How working with the press is like riding a shark according to restaurateur Danny Meyer

How working with the press is like riding a shark according to restaurateur Danny Meyer

As an entrepreneur I've seen firsthand how PR is an essential though misunderstood part of building a business. Many analytic-driven entrepreneurs wish it worked like Google AdWords where you set a budget and instantly measure results. PR is often more intangible and difficult to control, but tremendously powerful.

While reading Danny Meyer's excellent 2008 book Setting the Table I came across a good way to think about PR as a fledgeling venture. If you've never eaten at one of Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Blue Smoke and Shake Shack then you've done yourself a huge disservice. And if you've never even heard of them, you are not a foodie.

Meyer writes (keep in mind his shark analogy is from a pre-Sharknado world):

Imagine that I’m standing on the shores of Manhattan and I am required to cross the Atlantic to France. The catch is that to get there, I have only two options: I can either swim or ride there on the back of a shark. Swimming is obviously out of the question. I’ll tire, freeze, and soon drown. My only choice then, is to hop on the back of the shark and ride with exceptional care and skill, or I’m lunch. The shark, you see, is the press, and it needs to keep swimming or it dies. I can benefit from acting very carefully with that knowledge. If my riding technique is expert, the shark can be my vehicle to deliver me safely to my destination. In my experience of riding sharks, I’ve been tossed off, nipped at, and even bitten—but not, so far, devoured. And I’ve always managed to reach my destination. Sometimes I’ve even enjoyed the ride."

I've written in the past of Steve Jobs' careful and personal use of media relations in my Forbes guest column. Danny Meyer reminds us too that PR is something that the CEO needs to pay attention to:

Like most business owners and CEOs, I am responsible for articulating to the public the core principles and values for which we want our business known. I always try to use media interviews to elaborate on those business concepts, and that’s when the ride begins. It’s a high-risk game: play it well and you will fill seats, build the top line, and attract new employees; make a mistake and the penalties can be stiff, either for your business, for staff morale, or for your hard-earned reputation.

Meyer also makes an essential point about how what's reported about a company can have an echo effect if you can't control the narrative (more on jumping on news cycles in our interview with MasterCard):

With the exception of late-breaking news, most journalists’ stories, even those based on fresh interviews, tend to rehash material from previous stories, accurate or not. You hope the good messages get repeated by other journalists and work hard to make sure the bad ones are snuffed out quietly, or at least live a very short life.

We're on the lookout for more quotes from great entrepreneurs and CEOs on how they deal with the media. If you know of any please let us know.

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