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OWNER'S MANUAL

Why You’re Not Getting Good PR

In short: No one cares about your story the way you're telling it. Try one of these tactics instead.

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Every business has a story, but most of those stories are boring. (Mine definitely is.)

For example, here’s a pitch I received from a PR professional; I’ve changed it slightly to avoid embarrassing anyone:

“I’m working with a wonderful new business… it’s currently a rags to rags story but I feel sure the riches part is right around the corner. The owners grew up together and decided to go into business… it’s a story I’m sure your readers will care a lot about!”

Nope. I don’t care about their story. You don’t either.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the owners are great people, but every business owner can tell a tale of struggle and euphoria and heartbreak and someday, against all odds, turning their dreams into reality by making their business a success. While occasionally we might be inspired or motivated, for the most part we’re just not that interested in other people’s stories because we’re too busy living our own.

So what should you do if you’re trying to spread the word about new products and services, landing new customers, bringing investors onboard… all the stuff you hire PR agencies to do for you or, more likely, try to do on your own?

Don’t give up. Just change your approach.

Pretend you’re pitching me. What should you do?

First, forget what you want. Many people think, “Wow, it would be awesome if Inc.com ran a story about our new product—think of the exposure!" Yes, it would be awesome, but I’m not going to write a puff piece about your product. Focus instead on how readers can benefit from the story (and no, learning about your new product isn’t a benefit to readers).

Then, think about what I want. No, it’s not all about me. It’s all about informing and occasionally (hopefully) entertaining readers; the more you can help me accomplish that goal, the more interested I am.

Then craft your pitch with publicity as a secondary goal. In the example above, the PR professional didn’t offer readers anything. His only focus was on getting publicity to benefit his clients. Flip it around and focus solely on how you can benefit readers. When you do, your company will benefit by extension.

For example, if you want to spread the word about:

New products or services: Share four lessons learned during the product development process; describe three ways you listened to customers and determined how to better meet their needs; explain the steps involved in manufacturing products overseas, especially including what you did wrong.

Landing a major customer: Describe how you changed your sales process to allow you to compete with heavy hitters in your industry; share three stories about major sales that got away and what you learned from failing to reel them in; detail the steps you took to quickly ramp up capacity while ensuring current customers were still taken care of.

Bringing in key investors: Explain how you helped investors embrace your vision for the company; describe four key provisions that create the foundation for a solid partnership agreement; share the stories of three pitches to VCs that went horribly wrong, and how those experiences helped you shape a winning pitch.

Sound like a lot of work? It is, but it’s worth it. When you offer to help people solve problems and learn from your mistakes, bloggers and writers will be a lot more interested.

More importantly, readers will be more interested in the news you want to share, because you first helped them—and that gives them a great reason to be interested in you.

IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Dec 1, 2011

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.
@jeff_haden




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