Vanity Media, building Your ID, managing Ego and ignoring the Super-Egos

Avatar photo Colette Ballou - 3rd Jun, 2016


I recently went a few rounds with a new business prospect because right from the get-go, they gave us a list of media outlets they wanted to be in, including the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch. These are publications we work with all the time. We know what they’ll write about, and we know not to waste their time. So you may think “That’s a perfectly rational thing to do with a potential PR firm.”

Well, it’s not.

We’d done our homework and knew what their potential users were reading to get information, and thus, had an elegant argument for why the media outlets they identified would not be right for them; at this stage in their growth, they clearly needed users to increase their monthly revenue and valuation, and their users were not looking to these outlets for advice on which Saas CRM solution they should use. We confirmed that they were not looking for funding any time soon, and made sure that there was not a reason why their corporate profile had to be raised – which might entail the media they’d identified – and instead, drew up a list of publications and events where their potential clients would be looking for help in making the purchase decision.

When they insisted (along with their investor) that these were the only media they were interested in, I called them out – told them straight up that this would not further the business. Clearly, there may be a time for it, but not now. Like any good psychologist, trying to get to the root of the issue, I asked them why they wanted these titles in particular – what was behind this most desparate need?

They responded “Because we want it”, which is when I realised what I was dealing with.  Ego. And we did something surprising to most PR agencies: we declined the business.  Why?  Because the objective for their media campaign was to pander to their supersized egos, not to further the business.

Use the media to set your identity

Our job is to understand where companies need to go – to the benefit of the company and its investors. This means understanding the business thoroughly and the business metrics they need to hit — note: not their PR goals, not marketing goals. Then we map our activities to these goals, and are clear on how our activities will help reach them.

We’re looking for spikes in sign-ups, incoming calls, sales leads, etc.  Perhaps calls from potential partners or new investors. But the prospect I was speaking to had no intention of developing the company’s identity in the media.

From a PR perspective this will never work. First of all, without a commitment to an identity, you won’t have a compelling story to tell to the big hitters in the media. By building that identity and developing a good story, you will get the coverage you deserve.
Let success feed the ego of your business not yourself. Supersized egos impede successful PR for a business.

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