour, with our executive compensation reporter Mary Thompson picking up the story later in the day. I don’t think I’m supposed to say that Home Depot’s PR department called to make sure we saw the story. But they did.

That, by the way, is not a criticism. We reported the Nardelli controversy every step of the way, so their opinion was that efforts to tie executive pay to performance should also not be overlooked. We get many calls from company PR departments and we don’t let them dictate what we put on the air. But in this case, their point was valid.

Up In The Air: We’re used to seeing takeover battles. We’re less used to seeing the principles take their case to Capitol Hill. But that’s exactly what happened today - with US Airways Doug Parker telling the Senate Commerce Committee exactly why his company’s $9.9 billion dollar bid for Delta Air Lines would be good for the industry. Delta chief Gerald Grinstein was there to say the opposite - and that Delta would do best to emerge from bankruptcy as a standalone carrier. Parker previewed his case for us on "Squawk Box" this morning - Grinstein wouldn’t appear beforehand, but as of this writing, we’re hoping he’ll stop by our cameras on his way out. (he did finally appear at the top of "Street Signs.")

If he does, we’ll be prepared. In such situations, we “float” the segment - so named because we prepare elements (intro, dekos, tape, and whatever else is needed) and then move it through the rundown as the show moves along so that it will be there and ready when and if our guest shows up. Yes, we hate when we do all that work and there’s no segment, but we’d hate it worse if we did nothing and then had to do it all on the fly. (In that case, the producers simply scream for the Breaking News Desk. Most of the time, I actually answer!)

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  • Sue Herera is a founding member of CNBC, helping to launch the network in 1989. She is co-anchor of "Power Lunch."

  • "Power Lunch" & “Nightly Business Report” Co-Anchor

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Kenny Polcari