Strategy is a word used too often in public relations circles. Actually scratch that. It’s an over-used term in business overall. People make a list of things to do and they say it’s a strategy. It might be a very good do-list but it’s not a strategy.
People sometimes come to us wanting help with their press interview and presentation skills which is fine, it’s what we do. We want to help you (or your clients if you’re one of our colleagues from the world of public relations) to hold on to the agenda and control the messages people attribute to you in public.
Other times they come to us and it becomes obvious they want us to build their sales. Or do some lead generation.
Don’t get us wrong, lead gen and sales are completely respectable things without which most companies – including this one – would be dead in a very short order of time.
If you don’t apply some sort of strategy, however, there’s no point in even trying.
Strategy and your starting point
What we mean by strategy is that your communications (and the people behind it) need an idea of where they’re going and why. As you can see we have put in a not-at-all predictable picture of a satellite navigation system to make the point. The first thing you need for a satnav to work – let’s take “decent maps installed” and “a signal” as read – is a destination.
Surprising numbers of people, in other words “more than none”, come to us and ask to talk about media and presentation training without a destination in mind. Worse, they come in with an unachievable destination they want to reach.
Let’s take an example. Someone might come in with an idea that they want to prep for an interview with the Economist or Financial Times. They might want to sell more of their product offering, let’s say it’s sourdough starter.
Let’s look at that again. They are thinking there are readers out there who will be looking for bread making tips in the FT. To be blunt: no there won’t.
That doesn’t mean the FT’s readers won’t want to know some things about sourdough starters. If you’re a serial entrepreneur who is doing brilliantly selling sourdough starters your story could be valuable. You could use it as positioning if you were looking for investment.
You’re still only starting
Even then, it’s not going to work unless it’s part of an overall whole. “Please invest in my company because I’ve been interviewed in the Financial Times” isn’t going to get the cash flowing in. It has to be part of an overall campaign and strategy and one which goes much further than a communications exercise; the communications element is one portion of it, albeit an important one.
To stretch the satnav metaphor even further, lead trainer Guy lives near Croydon. If he wanted to get to Brighton but insisted he wanted to travel via the North Circular then a decent working satnav would be able to do it but anyone who knew the geography of southern England would confirm that’s quite a diversion and would slow him down rather than help.
Likewise if your wish was to sell more of your product and you insisted to your PR company that you wanted an interview in the Financial Times they would most likely advise against it. Even if they had the right connection and you had the right story to interest the publication (and these are non-trivial “ifs”) the interview would most likely take up a lot of your time and not get you any closer to your goal. Other moves would be better.
Let’s stop talking about satnavs
To everybody’s relief we’re now going to abandon the satnav image. It’s inexact because in reality not every pitch, even to the appropriate publications, will land. Also your goals might change along the way. Over the last few years we’ve seen the pandemic and its aftereffects having dramatic impacts on the business world, what’s achievable and how.
This is why there is a picture of a chess set at the head of this entry. Guy has been playing a lot of bad chess recently (took it up again in middle age and is nearly at the stage he’d reached at about 11). One thing he has picked up is that if you have a plan that’s better than not having one but there are other moving parts. The King, which you’d planned to trap in three moves, might have the audacity to move. A knight might move in to protect it or the Queen could take your piece.
At all times you need to keep that objective in mind – check that King in such a way that there is no legal move out. But the moves needed to do so will change as the game moves on and if you’re inflexible then the chances are you’ll lose. Worse, if you insist on using only your bishops or only your pawns, you’re going to neglect some pretty powerful hitters. The thing to do is to understand the power of each of your pieces and how they work together.
Back to strategy and media
The best way to go about securing the right coverage to take you where you need to go is with the help of an expert. We’re going to put our hands up and say that’s not us; we’re a training company and can support you in developing and honing those presentation and interview skills you’ll need to deliver those messages and not get blown off course. Your strategy will be best handled by someone with an overview, whether they are in-house experts or a full-blown PR company.
But whatever you do and whether you use an external trainer like Clapperton Media Training, never assume that interview/media skills will work in isolation. They’re there to be part of a strategy. Once you know where you’re going and the staging points en route can you really be sure to get to your destination – then it’ll be worth acquiring and honing your interview skills.