What has your PR team done for you lately?
At one point, my team generated more than 5,200 media hits for one company over a six-year period. That coverage included mentions on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, CNN, CNBC, and in Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and virtually every other major newspaper and business periodical in the United States.
If you’re an entrepreneur, I’m sure that you’d love to build a team that does the same for your business. The question you’re probably asking is, “How?”
The first step is to find the right people. Here’s how.
My first rule of thumb: don’t hire anyone with a PR background.
Typically, people with traditional backgrounds in PR are writers (or they wanted to be), and they will want to write newswires and press releases all day. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what you want—and need—is someone who can deliver a persuasive sales pitch and follow up with everyone he or she contacts. It seems simple, but it’s not.
1. They’ve got to love to sell. Candidates will need the ability to “get past the gatekeeper” in order to pitch. They should be able to raise and handle objections, track their own sales leads, and love to sell.
2. They have to be able to handle rejection. Can they handle rejection and realize that “four noes are halfway to a yes”?
3. They must be energetic team players. I like to hire junior-level salespeople, who are usually in their mid-twenties and enthusiastic.
4. They need to be able to listen. This involves the ability to understand what the reporter wants to write about and come up with another angle on the fly. It’s crucial that your PR person be able to make your stories fit.
5. They must be “glass half full” people. Find people who are optimistic so that their excitement and energy transfer to everyone they talk to, especially writers over the phone.
6. They need a great “phone voice.” A great phone voice is important, not least because writers need to understand your PR salesperson. If these new hires will be pitching your business to writers in different regions, look for a team of people with accents that match your market, or at least that have voices clear enough to appeal to people across a broad spectrum.
7. They need to know how to write. Your PR people won’t be writing press releases, but they will be doing tons of written follow-up. Some of the best stories I’ve ever landed were from quickly scribbling a handwritten note to the journalist. It cuts through the clutter.
8. They have to be tech-savvy. Since most of their resources will be online, PR salespeople will need to be skilled in the use of a computer and the Internet—which they’ll be using for research constantly.
9. They should be social media savvy. They should love reading blogs and know how to use RSS and gather information from Twitter and other current social media platforms. The information they gather this way is crucial to keeping them current on trends and supplying them with ideas they can include in pitches to writers.
10. They need to be smart. The fact that this item is last doesn’t make it any less important than the others. The people you hire to do PR work need to be information agrregators and intelligent enough to draw connections within the vast expanse of information they collect. Their research must be accurate, appropriate, and timely.