(The following post originally appeared as part of coverage of the MTLC unConference, November 16, 2012)
Kicking off unConference in a big way, an overflow crowd attended the session ”Get Famous Fast: Media Relations for Entrepreneurs.” With an All-Star panel that included innovation chronicler Scott Kirsner; Author David Meerman Scott; Twitter pioneer, Laura Fitton, BzzAgent Founder Dave Balter; and Gemvara CEO Matt Louzon, it was a lively discussion that quickly spilled into the audience where insight and inquiries were many.
A PR practitioner for 20+ years myself, the session was a great cross section of entrepreneurial inquisitiveness and field hardened war stories.
Regardless of whether or not a company is ready for – or ultimately will ever need – a dedicated PR firm, the resounding message was, if you want to be famous, realize that it’s not about you. Sure, pedigree and success breeds success, but there are some entrepreneurs whose CV is not ready for TV.
Scott attempted to break up the session into two segments to capture a top 25 on relationship building and one for media pitching, but the conversation came so fast and furious, the end result was pages of rules to live by to effectively grab public interest in your image.
Taking some editorial license, I’ve tried to capture and coalesce the guidance in the following list for understanding influencer “targeting,” relationship building and effective communications:
- Keep your enemies bookmarked – know who covers your competition and they’ll likely be appropriate for you
- Feed the Beasts’ ego – follow and get to know influencers on both a personal and professional level, and start SINCERE conversations with them to establish a connection. This is a combo of social media and also, as Scott emphasized multiple times, IN PERSON conversations.
- Don’t be needy – the best opportunities and ultimately coverage come most often when you have what the reporter needs for what they are covering, not when you only have what you want covered
- Don’t be greedy - Understand your business context, your customers’ needs, your desired outcomes and your resources, and focus on quality, not necessarily quantity.
- Don’t be invisible – founders and those most passionate about the business need to be the ones talking most loudly and most frequently.
- Be an ambulance driver, not an ambulance chaser – anticipate what stories you know are coming and watch for the surprises that no one can anticipate, and be opportunistic and fast with assistance THAT IS OF VALUE. And, in my experience, in some cases, ask for nothing in return. Complement that with good and timely content and you can establish and grow mutual value.
- Embrace the Bluebird (all due respect to Twitter’s Blue Bird) - Create good content regardless of immediate opportunities, and engage in networking and business activities that will benefit others, and that you don’t even realize will result in a karmically big story down the line.
- Simplify – you’re the expert, empower others with metaphors and plain buzzword free talk to understand and engage with your image at all levels
- Own it, all of it – be both actively involved in understanding how others – internally or externally – tell your story, and surround yourself with advisors who can make you better, challenge you and make everyone better.
The end of the session became even more fun with an impromptu Scott Kirsner roast and an “unAmerican Idol” style pitch session that educated everyone on the scourge of rat poop….
In the end, the message that I heard, and agree with wholeheartedly was that for entrepreneurs, after you have poured your being into birthing a great innovation, you need to let it go to grow. Image cannot exist in a vacuum. It needs the context of the market needs, wants and interest as fuel for others to engage.
And for PR minded folks, it is all about mutual respect and mutual benefit. Good PR serves two clients the company they represent and the influencers they need to engage.
For more blog coverage from MTLC unConference visit http://blog.masstlc.org/