Editor's note: This is the first in a two-part series about PR bosses and some habits they should curb. Stay tuned next week for part two!
Ever had a really bad boss? We've likely all been there at some point in our careers.
We all want to work as a team and help each other out so that we can perform at our best for our clients, but some behaviors by the higher ups are simply counterproductive.
Now, before I get into some things that PR bosses need to stop doing, let me first say that this isn’t meant to rag on the boss. The boss is dealing with issues that you don’t even know about. The boss is having conversations and negotiations above your security clearance.
Don’t be the type of employee that thinks the boss is an idiot and that you can do his/her job. Don’t be the type of employee that thinks "this place would go out of business without me!" It won’t. It was around before you got there and it will be around when you leave. Always, try to be sympathetic if you can’t truly be empathetic.
1. “We need to get something! Anything! We’re going to lose the client!” This doesn’t make sense on a variety of levels.
First, if I’m the boss and I’m the one with the experience and the know-how, I’m stepping in. If an account coordinator or executive isn’t getting media placements and it’s getting to the point where the client is going to drop you, then you better start hammering the phones and leveraging your own contacts pronto. If you can’t do this, then there is another problem: you’re pressuring your employee to do something even you can’t do. That’s not fair.
The only time this would actually be useful direction is if the person doing the pitching was sitting around doing absolutely nothing all day. Then, this would make sense (and you would have fired them long ago with cause, so this probably isn’t the case). But, sometimes, the media just isn’t interested and making your employee feel like a failure and potentially the reason you’re losing a client is not conducive to a healthy workplace.
Instead, why not try to figure out what the problem is? Is the media not getting back to you? Are you getting media outlets saying they won’t touch that new product because it’s on Kickstarter? Are cable television shows simply not interested in the client because they are only discussing the elections 24/7? PR bosses should find out what the problem is and then work to find a new strategy or angle. Simply saying “we need to get something!” isn’t productive at all.
2. “This press release needs work.” If you want your employees to write good press releases, you’ll need to teach them.
PR classes in college don’t mean a ton as every agency has their own way that they want them written. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bosses send back press releases with broad feedback such as “this press release needs to be fixed.”
Ummm…what? Okay. Maybe it does. What do you mean exactly? Where could I improve it? Is the headline bad? Did I miss the mark with the angle and direction? Could my sentences be tightened up and more efficient? A little help here!
When an employee sends you a press release for your comments and approval, ask yourself if your response is constructive. I know this sounds like very basic advice, and it is. But, sometimes I think throughout the course of a workday it’s easy to be dismissive and just expect the person to figure it out. They’re here to learn from you, that’s why you’re the boss.
“Let’s get something locked down today.” This one burns me up big time and I’ve heard it from people at all levels of agencies.
We’ve all been there: you’ve been pitching a story for a couple of weeks. You’ve gotten some decent feedback from the media. They like your story, but are jammed up until the following month. It’s interesting, but it would need another aspect that’s missing right now. They like the story, but don’t have time to do anything on it because of the elections (notice a theme with this example?).
You’re close. You’ve gotten nibbles. It’s a solid story, but no journalist has bitten just yet.
And then you hear this from your boss: “Good job on this, let’s get something locked down today, okay?”
Oh, really?! Is that all I have to do? I’ll just decide that I’m going to make the media do something today. Why didn’t I think of that before? The answer was staring me in the face the entire time! I think I’m going to call that producer at CNN and tell her that “we really need to get this interview locked down. Let’s put this in stone today, my boss is tired of waiting.”
That will go over brilliantly.
None of these tips are rocket science. If we all take a deep breath and think about how we’re communicating with our employees, this all makes perfect sense. It’s not about being a bad PR boss at all, it’s about subconsciously slipping into some lazy habits and taking shortcuts to getting towards our ultimate goal, which is to make the clients happy.
A co-founder of Large Media, Inc., Micah Warren has been a public relations strategist for more than 15 years. A published writer with an incredible track record of media placements, Micah has gotten his clients in USA Today, Fox Business Network, Bloomberg TV, Inc.com, CNBC.com, The Daily Caller, The NY Times, The NY Post, Esquire, Maxim magazine, ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” ESPN.com , Askmen.com, GQ, BBC, Reuters and many other newspapers, television shows, radio networks, websites and trade publications.
Photo: The boss via Shutterstock