Consultant to the stars and PR mastermind Howard Bragman knows all about the power of the press. He is the CEO of the public relations agency Fifteen Minutes and the founding partner of Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, the largest entertainment PR firm in the world. In his new book, "Where's My Fifteen Minutes?" he says that fame is attainable for anyone who knows how to get it--including businesses. Bragman spoke with Inc.'s Caitlin McDevitt and spilled his secrets on how to craft a positive image and keep pace with changing technologies--lessons he says apply to celebrities and entrepreneurs alike.
Why did you write Where's My Fifteen Minutes?
As recently as a decade ago, "public images" were really reserved for actors, movie stars, athletes, and politicians--the real titans. But in this world we live in--of Facebook, Google, YouTube, and blogs--all of that has changed. Now everyone has a public image: every individual, every business. If you don't manage it, you're not maximizing your potential.
You've said that the internet is to information what cotton candy is to food. Can you explain?
It's a lot of fluff. So now it's even harder to get something meaningful out of the internet. You have to breakthrough all of that clutter. The first thing you have to do is to define yourself. How do you want people to think of your business? If you can't describe that in a paragraph, it's going to be hard to sell.
What's the biggest mistake that businesses make?
You need to get every employee that works for you on the same page. Otherwise, you're leaving communication to their devices and that can be dangerous. Even if your company has a PR firm in place, you still have to be aggressive in defining yourself to the internal audience.
You've been recognized as a master of "damage control," having worked for clients like the Lewinskys, in dealing with negative attention. What's the best way to manage PR when something goes wrong?
Well, first of all, you have to understand that you messed up. Own up to your mess. You have to have a sincere apology. And you have to let enough time pass. Time is the secret ingredient. It depends on what you did and the willingness of people to forgive you. You can't apologize too soon. Michael Vick said on Friday that he wasn't involved in a dog fight. Then, on Monday, he said that he found Jesus over the weekend. I don't think that really helped him. You need to give people enough time to process it.
Many companies that may have had healthy marketing departments in the past have been forced to cut back due to the economy. What's too important to be slashed?
I still think you need PR. It's the most efficient way to market. You should never stop monitoring your company in the media and never stop getting good news out there. When you do stop, that's when voids are created.
What kind of voids?
Information voids that make room for rumors, misrepresentations and partial information. That's all bad for a company, and you lose the opportunity to define yourself. With marketing dollars so valuable in this economy, you have to work that much harder to control the dialogue.