Garnier Repondez, S'il Vous Plait Faux Pas

If you happened to be watching CNBC's "Closing Bell" yesterday afternoon, you may have seen what we call a "promo" (short for a promotion of an upcoming story or guest) for a "First on

Jean-Pierre Garnier
Jean-Pierre Garnier

CNBC" interview with GlaxoSmithKline CEO Jean-Pierre (JP) Garnier on today's "Closing Bell" at 3:15 ET.

Since the Avandia news broke on Monday, I'd been trying to get an interview with him. He talked to The Wall Street Journal mid-week, but had yet to do a TV interview. Then, yesterday afternoon I got a call from his British PR person telling me that Garnier would like to come on CNBC on Friday. She said he was flying to the States from Europe last night and that we could do a live, one-on-one interview with him at or near the company's U.S. headquarters in Pennsylvania.

We quickly confirmed that the interview was indeed a "go" and began to make all of the logistical arrangements for camera crews, a satellite truck and a suitable location at the GSK campus. Because this was a very timely, newsworthy "get," CNBC almost immediately started to promote the interview. That's how we hopefully attract viewers. And it's how companies like Glaxo can be assured that their message will reach as many people as possible. Well, guess what happened?

A short time later, the Glaxo UK spokesperson told me that I "had put them in a very difficult spot." Apparently, after the promo aired competitors started calling GSK wanting a TV interview with Garnier as well. Instead of telling those media outlets, "You'll have to wait until we're done talking to CNBC," or just a flat out, "No," the spokesperson told me that JP had suddenly decided that he did not want to do several interviews today and so, he would do none.

Interview canceled. Garnier backed out.

The spokesperson intimated that if I used that kind of language to describe what had happened that it might have an effect on whether we would ever get an interview with Garnier regarding the Avandia situation. I also reminded them about the optics of him pulling out of a confirmed interview in the wake of this week's news.

She also complained that we had promoted the interview, although she had never stipulated prior to that time that we not promote it. It is standard operating procedure at CNBC and throughout the industry to promote coverage. Indeed, when Garnier and other CEOs make their regular quarterly appearances on CNBC following their earnings announcements, we almost always tell viewers the day before, and on the Web, that so-and-so will be a guest at thus-and-such time.

Later, I received a voicemail from the British spokesperson's U.S. counterpart apologizing profusely for what happened. I've been assured that Garnier will still come to us first. The question is when.

Questions? Comments?