The BLACK paPR Report

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PR from an African American Perspective

Colleague to Colleague

happy-new-yearI’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and just share a bit about what the Colleague to Colleague section of my blog is going to look like in the coming year. 

Next week, Jonnice Slaughter will bring in the new year with a blog about business strategies for PR consultants and publicists. Christal Jordan-Mims will contribute a blog post about media training and later in the month, Delores (DeeDee) Cocheta will blog about PR and publicity for non-profits using celebrity endorsements and appearances to fundraise and raise awareness. 

You will also meet Keisha McCotry of Prominence Marketing who is going to discuss swag or celebrity gift bags as a publicity and PR tool. 

This section will become more helpful and useful, that’s the goal. 

Best, Robin

robin@thejstandard.com

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Filed under: Colleague to Colleague, PR Standards & Practices, The Business of PR & Publicity, , , , ,

Box Them In

I love my mentor who also happens to be my godmother, Bernardine D. Douglas. Bernardine is a retired veteran radio station sales and general manager. One of the first people to support her during the start of her career was Joan Crawford, the legendary actress who had a seat on the board of directors of PepsiCo. The older tough cookie gave the younger, Negro (as we were called then) tough cookie a huge sales order and it was on and popping from that point forward. 

Over the years I have learned a lot sitting at the feet of this precious woman. She’s is in fact the first person to recognize my talent as a publicist and practitioner. She is the first person to recognize that I have this odd gift of connecting people with other people or to what they need. For all of the above, I’m extremely grateful.

Here is a partial list of the things she has taught me:

  • Never enter into agreements with people who complain about previous service. They will complain about you too.
  • Always ask potential clients or customers, What do you need? What are your goals? How can I assist?
  • Sidestep foolish people. Loosely translated: Don’t waste a time of your talents and time on someone who makes silly choices.
  • Be teachable. It’s okay to be a know-it-all but remain open to learning.
  • Don’t operate in false modesty. Accept compliments, simply say thank you. 
  • Don’t lie or embellish.
  • It’s okay to burn bridges. You really don’t want bad energy or people to follow you. And you don’t want to introduce them to the good people you know and will meet. (Future blog post.)
  • Always make fast talkers repeat themselves and then repeat back what they say to them. 

But this is by far the best advice she’s ever given me, “Box them in, baby. You can’t make them do right but you can make it hard as hell for them to do wrong.” It took me a few tries but I not only get this but use it, sadly, frequently. I’ve even passed this advice onto people who thought they got it and used it on me, the wrong person. (It’s really difficult to use the lesson on the teacher, especially if she didn’t pass on the intricacies of the lesson. The didn’t know the intricacies.) 

At any rate, boxing people in has come in handy for me in business. I don’t understand underhandedness and deceit to the extent that I can outthink it. I don’t understand the hustle, so I won’t always recognize it in its beginnings. And I don’t understand how or why people like to use other people. 

Boxing folks in helps in deterring crazy and helps me to discern when someone is just not right. 

For example, some years ago an evangelist asked me to ghostwrite a book for him. I sent a quote, which was half of what he should have been charged for the project. He told me that he had people to do it for free, and that I should do it as a gift to the man of God. After careful consideration of his offer, I declined. And that book has yet to be written. 

How did I box him in? I merely agreed that if he could get it done for free, then he should go for it. I wasn’t terse in my response to him at all. I just relied on a biblical principle: If you do something for nothing, you will get nothing. And my debtors wouldn’t be too happy with that decision. 

The other thing that made it necessary to box the evangelist in was the fact that I am a woman working for herself. Some form of compensation should have been offered in my best interest. Oh well…

I honestly wish Bernardine could teach a course in this, but it’s advice that is best explained on a as needed to know basis. 

Best, Robin

robin@thejstandard.com

Filed under: Help for the Practitioner, PR Standards & Practices, The Business of PR & Publicity, Uncategorized, , , , ,

Guest Contributor: Alfred Edmond, Jr.

