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OWNER'S MANUAL

6 Ways to Spoil Great PR Opportunities

Recognize any of the behaviors on this list? If so, you might be getting in the way of your company getting good PR.

Jeff Bezos

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I get pitches all the time from PR pros and business owners. Sometimes I find an angle I want to write about and it's the start of an ongoing relationship with a PR professional or a businessperson or company.

And sometimes, unfortunately, it's not.

Pretend someone is planning to, or has already covered your business or the business you represent. You should want that to be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship--an open door is a lot easier to walk through than all the closed doors you're trying to beat down.

To make it easier, we'll pretend I'm that "someone." Here are a few mistakes you should definitely avoid:

You act like you're doing a favor.

Any pitch that starts with something like, "Supercilious Maximus has graciously agreed to grant interviews on a limited basis about the launch of his new company..." gets instantly deleted.

If I approach you and you agree to an interview then you are absolutely being gracious and I truly appreciate the fact you'll take the time to talk to me.

If you're the one doing the asking, though, you aren't being gracious. You're being pompous.

Here's a better approach: Just say you would love to talk to me and you'll do everything possible to make it as convenient as possible--for me.

That's what I do when I hope to talk to someone.

You go all post-superlative on me.

Sometimes people will ask if they can fact check an article before it is published.

I'm all for getting things right, but unfortunately "fact checking" often takes the form of, "It is more accurate to use the word 'groundbreaking' or 'amazing' or 'incredible' or 'world class...'"

And no, usually it isn't more accurate.

You try to become my boss.

I've interviewed you. You sent back-up material. I'm working on the article.

Then you ask me to publish the article tomorrow because it's your client's birthday. Or you ask me to interview a major customer because wouldn't that add so much color and depth to the story. Or you ask me to make it two parts to increase your exposure.

Or maybe you should just leave well enough alone.

You try to control the angle.

You have your dream article in mind: You know what you want to say and how you want to say it. You're an on-point messaging superstar.

Unfortunately what you want to say is usually really boring (even to the people who write your press releases.) Readers don't care that you hit a certain revenue mark. Readers don't care about your bold move into new markets. Readers don't care that you landed a new distribution deal.

Readers care about information they can use: great advice, solid tips, mistakes to avoid. If you did something awesome they want to know how you did it so they can do something awesome too.

That's my "angle." Make it yours.

Otherwise no outlet that cares about its audience will write about you.

So if you pestered me for weeks, claimed your guy was awesome, told me how he's so prepared and so on-point and so incredibly engaging... and it turned out he was none of those and yet I still managed to drag some great stuff out of him... hey, in that case especially, say thanks.

You try to sell accessories after I already bought the suit.

If you want to provide additional facts to make sure the story is accurate, that's awesome. But if you want to add a mention of one of your other products, or a shout-out to a potential partner or investor, or a completely unrelated mention of something else your company wants to promote, or you want to change the photo we already published because you just found one you like so much better, now you're the guy who just sold me a suit but won't stop badgering me to buy a shirt and tie and belt and cufflinks.

And nobody likes that guy.

Be happy I bought a suit. Next time we can talk about a shirt and tie--and maybe even another suit.

You don't realize we're in this together.

I'm always searching for good material. I get as much from providing great content for readers as you get from basking in the reflected glow of your wit and wisdom. To me, we're in it together, and that's why I always say thanks.

You should too. That's one of the easiest ways to build a professional relationship.

Last updated: Oct 16, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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