After Going Viral, a Reporter Misrepresented Me in an Article. Here's What I Learned.
Not all publicity is good publicity.
On May 28, 2021 I quit my job and shared the news in what would become a viral tweet. Since then, I’ve been sharing my story across different publications and platforms to raise awareness for prioritizing happiness and mental health over a salary or toxic workplace. As part of the media hype, I was contacted by a reporter at a well-known newspaper who asked if I'd be interested in being interviewed. I agreed, but when the story came out it wasn't what I expected to read based on my conversations with the reporter.
In a world where media coverage often equals “social proof,” it can be tempting to blindly accept any and every interview offer as a way to promote your business. Learn from my mistake by prioritizing these three things as an entrepreneur managing your brand.
Accuracy of information
Much like routinely reviewing your credit report, it’s important to do a regular audit of the information that circulates on the web about you and your business. One way I do this is by setting Google alerts for my name and terms relating to the work I do. Additionally, I’ll do a daily Google search on my name filtering results from the previous 24 hours. Because my name is my brand, this allows me to see what new information is being shared, like a podcast I was a guest on or an article I wrote.
There are a lot of new PR companies, publicists and bad actors posing as both in the digital media space. In fact, I get regular messages on LinkedIn, Instagram and to my email asking me if I want to establish “credibility” by being featured in some large publication for a fee. (Hint: True editorial is never for sale.)
One of the things I’ve learned as a contributor to several publications is that although features can be great social proof, you establish thought leadership much more effectively by telling your own story and sharing your insights. You control your own narrative and, done well enough, the coveted features happen organically (often leveraging information you’ve published). In my case, I should have researched the newspaper and its history of stirring up controversy before accepting an interview. I also should have requested the ability to review the final write-up before publishing so I was acutely aware of how my story would be positioned in relation to what I shared. Many reporters won't agree to this, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
Leveraging social proof to create more social proof
In beginning of my journey as a speaker, financial educator and coach, I was once asked, "What's your credibility?" My very first piece of credibility was my book and my TED Talk, which — properly leveraged — snowballed into amazing opportunity after amazing opportunity. Several (non-paid) features, written interviews, podcast guest appearances and contributions to publications later I can confidently answer that question by name-dropping some of the largest, most influential brands known by my audience and pointing to work I’ve done with them. If that doesn’t inspire confidence, nothing else will.