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Increase Your Visibility by Pulling a PR 180°

on October 22, 2012

If you want to become more visible in search, traded in social media, and you want to increase your industry influence, your best bet is not through increased PR and marketing efforts. That’s because no one is searching or sharing self-serving self-promotional content.

The trick to increasing your industry visibility is to not promote your business. Instead, “pull a PR 180°” and publicize others.

What do you think would happen to your business if you just created content about others in your industry?

Treat business relations like personal relations

The traditional PR model is based on the question, “Would you like to pay attention to me?”

It’s a PR person’s job to do this, but to many it comes off as selfish. It’s a basic business engagement we’ve come to expect and accept as a necessary evil. It’s a bad rap PR must endure given the nature of the business.

Stereotypical “pay attention to me” PR engagements are a turn off because that’s not how we behave in our personal lives.

When we meet people in a non-business environment we do the opposite. We ask people about themselves: What do you do for a living? Where are you from? Do you have any kids? We show true interest in them first because that’s how we ingratiate ourselves. And by normal discourse of conversation the person will ask about us. It’s a far more fluid and accepted way to get your message across than being the first to push your agenda.

If that’s how we make friends in the real world, and it’s worked pretty darn well, then why don’t we do that in our business engagements?

Traditional networking is flawed

Business networking would work if people would actually follow up. Not just an impersonal “I’d like to add you as a personal connection” LinkedIn request, but a real meaningful follow up. You just exchanged business cards. You just had a conversation. Make something out of that. Very few people take the time to really do that.

Successful networking is highly nuanced. Rarely do we go out, meet a person, and then they immediately become a client. Rather, we meet a person and we start with a “get to know you” conversation. We continue that conversation and build levels of trust. They remember us and if we express our needs and they can help us, they connect us with someone inside or outside of their organization. If we’re lucky, we turn that into business. The time that happens could be a day or years. Most often it never happens. But you simply never know who can and can’t help you.

If we all accept and understand that successful networking takes time, then why do so many people blow it right from the beginning? I’m always amazed at how few people actually follow up with me after I hand them a business card. I would estimate about 1 in 20 ever follow up. What’s worse is when I follow up with them and they don’t even respond. (Read items #12 and #13 in “16 Annoying Communications that Must End in 2011”).

I don’t think people are malicious about their poor networking. I truly think they don’t know what to say. They either think they don’t know what will come of a continued conversation (“Is it worth my time and effort?) or they truly don’t know what to say (“Was it great to meet her last night?”).

If you think you’re poor at networking, and you don’t know what to do or say, there is one sure fire networking trick that can work in all situations and will return benefits to you in spades.

Take the initiative and promote the other person by telling their story.

Promote others first: Interview and publish their story

There are many ways you can show that you care about a person first, but nothing does it as well and as consistently as asking someone to tell their story and then publishing it.

It’s not that complicated. All you need is the following:

  • A true interest in the other person.
  • A means to record someone’s story (e.g., notepad, computer, audio recorder, video camera).
  • A platform to publish that story (e.g., blog, YouTube channel)

At its core, it’s that simple. If you don’t know where to start, try asking questions such as:

  • What’s the most difficult part of your job?
  • What is the biggest misunderstanding about your business?
  • What do you love most about your job?

For more about good interviewing techniques, read my articles “5 Interview Questions That Always Return Great Answers” and “30 Tips on How to Interview Like a Journalist.”

To close the networking loop follow up with the person and let them know you’ve published their story.

How telling someone else’s story benefits you

If you tell someone else’s story, that will come back and benefit you in a host of different ways:

Implied endorsement: Even though the interviewee never talks about you, their mere presence on your blog or media site is an implied endorsement of your brand.

Access to their audience: Given that the content you created is about them, they will use it as a mechanism to promote themselves. Chances are they will distribute that content via their social channels (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) and possibly reblog it as well. If they pass it along, you’ve just garnered access to their audience, once again through an implied endorsement.

Establishes a relationship immediately: By hearing, recording, and publishing their story you’ve made a serious first move investment in a relationship with this person.

They owe you one: While not expressed outwardly, by agreeing to have their story recorded and published, they’re now indebted to you either by creating some sort of a relationship with you or returning the favor in some other way.

Facilitated follow up communications: You’re guaranteed better follow up conversation and engagement than if you had initially pulled a traditional “pay attention to me”-first PR move.

Assets now visible in search and traded in social media: You now have a piece of content that people will want to trade via social media or actually look for via search. It happens to be our company motto: “Content is the currency of social and search.”

Build industry reputation: As you interview more and more influencers in your space, your respect in the industry grows exponentially (“Wow, look, they’re connected to all these industry rock stars”).

Want attention for your brand? Do the opposite of PR. Pull a PR 180°.

For almost six years my business, Spark Media Solutions, has been operating on this model. It’s proven to be monstrously successful for ourselves, but even more so for our clients.

It sounds simple because it actually is. The hard part is doing it without killing yourself and not disrupting your normal business processes. Content production can be an incredibly costly game in money and time if you don’t know how to gather, produce, and publish your content efficiently.

Given our years in the content production business, and my 17 years as a journalist and producer in print, radio, TV, and online in more than 40 media outlets, we have found a way to pull off quality content produced efficiently.

For more, here are some success stories of past client projects.


Creative Commons photo attribution to Andrés Navarro García, mark sebastian, Aurelio Zen, jueschborn, and noodlepie.

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