“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” This popular quote, often attributed to showman and businessman P.T. Barnum, is not entirely true, unless your only objective is notoriety. Although most business owners and people in other professions such as lawyers, doctors, designers, athletes, musicians and actors would agree that visibility and brand recognition are common goals, they also strive to maintain a positive public reputation. Essentially, not all news is good news.
If you have good news about what you are doing, you obviously want to share it. It’s 2020. Sharing good news is just what we do, even though the media more times than not would love to share the bad! But say you have good news to share… how do you get it out there and with whom? While paid advertising is an excellent way to share your message with your target demographic, the communication is one-sided and not necessarily viewed as credible. Public relations is often incorrectly referred to as “free advertising,” but that definition could not be further from the truth. PR professionals work with editors and producers to help generate editorial content for their publications, podcasts and TV shows. Earned editorial placements are much more credible than paid advertisements because the product or service is given third-party validation. Although editorial coverage is never guaranteed, a good PR professional is in constant contact with members of the media, understands what is newsworthy and knows how to deliver a well-timed, thoughtful and targeted pitch that not only will share your good news, but help push forward your future goals and objectives overall with your company or personal brand.
“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” – Bill Gates
But what happens if you have bad news. Or even worse, you know something terrible is about to leak? Do you try to hide it? Or try to get out in front of it becoming public? Unfortunately, as is the ups and downs of life, you might not always have positive news to share. Every company/person is vulnerable to crises, some industries and people more than others. The bigger you are, the more people will want to see you fail. It’s a sad reality that many CEOs and celebrities go through, both here in Los Angeles and around the world. In the event of a crisis, scandal or even an unfavorable customer/critic review, your reputation could be put on the line. If you do not react strategically to the issue at hand, the situation can spiral out of control, further damaging your company’s reputation… sometimes beyond a quick and easy repair. Your PR agency should be ready with a plan. Crisis communications is essentially the opposite of traditional public relations – instead of working to earn media coverage for something positive, your PR agency will prepare a strategy to mitigate negative media coverage. One of the strongest tactics to regain control of a potentially negative situation is to release a public statement to the media. By responding quickly, taking ownership of the problem and offering a timely resolution, you can help manage the message received by the public and maintain your company’s reputation.
“The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all.” – Mark Twain
What about if you don’t have any news to share at all, yet need to do something to get ahead and get attention? Well, everyone has some story. Zack Teperman, President at Los Angeles-based PR agency ZTPR and author of the best-selling PR & marketing how-to book, “Cut The Bull$hit: A Quick Guide To Getting Your Name Or Product Out There, Somewhere!”, agrees. “Our job as a PR agency is to help you find interesting and newsworthy angles to share. A lot of the times our clients do not realize that they have stories worth sharing because they are too close to their business to see the unique angles or to think outside of the box.” Further to Teperman’s advice, your PR agency can provide beneficial knowledge of trending topics and an impartial perspective to help you uncover newsworthy items. They also can help you brainstorm new ideas and promotions to help your business gain positive media attention. Kari Dephilips, the owner of The Content Factory, explains PR stating: “PR people are often called “spin doctors,” which to us conjures up images of weird zombie voodoo witch doctors. While we like to think of ourselves as good witches rather than bad witches, there’s certainly an element of magic to what we do.” Ronn Torossian, a PR expert here in Los Angeles, adds, “PR is a mix of journalism, psychology, and lawyering – it’s an ever-changing and always interesting landscape.”
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Dr. Seuss
This brings us back to one of the original questions: “Should I hire a publicist?” Assuming money isn’t an issue (as some firms aren’t cheap), there are certain times in an actor, start-up, CEOs, doctor, athlete, singer, etc.’s career or time of year where hiring a publicist is more needed than not. Of course, having one 100% of the time is a great luxury, but if you had to pick a certain time, there are a few ideas to keep in mind. Let’s say you’re the lead (or even a guest role) of an independent film that’s going to be screened at a major festival like Sundance. The people who made that film are going to be overwhelmed trying to get their project some attention, so you might not be their first priority. Hiring a publicist who knows the ins and outs of the festival circuit could be very valuable in that situation to drum up some added press attention on your role, which could help lead to your next role. Or let’s say you are about to launch a new product, or have a new song ready to come out, or just partnered with a charity. A publicist will help guide you through the launches/partnerships and get the proper attention on everything you are doing. The same goes if you have something or anything that sets you apart from others in your field; Getting ahead of them by getting media attention on you and whatever story you want told is a great strategy and reason to hire a PR firm.
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein
In conclusion, with 2020 being a “special” year, it has introduced new words and phrases into our daily conversations like: coronavirus, COVID-19, social distancing, shelter-in-place. The escalation of COVID-19 cases from a relatively small number of cases to a global pandemic has transformed every industry and all aspects of our lives with alarming velocity. For many businesses and people across Los Angeles and the rest of the country, there’s a pressing question: What should you do about your marketing and public relations initiatives? With headlines about the coronavirus dominating the news, restaurants, the film industry here in town, and other types of industries being hit hard, it’s challenging to develop marketing and PR plans and execute accordingly to stay afloat. However, there are still things that savvy companies can do during these uncertain times to help flip things around for you. And whether you can figure that out on your own, or enlist the help of a PR professional, now is the time to act quickly and now more than ever is why public relations is truly important in our society. You need to keep getting yourself out there, keep telling whatever stories you have, keep attracting positive eyeballs, and keep moving forward strategically!