Whether an entrepreneur has hired a PR firm or communications director or they are attempting to do public relations on their own, there are a few key mistakes that they make time and again, preventing them from ever getting covered and their publicist or communication director from doing the job they are paid for.
Despite protests from the people who work for them, many entrepreneurs simply insist on doing things their own way, thereby getting in their own way. Here are five big mistakes they can make:
1. Attempting to treat reporters, editors and producers like staff. Many entrepreneurs expect to be able to make the same demands on the media that they do on their staff, from how many links to their website they feel should be included to trying to control the interview questions. It is important for entrepreneurs to keep in mind that the media is doing them a favor, not the other way around.
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Do not ask for questions in advance (know your topic), advise them on which questions they may and may not ask you or commit any of the other myriad of sins that entrepreneurs make when they confuse being controlling with controlling the message.
2. Attempting to delegate their interviews and guest pieces to junior staff. Many entrepreneurs read The 4-Hour Workweek and take it too much to heart. While being able to delegate tasks to subordinates is an important part of scaling one’s business, and Mr. Ferriss’s advice is both insightful and inspirational, delegating has no place in public relations.
From small podcasts to large publications, the majority of media outlets want to hear from the head honcho. It is, for example, completely inappropriate to send anyone but the CEO to an interview meant to inspire other entrepreneurs on creating a multi-million-dollar business with stories of how you did it. Your staff didn’t do it, you did.
There are, however, some exceptions. For example, if your business is having an unavoidable emergency that will put you on a plane to China during your scheduled interview time, it is polite to offer a qualified member of your staff as an alternative.
Other instances might include trying to build members of your senior staff’s profiles with outlets that are appropriate for them to interview with or submit pieces to. Exercise good judgment when it is a good fit and when it is just offensive.
3. Ignoring an editor’s requests. Your communications director or publicist pitched an op-ed or guest piece to a major outlet, and, miracle of miracles, they said yes! While common sense would dictate that one would take an editor’s requests and input into consideration and craft the piece around that, that insidious temptation creeps in: this is your big chance. Now is the perfect time to advance your own agenda, right? Wrong.
You ignore your publicist’s warnings -- who works for whom anyways? -- and submit the piece you dream of being published, instead of the one that the editor needs and wants.
It’s pretty easy to see where this is going. Not only does the piece not run, you do not get the chance to resubmit the piece the editor originally requested, nor do you ever get the opportunity to be published by them again.
4. Using PR as advertising and marketing. Great news -- a magazine has requested a guest piece from you. You haven’t written anything except emails since college, and you used to love writing, so this will be fun.
As you sit down to write, you think about all of the things that you have learned about business writing from meetings with your marketing department and SEO pros. If you want this piece to have a real return on investment, beyond establishing you as an authority in your field and giving third-party credibility to all that you do, you need to include a call-to-action and make sure to include lots of links.
As you write, you realize that if you give too many answers, readers won’t really need to pick up the phone and call you, so you take out all of the insightful bits and replace them with questions.
Of course, you can’t forget to create fear and a need. Before long, your piece reads something like this: All these horrible things are happening in your businesses and, as a result, you’re not making any money. In fact, if you don’t fix these things, you will be shutting your doors in six months, your receptionist will lose her house, you will have to pull your children out of private school, and your CFO will become a panhandler. Want to know how to avoid all these horrible things? We can help! Call us today!
After slaving over the piece, you find out that the publication doesn’t want the piece after all. What happened? Where did you go wrong?
If the whole piece is one big advertisement for you or your services, buy ad space. If the editor ever bothers to get back to you after submitting something that reads like an infomercial, that is exactly what they will tell you.
5. Not going through media training. It is in your PR representative’s interest for you to be a good guest on radio and television, and it is also in their interest for you to get the quote you want in the newspaper. After all, they have other clients they need to place, and they also know that they will be the ones blamed for a blunder -- even though they’re not the ones who offered the offending quote. They only gave you the opportunity to stick your foot in your mouth, they didn’t put it there.
If your PR pro offers you media training as a part of your services, take it!
There are many business executives who turn media training down, even when it is included, because they don’t believe that they need it -- after all, they didn’t get where they are without knowing how to communicate well and inspire people.
Media training is not just about common sense and being a good communicator. Coming across well in forms of communication that you are not familiar with is an art form. Even other professionals on your team can make big mistakes by not knowing the rules of the various types of media. For example, if your image consultant packs your green dress that they decided that you look great in for an interview conducted on a green screen, you will not be happy.
There are innumerable other mistakes that entrepreneurs make when it comes to public relations. Once you are able to stop self-sabotaging, you may finally start seeing your name and your company’s name in the media.