Whether or not you work in public relations, in this day and age we’re basically all publicists and masters of our own communications.
We have the potential to become personal branding gurus displaying the best product—ourselves—in the best possible light offline, online and all the time.
Jeffrey Hayzlett, host of The C-Suite on Bloomberg, explains, “Every person is [his] own brand and you have your own promise to deliver. Do you want somebody else telling that story or do you want to tell it?”
The author, speaker and sometime cowboy adds: “If you don’t tell your story, if you don’t represent yourself, someone else will do it for you. I would much rather control what’s said of me and how it’s said than having other people do it. And I’d like to react to that as well.”
Beth Feldman agrees. The co-founder of full-service public relations consulting firm BeyondPR Group and founder of parenting blog network RoleMommy.com emphasizes putting yourself out there “no matter how uncomfortable that may feel.”
And if you feel uneasy talking about yourself on TV or radio, Feldman suggests hiring a media trainer to get you comfortable in an interview situation.
Feldman also suggests reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, especially the part about the “10,000 hours” rule. The gist is if you can determine in your life where you’ve spent 10,000 hours doing something, then you will feel the most comfortable talking about it and becoming an expert.
“The more experience you have, the more comfortable you will feel and the more people will take you seriously,” Feldman says. Getting taken seriously can be as simple as starting to do radio interviews to get your messaging perfected and then moving onto TV.
Feldman points out, “A platform isn’t built in a day but if you prepare for it with media training and practice, you will eventually break through and make an impact. Making an impact, whether getting your voice heard on local media, involves consistency.”
Never Stop Selling
When it comes to your messaging, “Never stop selling,” says Hayzlett. The key to being effective, he indicates, involves messaging in such a way that doesn’t feel intrusive to the recipient.
Some people may feel tempted to “stand there with a megaphone and just shout it out.” Considering that can get annoying very quickly, he says there are some particular moments when that’s okay.
For example, says Hayzlett, sending an email to everyone you know to say you just landed a television show and you’d love for them to tune in—that’s big news.
“But the fact that I’m speaking at a small group or I just won a small award probably isn’t,” he notes. “You only want to go to the well so many times.” That said, you should develop a rhythm to disseminating information on a regular basis. Leverage social media by reaching people who follow you; they are the most receptive to your updates.
Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, suggests connecting with fellow journalists via Twitter. “Help them find sources, answer their questions and retweet them. This way, they will take notice of you,” he says.
Studying media shouldn’t be a stretch for media folks since we speak the same language. As you reach out to journalists with your bio and pitch, Schawbel recommends reading every article they’ve written within your beat. His advice? “Make a spreadsheet listing the publication, journalist name and email address.”
As you create your media list, Schawbel suggests, write down your professional story that links every work experience you’ve had with your vision for your future. “Without a story that makes sense, is meaningful to you and captures your vision, the media won’t acknowledge you,” he says.
Build a Local Following
Getting acknowledged by the media can be as simple as beginning where you are. Feldman underscores the importance of becoming a rock star in your own backyard.
“Reach out to local media first,” she advises. This means starting with your local newspaper, radio station, blogs and TV stations. After building a local following, leverage that coverage to potentially secure a national booking.
“Third, Feldman says, connect with reporters via social media and attend events where you can actually meet key contacts in person. No matter how effective it is to engage via social media, there is nothing that quite compares to a real life (IRL) connection.”
And keep in mind persistence pays off. Whether you’re looking to plug a recent book you wrote or keep your name out there as an expert, work your connections.
For example, Feldman is launching a new wearable tech health-and-wellness device for dogs called Voyce. After reaching out to media contacts via Twitter and Facebook, she and her group tried different ways to connect with them.
She recalls, “Two of my pitches took several times to finally land a story, but they say, ‘Good things come to those who wait’—we landed placements in the Wall Street Journal and CNN among many others.”
Choose the Right Partners
Another strategy involves cross-promotion. Build your platform with another individual or brand that may have a large following. Feldman explains, “I am a firm believer that synergies with the right partners can absolutely generate additional exposure. I always like to be in my rowboat with more than one person.”
Think outside the box and team up with a brand, retailer or expert who supplements your area of expertise.
If you just wrote a book about the benefits of Pilates and the barre method, she suggests teaming up with Lululemon to do a book signing at their store or build a 10-city tour to appear in their stores and then promote yourself to local media.
This begins with concocting a well-crafted strategy to share why you would add value to them via media exposure.
Feldman says even a few months prior to landing a book deal you should research potential partners: “It’s never too early to plan, and brands typically do their planning 12 to 18 months in advance.”
Above all, success in becoming your own publicist involves strategy, consistency, persistence and of course, authenticity.
Hayzlett says, “The biggest thing that most speakers, authors and thought leaders have difficulty with is they have to be genuine and relevant.”
While many people want the brass ring, he says, they don’t always want to do the hard steps it takes to get there: “The best way to get it is to be it.” Even as you create a sizzle reel to demonstrate your speaking abilities, he adds, “Show me more of your content than your flash. Show me more meat than sizzle. Spend more time picking up the steak than deciding how to cook it.”
Looking for more ways to up your PR game? Check out Mediabistro’s course: Fundamentals of Public Relations.