Making PR less painful

secrets to telling bigger stories in the next decade

Process is both the bane and the balm of publicity. In a geometrically expanding world of shared content, what does it take for your take to stand out?

If you do it right in my PR agency world, you get a number of opportunities for your client. Some of those do go well. And some do NOT pan out. Have you been experiencing more of those…and wondering what’s going on? Further in the post we’ll talk about what to DO about it.

First, by not panning out, I mean things like:

  • That speaking experience that netted nothing but nice photos and resume fodder, but no apparent clients.
  • Getting up at 4 am to go to a satellite uplink as a national TV guest interview and failing to get your key message inserted into the interview.
  • That byline article that goes up at an industry site with a  million daily views, but your client gets no comments, no LinkedIn love, no boost in daily web page views.
  • That award no one seemed to notice except the robotic press release reposting sites that picked it up—you know the ones, like WSJ.com.

Public relations = painful rejection?

This  can smack of real, actual rejection. When a company invests in publicity, pushes, makes the time, tells the story…. and you don’t get reaction, it hurts. Counseling patience doesn’t quite cut it for most people, even though that’s a truly valid approach. (It takes time to learn how to do this well).

Does pain mean you’re getting stronger?

In short yes. But pain can also mean injury. Here are some things the painful side of PR has taught me:

  1. Not everyone should be a publicity client—not everyone does have that supernova core.  Supernovas come from a long compression process, and it gets hot and heavy in there. We as agencies need to be better about being up front before engagement and making sure we vet how rigorous the process will be as carefully as we can. It is cruel and capricious to do anything else.
  2. For those publicity potential athletes that have the “muscle twitch” reactions of real possible stand outs, we have to coach, and coach hard.
  3. The internet is getting bigger. The job of being important is getting harder. It’s not a part-time sport. If you want to play, you have to be heading for the major leagues. That means investing time:
  • investing in your message development
  • time in each story
  • and time in your story distribution strategy

Yes, each of those are separate processes. Sorry.

4.   And speaking of the investment, don’t do it halfway.  You can “leverage” yourself in over time, and make incremental investments, but set your sights on the media you want, the attention you deserve, and don’t settle for anything less than the most direct path you can take to that opportunity. For example, hiring a part time freelancer is maybe part of your journey in the company’s early stage, like hiring a part time CFO or CMO. But when the business is in  running and scaling mode, your important processes demand full attention–and that likely means multiple resources to get the job done well.

Don’t settle because publicity has a bad rep or you’ve met some PR flakes. What kind of value does YOUR reputation have to YOU? That’s your metric.

Content does not equal credibility.
KILLER content does.

While the Internet is growing, the number of pages are growing. That means the stories are multiplying. When I mean growing, let me borrow a chart of shared online content from May this year:

your story is in competition
It’s a Content Competition. Who wins?

This is the geometric growth ingrained in our lives. You’re part of this. It’s embedded in you. And yet most people don’t process what this means to their company reputation. I was sitting with a successful local CEO with a national business at lunch last week, and she told me about how at her last company, ten years ago, they’d gotten on national TV  “all the time” with a midsize business with a strong value prop. That’s really good, but 15 years ago does not apply now. You wouldn’t build your web site, your marketing automation, or your sales engine with 10 year old processes and approaches, would you? Hopefully you’d be eying LinkedIn, Salesforce, Google Adwords–a host of ways that were irrelevant 15 years ago.

The trajectory of story distribution

So let’s consciously step back, and look at the trajectory of story distribution.

The first content online was thin. How did you use the internet in 1990?

  • It was more about the triumph of the technology of actually connecting computers in different locations. Chatting on apps like ICQ and IRC were at least as much about novelty as real information. Defense folks traded some cool stuff, but most of the early traffic was trivial.

And now, connectivity is trivial. Yes, the triumph of connectivity became trivial. Keep that thought.

The next era was all about popularizing and democratizing connectivity. Dumb content prevailed, but it sure has been easy to explore. Peanut butter jelly time, people!

Now, content sharing has become critical.  Now that sharing is stabilizing, the content can matter more. Truly valuable content only gains credibility over time.

  • The content will become the new triumph.

(And with smarter machines, it too will become trivial over time. Check out my post on Robots Writing. But that’s not the story in the next decade).

The next short cycle, the one that matters now if you’re trying to tell your story, will not be about pipes or platforms, but about telling the right stories at the right time.  That won’t make it easy. But it sure makes it interesting. To win at this, you need great stories (great content), and a great distribution process.

What will triumph in this environment is at one of two ends of the spectrum:

–       The deeply emotional—sex, kids, terror, heart throbs.

–       Or deeply meaningful for work, culture or intellectual interest.

The curation of stories is now popularized—that’s why creating content worth curating is ascendant.

And that takes us back to process. Failing, and failing faster, with your public relations efforts is the surest way to find out what works and what wins. I have found little to discourage me from our Triple A industry leadership methodology in that regard, but in the new era, it has to be applied with an athletic tempo.

My best lessons about public relations process are distilled in Triple A Industry Leadership Methodology and automated partially with our PR software.  Because it ties sales opportunities like speaking to pure publicity self reinforces, Triple A has a fly wheel effect in application that always leads to a stronger showing. Sort of like a runner training tempo, interval and long runs–it takes a number of different interwoven process to find your best pace. And there’s always some pain.