Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

3 PR Situations You Can't Control—and How to Deal With Them

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As the founder of a company, you’ve worked as hard as you can to get it up and running. So, as you’re growing your business and trying to gain new clients or users, you should do anything and everything in your power to protect and promote your brand. Right?

Theoretically, yes. In reality? Well, not exactly. Because the truth is—however counterintuitive it might feel—you’ll encounter PR situations where your passion, enthusiasm, and drive to succeed can get in your own way and even harm your reputation in the process.

Here, we walk you through three tricky PR situations that require you to (deep breath!) take the high road.

1. When a Journalist Won’t Call You Back

You have a killer product that you’re about to launch, so you call a top-tier journalist in your industry and offer an exclusive—with the CEO! Many times. And—nothing.

While your immediate reaction may be to continue calling and leaving (increasingly enraged) messages, don’t. First, it’ll pretty much ensure you never get a story published by that journalist again. Second, journalist networks are extensive, and—no shocker here—they tend to talk.

Instead, cap your pitch at three attempts. If you can’t get through, move on to your next choice. It’s frustrating, yes, but if the journalist isn’t interested enough to call you back, he probably wouldn’t have done your story justice anyway. And there are plenty of journalists out there who will.

2. When a Story Isn’t Published to Your Standards

In the off chance that a story is published about your brand with incorrect information (for example, you raised $4 million and the story says $2 million), you should do everything you need to do to get that story corrected.

If, however, you give an interview and the story that’s published is not what you thought it would be—as in, the journalist didn’t include several of the quotes you gave her, or she left out your favorite anecdote about why you started the company—this is not an opportunity to bombard her, hourly, with demands to have it re-done or deleted. The reality is that the journalist’s job is not to transcribe your entire interview, but to write a story, in a certain number of words, that she (and her editors) believes best informs the outlet’s audience about the topic at hand.

Instead, send the journalist a note thanking her for her time, and saying that you’d love to continue to be in touch. Then, politely (and in no more than three sentences), highlight the piece of the story you’d love to have edited. If it was an oversight on her part, she may be inclined to change the story. If not, drop it. You have the right to take your story to a different journalist next time around.

3. When You’ve Been Rejected From an Event or Speaking Opportunity

Let’s say you’re a tech company, and as part of your yearly PR plan, you target several technology events that you think your brand should participate in. One of the events, “How to Build a Bi-Coastal Technology Startup,” couldn’t be more perfect for you. You contact the event organizers to pitch yourself and your company, begin drafting talking points, and start researching flights to the event. And then, after following up several times over the course of three months, you’re told that the panel is full. (But, if you’d like to pay $3,000, you’re welcome to attend the event!)

In which case, you might feel like jumping on Twitter to give those event organizers a piece of your mind. Please don’t do this. Again (see a theme here?), it will only hinder your chances of participating in future panels or events—not to mention make you look pretty silly to your Twitter network of clients and potential clients.

Instead, send a polite email asking for any feedback they might have as to why you weren’t chosen so you can edit your pitch for next time accordingly. And consider still going—you can use it as a networking opportunity, and you’ll be front of mind for the next event.

While there are plenty of things you can control as a business owner, it’s important not to jeopardize your company’s reputation trying to exercise that control in situations that are (realistically) beyond it. In the long run, your company will benefit from your ability to take a deep breath and back off. Save that energy for your next big launch—and remember that you'll be better off for having navigated a tricky situation so gracefully.

Photo of woman on phone courtesy of Shutterstock.