Memo to Aspiring Entrepreneurs: Learn Before You Launch

As found on BlackEnterprise.com

Entrepreneurship is one of the most important keys to wealth creation. However, too many people—laid-off or forced to take a buyout, eager to leave jobs they hate, or hungry for fast money—start businesses without taking the time to really learn the industry related to their respective businesses first. At Black Enterprise, if we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times: “I’ve found a location, written my business plan, invested my life savings, and chosen the name for my barbershop (or fashion design firm, event planning business, music production company, etc.), but I don’t know anything about the business. Can you tell me what to do?”

 

What?! Come on, now! Memo to all you aspiring entrepreneurs: Learn before you launch. Even the editors of Black Enterprise, as expert as we are, can’t tell you everything you need to know about how to make a success of your business in a phone call or e-mail. You have to do your homework. If you’re thinking about starting a business (or, heaven forbid, you’ve already started one), but you haven’t done any of the following, you’ve got work to do:

Get A Job
Get at least two years experience by working in or for a business similar to or directly related to the one you want to start. Ideally, this would be paid, full time work, but if you have to take unpaid work to learn an industry on nights and weekends, do it. Also, this is the time to find out about any licenses, training, certification or degrees required in the business you’re interested in. This is also a great way to find out if you’ll even like working in the business every day. If your dream business is a natural hair-care salon, you don’t want to wait until after you’ve quit your secure job and taken out a second mortgage on your home to find out that you can’t stand being on your feet for 12 hours a day, six days a week, braiding hair. True entrepreneurs work to learn, not just to earn.

Read Industry and Trade Publications
Subscribe to and read trade publications, whether digital or print, for the type of business you want to start. This includes books, newsletters, magazines, blogs and websites. There are almost no businesses that do not have at least one how-to book on the ins and outs of success in that industry. If you don’t know what they are, you don’t know enough to compete in that industry. It’s time to get started with your research.

Join Trade Groups
Join and become active in a professional or trade association for your industry. A few minutes with a search engine such as Google should help you to identify the right groups for your business. These groups often have useful websites, offer informational and education seminars, and may provide member benefits such as discounts on purchases for your business or group health insurance. Most importantly, these associations keep you connected with others in your industry, including prospects, strategic partners, customers, industry mentors, potential employees and sources of financing. You should join national groups, as well as be active in their local chapters. If the trade group for your business has no chapter in your area, maybe you should be the one to start one.

Participate in Conferences
Attend conferences for your industry as well as conferences for entrepreneurs in general. You’ll find out about these through the aforementioned trade associations, most of whom have national and regional conferences and events. In addition to industry-specific events, you should also be attending programs devoted to entrepreneurship across all industries.

For example, the annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference is the largest gathering of black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the country each year. The 2009 conference, hosted by General Motors, is from May 17-20 at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance & Detroit COBO Center in Detroit, Michigan. This is a must attend for aspiring entrepreneurs who are serious about business, not just playing at it. More than 1,000 business owners, ranging from the CEOs of the Black Enterprise 100s–the nation’s largest black-owned companies–to many of America’s most successful small business owners, will share information on financing, launching, and growing your company. They are joined by hundreds of representatives from America’s largest corporations, all looking for businesses prepared to provide products and services to their companies. (Go to Black Enterprise Events to register or for more information.)

Now, to do all of these things will take time, money, and effort. In fact, it feels a lot like work. The question is, are you serious about starting a business, or are you just talking about it–or worse, playing at it? If you don’t want to study the industry, read about the industry, spend time around other people in the industry, work in the industry, why in the world are you trying to go into business in that industry?

Too many businesses fail almost before they start because entrepreneurs want to first do, then learn. It works better, with less risk and less expense, if you do it the other way around: Learn the industry, then launch the business. And this is not only for the start-up stage, but for every stage of your enterprise—the learning must continue even after your business is established, or it will never reach its full potential for growth and profitability. There’s nothing I can tell you in a phone call or e-mail that will change that.

alfred-1Alfred Edmond Jr. is the editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com

Alfred A. Edmond Jr. is senior vice president/editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com. He is responsible for the long-term planning and development of the Website’s content, as well as the hiring and overall supervision of the editorial staff, which consists of editors, writers/bloggers, and contributing editors.

