Notes from NYC: Four Things You Can’t Do To Your Customers

I was a panelist at the American Society Of Journalists and Authors annual meeting in NYC last month. Thanks to Lynne Golodner of Your People  for recruiting me! I was honored to be part of this group:

Photo courtesy of Dorri Olds

Our fearless facilitator Lynne Golodner, chief creative officer and owner of Your People; Lisa Brody, editor of Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield; yours truly and journalist and author Peter Zuckerman. Photo courtesy of Dorri Olds

Our panel was “So You Want To Be a Publicist/Public Relations Specialist”. Lynne facilitated, and we talked about transitioning from writer to PR person before participating in a question-and-answer session with the 50-or-so attendees.

I was fascinated by and cringing at stories about PR folks missing opportunities or straight up messing up with the editors in the audience and the one sitting on my right, Lisa Brody from Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield. Even if you aren’t a PR person or have a PR person supporting your business, you can use these examples of no-nos that apply to all of us trying to do business, period:

1. Not following through.

A PR person offered a story to an editor. The editor liked it and emailed a few questions and … nothing. The PR person never responded. The editor won’t likely forget that. How does it apply to doing business? Maybe someone calls you after receiving your direct mail piece, and you’re so busy you never call back. If someone takes time to reach out to you, make time to follow up.

2. Not doing your homework.

A PR person sent a story idea to an editor that had NOTHING to do with what the publication covers. Another sent a calendar item to a publication, not realizing the pub is a monthly and the deadline was long gone. How does this apply to doing business? Our digital society puts so many resources in your hands, there’s no excuse for not knowing your customer. Let’s say a businessperson asks about your product or service. Take the time to go through his or her website to understand the perspective. What’s the point of pain? How can you or your product help?

3. Lollygagging.

Speed is of the essence in most business practices. In PR, if an editor needs a source and you can’t get back to them the same day, maybe even the same hour, he or she will often move on. If a prospect sends you an inquiry about your product or service but you don’t look at your email until the end of the day, they might very well be long gone. Can you afford to be casual in your follow-up?

4. Not being honest and managing expectations.

One of my favorite moments during the panel was when an opinionated and animated author told fellow panelist and book publicist Kathleen Schmidt of KMSPR that he didn’t want to work with his 20-something publicist; how could she possibly have contacts and know what she’s doing at that age? Kathleen politely pushed back, leading with her policy to always be straightforward with her clients. She then explained the expertise and insight that 20-something publicist was bringing from her publishing house, and urged him to give her a chance.

We’ll all run into clients, customers and associates who are going to tell US what we’re going for them, instead of listening. I have a choose-my-battles approach with difficult folks, but that includes always speaking up when they’re going in a direction that is not in their best interest, even at the risk of vitriol. You would want someone to rein you in when you’re going down the wrong road, so we owe it to them to do the same.

What’s on your no-no list?


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