The biggest secret in public relations is easy to master. In fact, you could easily accomplish it today. It's this: Nearly all entrepreneurs, as they become engrossed in their companies and start to think about visibility, are focused primarily on themselves.
"We need to tell our story," they say.
"It's not about me, it's about our team."
"People should be inspired by what we've done."
"This is my voice, my image, my persona."
But here's the sad truth: Perhaps people should be impressed, but until they have a personal reason to engage with you, they probably won't.
When you can change your focus from you (your image, the number of likes, shares and eyeballs) to them (what are the burning issues keeping your prospective customers awake at night?) an interesting thing will happen.
Your PR will catch fire.
Stop thinking about yourself
Consider Dave Asprey, the entrepreneur behind the Bulletproof diet and coffee brand and the popular Bulletproof Radio show. His Bulletproof Conference 2016, the company's fourth, attracted 3,000 attendees and 95 exhibitors last weekend.
How did he manage to get all that visibility? It was easy, he said. When he forgot about sales, views, eyeballs and put his full focus on adding value for his audience, the energy flowed. Many of the best press appearances he's achieved he only learned about afterward, from Facebook, along with the rest of the world.
Yes, he had a compelling story--busy tech executive, traveling, stressed out, and tipping the scales at 300 pounds. In the midst of the grueling hikes, workouts and treks he took in his attempts to burn it back off, someone handed him a cup of coffee with yak butter.
Yak butter? As in saturated butterfat? People naturally want to know more.
To date there have been approximately 50 million downloads of his radio show, amounting to 50 million hours (the equivalent of at least a few hundred lifetimes). Asprey considers it a fiduciary responsibility to make good use of his listeners' time: "Either I add value, or I'm a mass murderer."
When the commitment is real, listeners and readers can feel it. They keep coming back. They engage.
How to make it work for you
The ability for every entrepreneur to publish, via LinkedIn, blogs, YouTube or in various sites or trade magazines brings this point home more than ever. The web is full of examples of posts that use a paragraph to raise a business issue; spend the rest of the page making a case for how their consulting or product could get that problem resolved.
It's a pitch.
Or executives devote pages to the soft and fuzzy stories about their company's greatness, philosophies, their marketing smarts, or the high ideals they dreamed about on their annual cycling vacation. Assuming the material makes it past the publishing gatekeepers at all, the pieces receive little-to-no attention.
They're still about you.
Now, think about what keeps your customers awake at night.
Where is their pain? (If you don't know, ask them. They'll be happy to tell.) What would ease their workload, give them a new inspiration or insight or even entertain them a bit as they learn a new skill?
Now you're talking.
The attention will come
When you can turn your focus from you to your readers, the waves of attention will come. Better yet, you won't have to hire a PR agent to get it.
Just use a little savvy leveraging the expertise or experience you have that readers would love to know more about. There are surely a myriad of topics that relate in a real and universal way to the product or service you sell. Then, as real estate expert Dean Graziosi puts it, "Deliver insane value."
At the end of your piece, after the formal article, let people know where to find you, how to engage with you, or what to do if they'd like to go a step further or would like to know more.
Now you no longer need to worry about the cleverness of your ads or screaming from the rooftops. The awareness you are seeking will come.
Now your PR challenge is this: how do you capture and address the market that is looking at you? A topic for another article and another day.