Business for Use by All
American business is in trouble. Now that you have had a laugh of release with my thundering understatement, I'll repeat it again. American business is in trouble. This ultimately will turn out to be a good thing, because it gives the millions of us who do business honestly and with integrity the chance to teach the Big Boys our methods and have our methods be accepted. Millions of us have our own small businesses and projects and now is the time to learn some simple ways to allow the media to advance your goals by learning how to tell them your story.
For 15 years I have run my own PR firm, a small business that affords me the opportunity to interact with major media every day. I have booked my clients into all of the impressive venues from Oprah to the New York Times, and the one thing I have learned in that time, is how essential it is to junk your conceptions of what business is, and to follow the simple laws that your Mom taught you: Be Kind, Be Generous, Be Courteous, Put Yourself in The Other Person's shoes, and be nice to all of the gatekeepers, because they too shall rise to prominence.
If this sounds so unlike the thousands of self-help books and seminars that teach confidence to be a by-product of aggression and pushing, that is exactly the point I am making.
For the millions of us who have our own business, product, project, or social cause that we work for, there has been an entire industry developed of "experts" who will tell you all kinds of shameless nonsense on how to get yourself across to the media and more importantly, the public. It is a kind of prosthetic PR limb that has grown up in a Petri dish invented by chiselers out to make money off you.
"Experts" will give lectures and make it sound as if it is a climb on K-2 to prepare for the TV Shows or news segments or even written interviews that you might want to be in. There are predators out there who will tell you that to be seen by an Oprah producer, you must invest in a state-of-the-art DVD package of yourself: With music and special effects and guess what… the expert telling you this just happens to own a company that does all this for $10,000 or so. Gee, ain't that nice!
When in reality, when I booked one of the stories of the decade in California, the notorious lie campaign of Candidate for Governor Bill Simon in 2002, on national TV and news venues, it took me a one-page press release of about 500 words to get the story across. The press release's simple headline was "Kafka Vs. Capra", and that succinctly helped to get the story across about the lies and shadiness the candidate was using.
In fact, from 60 Minutes to 48 Hours to The View: it never takes more than a one-page press release and a warm, shared conversation with a producer or segment booker or editor and you can get across to millions of people.
The reasons? The so-called secrets? Common sense and integrity and calm.
Business is choking itself to death on the mentality I talk about above: Everything is seen in terms of war, and getting the person on the other end of the phone to do something for you. I upset that paradigm with my success in booking clients in the opposite way. All my conversations are disarming because I ask, ask, ask, the person on the other end of the phone what particular news articles and stories they are interested in. That way, you gather a large area of media life that needs stories, and I can calmly go through my list of clients and see which ones fit certain themes. Also, by asking the reporter or producer on the other end of the phone what beat they cover and some themes they would like to do in the future, you are prepared: You now are communicating back and forth with the media person, letting them know what you do and what you can provide for them. A relationship is established not by you pushing them, but by you making yourself be of service to them.