When my career in public relations officially began, I was part of a very well-known – and very well positioned – high-tech PR firm in Los Angeles. For us and our colleagues at offices in San Francisco and New York, every day was another exciting opportunity to meet another set of entrepreneurs interested in working with the iconic businessman Michael Terpin, and those of us who handled accounts for his firm, The Terpin Group (TTG).
Up until then, I had worked in the film and television industry, using my writing chops and experiences to establish a reputation as a trade journalist. Building on my freelance feats and some staff positions as a marketing executive, the specific role of managing PR accounts for emerging high-tech businesses was very attractive and engaging.
Until it wasn’t.
During my time at TTG, I was not in much of a position to pick and choose which accounts I worked on. As I learned, not all entrepreneurs are created equal … when it comes to their maturity levels, leadership capabilities, and management styles.
Across the firm, I was just one of many highly trained PR professionals, who could help executives craft and polish stories built on solid strategy, and then interface with anyone in the media, with a very good chance of scoring coverage and/or placements, when everything came together. The challenging part was the rare scenario when the strategy was pushed to the sideline, and when the clients’ understandably high expectations turned into unreasonable demands.
Given so much experience as an independent contractor, I took the career off-ramp as soon as I could, starting my own firm while giving Mr. Terpin and my TTG colleagues the utmost respect. My new venture was designed to focus more on the industry I loved, with high hopes for even better luck with clients.
Focus on Authenticity, Not Spin
As readers of Spin Sucks understand, scoring coverage in top-tier media outlets gives us wings. Also, the trials and errors of years spent researching strategy, and then attempting to generate essential results, qualifies our efforts … teaching us inherently what is likely to work when it comes to engaging with journalists, and what may backfire.
Back on my own as a sole proprietor, I was lucky to experience a flurry of new PR business referrals. Imagine my surprise when one potential client after another told me what they had to work with, then asked me how to spin it. Apparently, they thought I could take something boring, lackluster, and half-baked, and turn it into gold.
Not only did I have an incredibly strong reaction in these situations – where I would identify myself as a pro deeply focused on authenticity, not spin – I also swore off hype and flash, as phenomena representing the opposite of my values. Clearly, this stance was often quite jarring to many of those who had been thinking about engaging PR for their business.
In describing her 2014 book “Spin Sucks,” Gini Dietrich nailed my exact sentiments, explaining that honest, responsible, open, and authentic communications make up the formula for earning trust. Anyone who has attempted to engage journalists knows that trustworthiness is the price of admission.
Trust and Reputation Above All Else
Thankfully for me, fate has introduced me to a motherlode of savvy entrepreneurs over the years who have been willing to put their faith in The Darnell Works Agency. Still, I do occasionally encounter those who skip the homework, and mechanically demand to know how many clients a given PR investment would yield, thinking only of the cost and not the need to work harder to improve their operations, and render them newsworthy.
Over the past few years, I decided to pay my good fortune forward by building a curriculum that would train others how to operate their own PR firms, or at least how to benefit from the key tenets of PR business success the best PR mavens embody. Among those tenets, a commitment to ongoing learning is not only imperative, but it was a requirement for me to succeed in this new mission.
When it came to illuminating the “big picture” landscape where the work of communications consultants plays out, I was very happy to find that Gini Dietrich had once again led the way. Thanks to her groundbreaking work illuminating the PESO Model™ (paid, earned, shared, and owned media), I gained a better understanding of the big picture of a company’s communications outlook; further, I have found her insights into the strengths of each area to be spot-on.
With Gini’s leadership, the Spin Sucks Community continues to shine a light on the future of our industry, while encouraging us to prioritize the building of trust, and the importance of reputation. As she writes, a growing number of executives only care about seeing real data proving our work is driving certain results.
If you also have clients who respect you and are eager to work with you and follow your lead, it’s fair to say we are operating at another level. Succeeding as a communications consultant who loathes spin, and can still succeed, is an immense blessing. Thanks to Spin Sucks, I know I’m not alone.
Building Your PR Business
Principal of The Darnell Works Agency, Roger Darnell is also the author of “The Communications Consultant’s Foundation” and his newest book, “The Communications Consultant’s Master Plan.” Roger is too humble to brag about his new book, so let us do that for you. In his newest book, Roger discusses how to build out your consultancy and maximize your potential, setting you and your PR business up for success. If you’re out on your own or thinking about going solo, both books are for you.
You can learn more about Roger by clicking here.