When I began my entrepreneurial career, I spent a lot of money on advertising each month. Since I didn't have a lot of money, it was a gut-wrenching experience.
Although my advertising was successful, over the years, I've found that PR is an equally effective way to gain customers. The problem is, while PR may require less in terms of hard-dollar expenditures, it's much more difficult to place (or garner) than advertising. To place an ad, all you need is money. With PR, you can invest time and money and get nothing in return.
Years ago, I realized that to be a successful entrepreneur, I needed to be good at PR and be different enough to attract media attention. I knew I had to say something no one else was saying. I had to have an edge, be a little controversial and say something of value to readers, listeners and viewers. Because I have always been the "class clown," I used that as my edge. In the business world, boring people don't get much PR, unless they do something foolish or illegal.
My appearances on CNBC, Fox & Friends, Larry King Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show, PBS, TBN and Today--as well as this column in Entrepreneur--are examples of successful PR campaigns. They are the result of years invested in building relationships, sharing information and making myself available as a resource. Buttressing advertising investments with PR can make a marketing campaign even more potent.
One of my best PR successes was in 1978, when I got Playboy magazine to publish a photo of my newest product. The running craze had just started, so I designed a small nylon wallet that attached to a running shoe. In Playboy's feature about new products, the running shoe with the wallet was the only article of clothing the attractive female model was wearing. Sales went through the roof. Boring doesn't sell--nor does it drive good PR.Today's entrepreneurs need to be media savvy. I believe the best entrepreneurs are those who become spokespeople for their industry--the people reporters call when they need a resource or a comment. This takes training and practice. Hire a media coach and a PR agent who can get you in front of the media--and practice so you can deliver what's valuable to them and their audiences. Learn to speak in sound bites. Make your points quickly and clearly. Be gutsy. Learn from your less-than-stellar appearances. As you improve, your company will grow stronger, and you'll become a better entrepreneur.