Are you Ready For the Other Side of the Media Coin?

Your media can be viewed as a coin. On one side you have all of the media you pay for—your radio ads, podcast endorsements, and everything you book on social media and digital. Everything on this side can be easily controlled by the messaging you and your agency put out and the media you buy.

The other side of the coin is the media you don’t buy, it’s  what is earned. While Oxford Road has helped many clients navigate through the world of paid media, earned media requires a different skill set.

In this week’s Influencer, we turn to Richard Laermer, CEO at RLM PR. This  powerhouse New York City PR firm has worked with companies like Amazon, Wondery, HBO, and Sesame Workshop, to name but a few. Today, Richard  shares the two biggest mistakes clients make when jumping onto the PR side of the marketing coin…

Do you think your startup is the greatest thing on earth?

It’s probably not. But who really cares?

That’s part of the problem with being a startup. Founders think they’re the best bread since sliced – and have the audacity (some might say confidence) to believe they are better than most of the press being offered. Poppycock!

When it comes to “getting press,” a startup chief has to be ready to take on all comers – medium, small, and the seemingly nonexistent. Earning your chops on the smaller stuff will equip you with the tools you need when the big guys come knocking on the door.  

I was recently saddled with a client who scoffed at bloggers who wanted to get more information for possible stories on the soon-to-launch “thing” he was offering. First of all, scoffing is rude. Secondly, he used the age-old argument of we can do better.” Blood now boiling, I asked this smart chief of thingamabob if he knew the blog he was turning down had 150,000 readers and if that number meant anything to him?

The answer was a walloping no. In his opinion, it just wasn’t high level enough for his time, attention, or taste. Heavy sigh. I wondered if he even knew what a high level meant.

So I played a game with this guy. I told him that if he did this one interview, I’d get him into a major magazine. Little did he know that the first interview wasn’t even a promise of a story—and no major anything stood on deck. It was like getting a kid to eat his veggies. Heshrugged and said okay.

After the blog meeting, my problem child was so happy with the experience and subsequent result that he completely forgot about the disappearing magazine piece. Truth be told, he really was not ready for primetime, but the experience made him see how snobby he was behaving toward a real live reporting source.

As a PR professional, I wish all of our problems could be solved this easily.

Another problem is that startup-types think they know how the art of PR works. In fact, very few people are worthy of being in the media—and as for most startup companies, hardly any truly should be. Moreover, few know how Public Relations is done—and even fewer know how to create the magic.

After you’ve practiced on the “small stuff,” big-time media may start calling. Then,the next problem with startup heads arises…they get insecure.

“I just don’t think I’m ready to talk to Time Magazine,” one said. But how would you know? Do you really think I’d let you sit with a reporter who I didn’t think you were ready for or hadn’t/prepared you for? It’s my ass on the line, too!

The insecurities linger and even after it’s been decided—by me—that he’ll do it no matter what, the late-night phone calls start in—and emails and texts, followed by voicemails in the office. “I don’t know, Richard. I just think it’s too early.” Too early for what? Your nervous breakdown? Please!

Sometimes it gets so difficult to get a spokesperson to speak, that you have to tell the requester (the media person) that the product isn’t quite there yet. “It’s a new company and they have a lot of kinks to work out. When they are ready, you’ll be the first to know it.” I’m a liar. Truth is, with our coaching, the client would have crushed the interview, but they just wouldn’t listen.

Nowadays, you need an imaginary Psychology degree to cope with people who decide what’s good enough or what they’re ready for…

When it comes to press that you earn, connections made, and relationships formed, don’t be “that” client. If you hire a good PR firm, trust their expertise—that’s why you hired them in the first place!  Humble yourself, and take the interview with the tiny blogger or the podcast you’ve never heard of. After you’ve got a few dozen of these small interviews under your belt, when they book that interview with CNN about your business, you’ll be even more ready. That’s when this side of the coin can make you some real coin.

Richard Laermer

An oft-quoted authority on media relations, thought leadership, hype, and culture, RLM PR CEO Richard Laermer is a PR knowitall, former journalist, and author of Punk Marketing, TrendSpotting, and the perennial book on public relations, Full Frontal PR. Laermer’s work as a reporter dates to the ‘80s. With standout specialization in tech categories, emerging industries, launches, and relaunches, RLM is a marcom solutions firm of record for companies remaking our world. By capitalizing on emerging trends, and teaching leaders how to own categories—categorically—Laermer has trained hundreds of CEOs, celebrities, and spokespeople (even a chimp for E*Trade) to deliver messages skillfully and with no punches pulled.

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