As a marketer, I know the basics of PR and getting publicity for a business and topic, but do not by any stretch of the imagination call myself an expert.
In actuality, I’ve learnt more about PR and how media works from my mental health advocacy and being involved on the media frontline. I’ve been in various campaigns for mental health organisations in Australia and also appeared on TV news, radio interviews and in print.
But all this was nothing compared to being on 60 Minutes Australia which took PR theory to a whole other level!
I have been in discussions with 60 Minutes Australia for over a year and the story I was a part of aired on Sunday (12 March 2017). It’s been a difficult, confronting, surreal and humbling as a human experience. From a marketing experience it’s been enlightening.
Here are my top 10 lessons, as a marketer, about PR from being on 60 Minutes
1. You got to be in it to win it
Let’s start at the beginning and detail how I ended up on 60 Minutes. It was pretty simple; I answered a PR call out. It was a very detailed call-out via Sourcebottle for people with anxiety. Having no clue it was a 60 Minutes Producer seeking the story, I casually submitted a short message saying how I matched the criteria. Why? Because you have to be in in to win it. More often than not, you don’t hear anything back from journalists, but every now and then you do and you won’t know you’re right for their story unless you try.
2. It’s nothing personal
After I picked myself off the floor I was about to chat with a 60 Minutes Producer about my story, I quickly learned she had been trying to do this story on anxiety for over a year; she had spoken to around 40 people before me. None of them were quite right. The Producer had a clear vision for the story, and whilst people who responded to her previous call-outs would have believed they were “right”, they weren’t in her eyes. It’s nothing personal, she simply knew the story she wanted to tell.
3. Be open and helpful
Why was I right for the story? Beyond my actual anxiety story, I was open about my life and how anxiety had affected my life and was able to articulate this clearly. Whether it’s a personal or business topic, you need to be able to quickly and easily communicate that you know your stuff and will be valuable to them. Remember, this has very little to do about you and what you think is important; it’s all about the journalist’s objectives.
4. Be humble
Further to being open and helpful and this not being about you, so be humble. Unless you’re a celebrity, the journalist is taking a risk on an unknown quantity – that’s you. If you’re being difficult or a ‘diva’ they’re not going to want to work with you. When I first spoke with the Producer, she mentioned how many people had some agenda to be on the story –something to promote. She didn’t want this. She was simply interested in promoting how anxiety affects people’s lives.
5. Be accommodating & flexible
Even though I was told 60 Minutes had a big budget and time to spend doing a quality, documentary style story, in the end it became a rush. And if I wasn’t accommodating and flexible I’m sure they would have found another participant. You may be busy and have deadlines, but media’s time frames are in overdrive and limited, so make yourself available to their timetable and answer their calls and emails quickly.
6. Be patient
Alongside being accommodating and flexible, it’s important to be patient. As mentioned above, I first spoke with the Producer over a year ago. Filming first started in May 2016 the interview scheduled a few times in the following weeks and months but were cancelled. If you’re thinking about PR on a show like 60 Minutes, understand TV changes very quickly especially in an ever-changing world. My interview was (understandable) second-fiddle for the original reporter to terrorist events in Belgium and Niece, and USA’s Black Lives Matter and a Trump winning election. This goes back to being humble and knowing there are (sometimes) more important stories than the one you’re involved with.
7. Have a brain’s trust
If you’re going public with a personal story, speak with people you trust before you say yes. I had family and friends who let me weigh up the pros and cons. I also asked a few clients what they thought. But also know the best intentioned advice is only that, advice. You are the one speaking with the journalist so make sure you ask the right questions to protect yourself and ask your brain’s trust if you’ve missed anything.
8. Have support
Even though there were people who weren’t thrilled with me taking part in this story and being on 60 Minutes, ultimately they all said they’d support me. It’s been beyond overwhelming and disruptive to do this story (also for me there’s the obvious factor of someone with anxiety doing a story on anxiety!) and if it wasn’t for the few people who supported me during the embargo period, I would have found it even more difficult.
9. Be careful of what you wish for
It all sounds exciting to be in the media, but it’s also a different matter when you realise it’s actually happening and there’s no turning back. Luckily I’d had some experience having been involved in media, including a Good Weekend article, ABC and Channel 9 news and online beyondblue & R U OK? video campaigns. But, 60 Minutes was a whole other level and I had to be prepared for that as much as I could! I was also prepared for the good, bad and ugly.
10. Be ok with the story – or don’t do it at all
So the story aired Sunday and I sit there after it finishes in a daze, looking at some of my brain’s trust who are by my side and asked “was I even in it?” After 1.5 days of filming, my whole sum of air time ended up being about 2.5 minutes. And, even though I knew that would be it and the Producer gave me the rundown of the story, you know what you’ve said and done and what didn’t make it. (Same feeling occurred with Good Weekend article.)
But, you have to go in “eyes wide open” and be ok that what’s published is out of your control. You have to be ok that it’s less to do about you and is all about the story’s objective. The media outlet knows their audience and this will mean a celebrity gets ahead of you and anything that’s potentially “shareable” in an online world (like a very cute and adorable dog that I too was gushing over).
So, these are my PR tips having been on 60 Minutes. My life hasn’t had a mega, life altering shift from the publicity and I know I’ll be ok with that. But I also know 60 Minutes has been surprised by the feedback they’ve received and are, consequently, thrilled with the result. So it’s a success.
I’ve had some people track me down and tell me snippets of their story and how they don’t feel so alone and “crazy”. I’ve had people call me brave and courageous and thanked me for being so open and honest and for telling the reality of anxiety. And, that’s reminded me I didn’t do this for fame and fortune. I did it to help people suffering anxiety know they’re not alone and can get better.
I know I did the right thing for the right reasons – probably another reason I got the gig.
If you want to watch the story, head to the 60 Minutes site. It’s the second story.
But for me, it’s back to marketing others…