Susan Harrow is heralded as one of the true gurus of publicity and is President of prsecrets.com and Harrow Communications, a 13 year old media coaching and marketing firm. Susan specializes in media coaching and creating marketing strategies for executives, speakers, authors, coaches and entrepreneurs.
Susan’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurial ventures, and best-selling authors including, iVillage, PlanetRx, Pacific Bell Directory/The Yellow Pages (SBC), Bill Graham Presents, Gillette/Oral B, the North Face, Random House, Doubleday, Celestial Arts, Peachpit Press/Addison-Wesley, and many others.
In our interview, Susan shares her insight on PR and her book, “Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul”.
Susan Harrow Interview —Must Read Business Books
Q: Hi Susan, can you talk about the actual PR process including the most basic things to consider in targeting the press release?
A: There are four things to consider before you even write a press release:
1. You really have to think first about what your intention is. What are you giving customers or clients that they want and they need?
2. The second part of that is what concrete action do you want them to take when your PR process takes hold?
3. The third part is what niches do you want to target and what are your financial goals once you reach your ideal audience?
4. The consideration is to make certain that your systems can support the biggest success that you could possibly have.
Q: If you send the press release out, you need to have immediate responsiveness?
A: Yes, absolutely, because once you start that PR, you cannot take it back. The biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make or anyone makes is running after PR before they have all their systems in place. And before they know what they actually want out of it. Meaning what kind of customer and what kind of client do you want to draw to you or your company.
You need to also have a good spokesperson in place who can consistently say what your company does and knows its long-term goals.
Q: In Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul, you are a real advocate of truth-telling?
A: Absolutely. We crave truth-telling because not enough people do it. And that doesn´t mean telling all. There´s a difference between truth telling and telling all. But telling the truth about yourself and what you´re doing is one of the most powerful things you can do.
Q: In looking at small businesses, what are some tips you can give to a small business that might not have an in-house PR person?
A: I don´t think you have to have a lot of money. You just have to have – good organization. All you really have to have is a fantastic headline, a headline that ties into something topical, shocking, provocative or true that people are automatically drawn too.
Q: It hooks you, like the first sentence in a story?
A: Exactly. And you are writing that story. The headline is all important, and I really suggest that any company do all the work for the journalist or the producer that they can. You create your own segments, and you sometimes can even script the whole thing so that they can pick it up as-is.
Even if you have a very small budget hire somebody who knows how to write a press release that pulls on its own. I use an award-winning copywriter to get that automatic response and we get immediate and dramatic media response every time we send out a press release.
Q: The one that gets your eye is the one that´s most engaging on the headline.
A: Yes, it´s like the headline that leaps into your hands and makes you want to read the rest of it!
Q: What´s the thing that´s most misunderstood about press relations?
A: I think people expect it to get instant results and they rarely happen. They don´t stick with the process long enough. And I believe you have to integrate it into your business practices and make it an every day practice. It takes a long time. It´s not just about sending out these press releases, it´s also about becoming the favorite expert of journalists.
Q: The analysts that we all call on as journalists?
A: Exactly. You have to endear yourselves to them so that you are always – the first person that comes to mind when they need to call someone.
Q: That goes back to being available and being persistent right?
A: Right, and the other thing I think people need to understand is that in the old days companies would send out a mass press release and then would wait to see how it sticks. But I don´t believe in that. I think you send it out to a small segment of the market and see what kind of response you get. And if you don´t get a response, you need to tweak it.
Q: So you´re testing your press release as you release it? That´s a great insight.
A: Right, it´s just like testing ads. And again, it may be that you just need to tweak it, or you may need to create a whole other angle and try that.
You have to know your target audience and who writes about your company, you have to do the research or use one of the services that has a targeted list. I would just send one out to a couple thousand people at first and then see how it takes.
Always keep in mind, it´s not about being a failure, it´s about going back to the drawing board and trying a different angle. It´s a process and it takes time.