The Only Public Relations Strategy Guaranteed to Work


The Only Public Relations Strategy Guaranteed to Work

Why is this approach so effective? Because it really isn’t a strategy at all.

CREDIT: Getty Images

Recently a PR rep emailed me about interviewing an extremely famous actor about his startup. 


Or not. The interview also came with a long list of conditions. What we could talk about. What we couldn’t talk about. Some subjects were definitely off limits, including his experiences with a certain movie director. I wouldn’t have asked about that anyway; alleged on-set shenanigans.

I like talking to successful people about how they became successful: Obstacles they overcame, risks they took, processes they followed… successful people are successful for a reason, and those reasons are instructive for the rest of us.

But the list of conditions left me nothing interesting to ask about. So I passed.

And immediately thought about Duff McKagan.

Duff is the bass player for Guns N’ Roses, has played in bands like Velvet Revolver and Loaded, and his book, It’s So Easy: And Other Lies, was a New York Times bestseller. (And he’s my speaking coach. Well, sort of.)

So when he recently released his great new solo album, Tenderness, Duff naturally did press to promote it.

And since he’s a member of not just of one of the seminal rock bands of our lifetime but one that, decades after its founding, is still popular enough to end 2018 having conducted the second-largest grossing concert tour of all time… Duff is a catch. 

Which means his PR rep could, if Duff wished, have set conditions for the interview. 

But he didn’t. 

Even though that meant plenty of interviewers asked him to talk about GN’R songs like "It’s So Easy" or "One in a Million," neither of which are of a piece with the contemplative, thoughtful lyrics of songs on his new album. (And even though both are tongue-in-cheek.)

So why not limit the focus to the present: To this album, this tour, this music?

For one, that’s not who Duff is. He embraces the fact that his present is the product of his past. His perspectives, viewpoints, outlook… like all of us, who he is (and by extension, the music he just created) is the direct reflection of a lifetime of experiences. 

For Duff, to not talk about his past would be to ignore and even deny all the influences that informed his present.

And then there’s this: Ultimately, Tenderness is a conversation. The lyrics are simple and straightforward, yet powerful and thought-provoking. (Which is usually how that works.)

Duff takes a stand. Not the stand. Just his stand.

And encourages you to take your own stand. To decide what you believe. What is important to you. What you wish to change. How you wish to be treated… and how you want to treat others.

Which means having meaningful conversations with other people, especially people you may disagree with. Which means talking about subjects that may be uncomfortable or painful. Possibly causing you to confront your own beliefs.. and to change some of what you believe. 

And, more importantly, the actions that result from what you believe.

Which means you can’t set conditions on the conversations you have with other people. And with yourself.

So if you’re struggling to promote your business, your products, your services — or just yourself — keep this in mind.

I average ten to fifteen public relations pitches a day. Most — in spite of what Adam Grant says about answering emails — I don’t even open. Maybe I don’t know the sender. Or the company referenced in the subject line. Or the "catchy" subject line is off-putting rather than intriguing.

I average two or three emails a day from people hoping to become writers or speakers. They want to know the strategy I originally used to pitch Inc. They want to know the strategy I used to land a great book agent. The strategy we used to land a great publisher. The strategy I used to find a great speaking agent.

Every one wants to learn how to hack or game or somehow "solve" the problem of landing an agent or publisher. Or for "solving" the problem of getting widespread attention.

Want to know the secret?

Have something people want. Be worthy of the attention you hope to gain.

And then be of service.

Say you’re an entrepreneur. There are thousands of Ramen noodle, maxed-out credit cards, burn the midnight oil stories. Your journey is deservedly fascinating to you, but to aspiring entrepreneurs it’s SSDD (bonus points if you figure out that acronym.) 

But: If you started a company, readers would love to know what you learned about landing financing. If you developed a product, readers would love to know some of mistakes you made — and how you recovered from them. If you entered a new market, readers would love to know how you earned market share away from competitors.

Take Duff: When I told him I was going to do a TEDx Talk and asked about about confidence, he said, "Remember, people want to see you do well. They want to see you kick ass."

I’ve received 36 emails from readers who loved that advice. People do want to see you to kick ass: Investors you pitch, potential customers you meet, hiring managers who interview you for a job… they want you to be awesome, because when you’re awesome, you solve their problem or meet their need.

Remembering, right before you do something important, that people are on your side? That thought provides an instant jolt of confidence. 

Right when you need it most.

But I — and you — never would have learned that, had Duff set conditions on the interview.

That’s the key to getting better PR.

Be worthy of attention. Do something worthwhile. Create something worthwhile. Build something worthwhile. 

Then, focus on benefiting other people.

Do that… and you won’t have to look for people willing to talk about you.

They’ll come looking for you.

Published on: Jun 17, 2019
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