Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series about PR bosses and some habits they should curb. Catch part one here.
As I said before, this isn’t meant to just rag on the boss, but rather to provide some constructive criticism towards practices that really just aren’t helpful.
1. Hovering and listening to phone pitches. You want to see your employee in action. You want to know what they are saying to journalists when they are pitching the media. And that’s fine, that’s information you should want to know. But, you have to be careful how you go about doing it. You could be absolutely ruining pitches and shattering confidence and you don’t even know it.
One way to ruin any employee’s pitch is to stand by their desk and hover. If you can do this furtively where they will have no idea that you’re listening in, then by all means go for it. But, if they see you standing there or they know you are right behind them and listening in…terrible, terrible idea.
This is the fastest way to making them nervous, increasing their heart rates and creating a stuttering mess on the phone. No one likes to have someone listening to every word they say, knowing they are being judged the entire time. I’m not sure Larry Bird could handle that pressure, and I know for a fact most young employees can’t.
As I mentioned in my article on tips for phone pitching media, the goal of a phone pitcher is to get relaxed, be them self and pitch in the manner that is suited to him/her. You need to be comfortable if you’re going to phone pitch, and having someone hover over or around your desk achieves the exact opposite effect.
2. Having employees sit in your office and pitch you like media. 22-year old Micah could be quite a headache for PR bosses back in the day. At my first job back in 2000 at a small agency in New York City, I hardly knew anything about public relations. But, I had a sales background so I was able to burn up phone lines and pitch. Truth be told, if you can do that successfully, you’ll get left alone about a lot of other things in PR.
After about my first week there, I had the vice president say, “Why don’t you come in my office and give me your pitch?” Wisely or unwisely, I shook my head and said, “I really don’t want to do that." It wasn’t because I was trying to be difficult; I just knew it wouldn’t work. I can’t give you my pitch in your office the way I would do it over the phone with a journalist. Because…you’re not a journalist on the phone!
This is not a normal setting. I’d be looking you in the eye and pretending you’re media when I know in my head that you’re not. So, whatever I do in your office trying to demonstrate my pitch, won’t be an accurate portrayal of what I’m doing on the phone. So…why bother?
You want to review emails I’m sending out? Go for it. I actually highly recommend doing that. Do you want to review the bullet points and my notes for phone pitching? Review away! Just please don’t ask me to recreate a phone pitch in your office.
3. Pointing to notes when an employee is on the phone. This is the last of my six tips in my two-part series, and it might be the biggest. This annoys me to no end and it applies to just about any business, not just PR. I’ve had several bosses (and some colleagues) write things down on a piece of paper and point to it while I’m on the phone, trying to get me to say what they’ve written.
Whether I’m on the phone with a journalist or a client or any other business associate, I do not need someone flashing notes in my face and pointing to them frantically with a pen or an index finger. And for what it’s worth, the feverishly paced tapping and pointing makes it even more annoying. Chill out, the building isn’t on fire.
At this point in my phone call, one of two things is happening: either I’m talking or I’m listening. You’re asking me to shift my focus from either talking or listening to read your notes. If I’m talking, I will instantly lose my train of thought mid-sentence and sound like a bumbling fool. The person on the other end of the line won’t know why I sound like a bumbling fool, they will just know that I sound like a bumbling fool.
If you flash these notes in front of my face while I’m listening, then I won’t be listening anymore. If the person I’m speaking with then says something like, “Do you agree with that?,” I won’t have an answer. Why? Because I wasn’t listening. I was trying to read a piece of paper with words written on it (probably underlined repeatedly to emphasize their importance) as you dance around and point at it. Keep in mind that I can’t tell the person on the line why the conversation has been interrupted, because doing so would be calling out my boss, which is never a good idea. So, congratulations, you’ve put me in a terrible spot.
Again, none of these tips are rocket science, people. In fact, many of them are common sense. Let's all vow to do better.
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.
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