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Nov 22, 2013 · Leave a Reply

Listening heads

By Hoyt Finnamore @HoytFinnamore

If you hang around folks in the media, or media critics, or critics of media critics long enough, you know they are fonder of the phrase "talking heads" than David Byrne. But what about those on the other side of the table? Behind every great interview, there is (ideally) a great interviewer, or at least a great listener. (You're picturing Charlie Rose right now, aren't you?) We're thinking that Geoff Colvin, who recently interviewed John Noseworthy, M.D., Mayo's president and CEO, for part of his Leadership series in Fortune magazine, probably fits that bill, too.

We don't have any visual evidence to make that case with this story, however, because, well, there's an interesting story there. You see, Mr. Colvin didn't show up for the interview. He wanted to. But it turns out that there was a train derailment that kept him from getting into New York and to the studio on the morning of the interview. Colvin was able to get back home and make arrangements to do the interview remotely by speakerphone.

It all came together in the end, but there was no one for Dr. Noseworthy to talk to. And with the slightly off-camera approach used in the video series, Dr. Noseworthy would have to look where his interviewer was supposed to be. And he'd have to be consistent about looking in that exact spot, as if he were having a conversation with someone sitting just off-camera. Then someone came up with a solution: a stick-man version of Mr. Colvin, with a photo of his head taped to a microphone stand -- at just the right height.

That did the trick. But in a way, it was really too bad, because the interview was some time in the making -- getting schedules to align, catching Dr. Noseworthy when he was in New York, and what not. Mayo's Media Relations team initially pitched the idea of meeting with Geoff Colvin after Dr. Noseworthy had read some of his work, which resonated with Mayo's perspectives on health care and leadership. Mayo then invited him to come to Rochester to get a sense of how Mayo Clinic works and talk to some of those involved in making it do so. The final piece was the interview in New York. It was setting up to be a great conversation.

In the end, it all worked out. Dr. Noseworthy got to spend some quality time with Geoff Colvin's face. And the interview came off without another hitch. And, more importantly, both the written piece and the videos helped get out Mayo's message about changes necessary in health care -- like getting Washington "to consider quality and effectiveness when reimbursing health care providers, a change (Dr. Noseworthy) believes would benefit Mayo and motivate others to improve." Those words come right from the (virtual) pages of Fortune.

After the interview, as you can see, the obligatory photos had a little different flavor than you might expect. But that we think you'll enjoy as much as we (and Colvin, we're told) did.

Strike your own pose and share your comments below.

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