When someone is unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight, public relations strategists often watch to keep score. We’re interested to see who’s getting the worst of a PR backlash, or who comes out looking great. A case in point is that of Bob Ferguson, the Washington State Attorney General who successfully filed a state lawsuit challenging key sections of Trump’s immigration executive order and is enjoying national media attention that he probably never anticipated.
There’s a limit to what a state AG can do to take advantage of his suddenly higher profile, but for other people, it can be an opening to greater opportunities or even a new career direction. A newly appointed CEO, for example, or an athlete who suddenly breaks through, face similar challenges and opportunities. But how do you avoid becoming the next Jeremy Lin? Here are some tips:
Get professional help. PR, that is. Once you’ve received unsolicited media attention, whether wholly favorable or not, it’s a good time to tap the expertise of an experienced PR strategist. A professional can not only help navigate a sudden flood of media interest, but they can also develop a longer-term plan that syncs with business or career goals. A burst of fame can come fast but burn out just as quickly. Overexposure is a common, unwelcome result of sudden celebrity, and an adviser can set an effective pace by serving as gatekeeper and strategist for future media interactions and other offers.
Define what you stand for. A media spotlight is an opportunity to tell a unique story and develop a personal brand if it’s not already established. It pays to study personal brands that work well and draw admiration and to analyze what sets them apart in their industry. Then ask yourself some questions. What differentiates your story? Do you have experiences or ideas no one else has? What is the niche you can dominate? For example, when working with the young co-founder of a medical device start-up, we leveraged his “boyish charm” as the youngest person in any room to great effect in interviews with business press. The earlier you identify your ideal space, the better you can define your personal brand.
Build your brand. A brand is more than wearing certain clothes or having a clever catchphrase. Smart professionals build brands based on their own personal stories and work hard to make them resonate with the audiences that matter. Take that personal story, use it to help identify your core beliefs and what you truly stand for and try to remain consistent in all your communications, from online presence to physical interactions. Consistency of message is a hallmark of credibility and a strong way to enhance a personal brand.
Prepare like a beast. Whenever your moment may come, be sure you’re ready to maximize it. Keep your website up to date and have support staff in place if it looks like your story is gaining traction and you need help staying on top of requests and correspondence. Preparation also means sizing up the competition (or opposition in some cases) so you have a clear offensive and defensive positioning if you seek media interviews and other appearances. Consider professional media training – you don’t want to go into an interview and have this happen.
Take your show on the road. When you’ve completed your own messaging exercise, it’s important to begin communicating your ideas through the platforms that make the most sense for you and your audience. Are your social media channels active? Are you commenting on others’ posts? These are simple and effective ways to stay in view. Creating a personal blog like Mark Cuban’s Blog Maverick, which fits his personality and personal beliefs like a glove, is another way to keep sharing your views. But don’t stop there. A business personality should flex writing muscles by penning pieces for LinkedIn, Medium and key industry trades. Seek out opportunities to speak at appropriate conferences and events and merchandise efforts to continue to spread your message.
Don’t bask in the afterglow. Now is when the real work starts. Can you parlay your visibility into meaningful action that furthers your cause or grows business? Now may be the time to amplify efforts by hosting your own conference or panel discussion and taking the conversation to the next level. Producing a webinar or podcast is also an optimum way to turn up your volume and gain a greater audience.
Finally, consider publishing your thoughts – you may not have what it takes to secure a traditional publishing deal but look into self-published or “indie” books which represent 25% of books on Amazon’s e-book bestseller list. Whatever you do, take advantage of this time and strike while the PR iron is hot.SHARE