Edmond sits on the BLACK ENTERPRISE editorial board and is also responsible for helping to set and enforce quality standards for the editorial content of the major franchises of BLACK ENTERPRISE, including BlackEnterprise.com; BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine; Black Enterprise Magazine’s Keys to a Better Life podcast series; live networking events, such as the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo and the Women of Power Summit; and the Our World with Black Enterprise and Black Enterprise Business Report television shows.

 

 


Filed under: Help for the Practitioner, PR Standards & Practices, The Business of PR & Publicity, Uncategorized, , , , ,

Only on TV

Will the real publicists and PR practitioners please stand up?

This past week I was asked a question that stumped me: What don’t you like about your job? I’m not generally asked that question. I do, however, always discuss with a close colleague the things I don’t like about being a PR practitioner and publicist (you know those are two different professions, right?). 

My answer:

  • The “hurry up and wait” aspect of pitching stories and waiting for bites from editors, producers and journalists
  • The fact that I often have to explain, justify and instruct on what I do as I do what I do to people who pay me but who really don’t know much about publicity and PR 
  • The rejection. I don’t like it when an editor, journalist or producer passes on my pitches for my clients; I take it personally and it sucks

I need a drum roll here. 

There is something else that bugs the living daylights out of me and that would be the scores of people who have watched reality TV one time too many and truly believe that the life of a publicist and PR practitioner is glamorous and easy. They think it is so glamorous and easy, I believe they literally wake up one day and decide, “That’s it. I’m going to be a publicist!” and then they buy the business cards (passe) and stationery, and get a Web site. Those folks are the bane of my existence and an insult to the profession. And they make me wish I’d become a brain surgeon for all of the studen loan debt I’ve incurred. 

BAM!

Essentially, they just play a publicist on TV. No passion. No studying. No background or previous experience of worth. No aptitude. Nothing.

Look,  I’m not a hater, but I don’t like ineptitude of any kind – in any profession. But I hate illusions more and that’s because those of us who were born to do it and who slave to do what we love — have to clean up the messes of those who only play a publicist on TV. 

Such is my rant.

But here’s another example that probably makes more sense and is easier to digest. Some years ago, I met Kevin, a nice guy who dated a friend. Kevin’s dad was a physician at a local hospital. Now you would think Kevin had had conversations with his father about the man’s career path, maybe even his schooling. Nope. Kevin thought by applying for a job as an orderly at the hospital, he could be like his dad and work his way up to a doctor’s job. I asked him if he thought about college and then medical school and he told me no. And to suggest that most physicians go through undergraduate school and then medical school, an internship and residency was lost on deaf ears. Enough said.

I love my colleagues who make PR and publicity look easy. That’s a gift. However, I don’t like the “colleagues” who think PR and publicity are so easy, you can wake up one morning and just be a publicist or PR practitioner without knowing anything about the profession(s). 

There have been tons of times when I’ve said something to one of the publicists/practitioners who only play one on TV, and they’ve looked totally lost. I asked a colleague, ‘Is it me? Or, is this person perpetrating?’ She said, “Perpetrating.” So to assist me with this blog post I called my colleague to come up with some legitimate ways to discern a real publicist/PR practitioner from one who only plays one on TV.

  • Publicists/practitioners speak a special language. It’s the language of our trades and we speak it without thinking and to anyone, like everyone understands. We can’t help it. 
  • The good publicists are secure and share about their clients, share resources and contacts with other publicists. They are not tight-lipped.
  • A real/good publicist never has to buy her/his placements, they know how to pitch. Bad ones sell their clients based on their email distribution lists and call it guaranteed publicity. They will prey on people who don’t know anything about publicity. They don’t know how to write a press release or get real interviews. Can’t put together a press kit, but can buy an ad. They are really promoters not publicists.
  • If they don’t know the difference between PR and publicity, then there’s a good chance they are only playing a publicist or practitioner on TV.

Best, Robin

robin@thejstandard.com

Filed under: African Americans, PR Standards & Practices, Public Relations, The Business of PR & Publicity, Uncategorized, , , ,

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