Secret #4: The Founder is Different Than The Company.
I’m also a founder of my own company, and trust me, when you’re so close to the nitty gritty of the daily operations, sometimes it’s hard not to feel that you and your company are synonymous. It’s vital that you have separation when it comes to PR for you vs. PR for your company because the approach for PR is very different for each.
Many founders have gotten sucked into the cult of personality and cratered their company. Companies have also fallen into this trap as well. Just ask Apple.
Separation between founder and company does not need to be absolute yet there should be a healthy distance. It’s vital to know where one ends and the other begins or it will be bad for everyone. Just ask every Enron employee and shareholder.
The Founder as the Company
Apple is a prime example of a company that was defined by Steve Jobs. The two were inseparable even when Steve left. While this made Jobs an iconic leader and person that many people wanted to emulate, it left the company, now under the capable hands of Tim Cook, in a bit of an identify crisis.
The leader of a company is important but it’s not only the charismatic leader that makes magic happen. It takes a dedicated staff of co-founders and others to make the vision a reality. A founder that recognizes this will build a deep bench of people who can step up when needed and talk to the press.
Share the Love
While it’s great to have one spokesperson, sometimes you can’t be everywhere, so you should share the love. It doesn’t hurt for others on the team to understand the art of PR anyways. You never know who your staff or management team will be talking to when they are out in the wild. It’s better for them to all be prepared to talk to the press, rather than hoard the press all for yourself. Forewarned is forearmed.
All founders should be in the PR mix. It shows depth and breadth in the company’s bench. It also gives the stories about your company more diversity and that’s a great thing. Founders that horde the spotlight will do themselves and their company a great disservice because rumors will get around that so-and-so is a control freak, and people will start to not want to cover you or worse, put out rumors or bad stories.
Training Up So You Have Depth In the Bench
Training your executive or founding staff to be in front of the camera is not that hard. Media training should be part of any executives ascent to the top. Media training does not need to be something that’s worked on daily. Rather, there should be some method to the madness and occasional practice to stay sharp. Here are some quick and easy ways to get and keep your staff media sharp:
- Brown Bag Talks: Brown bag talks are great to build your presentation skills in a safe environment.
- Company Meetings: Let others give updates for their departments at a company meeting.
- Toastmasters: Start a toastmasters club at your office or join a local one. Toastmasters is a great way to get feedback on your speaking skills and nervous tics. If the camera puts on 20 lbs, it also amplifies your tics.
- Conferences: Send your co-founders or staff to a conference to present on behalf of the company. Usually, the pressure is not that strong and most people are supportive.
- Formal Media Training: Consider hiring a PR professional to train your staff. There is nothing like a seasoned PR pro to tell you the Dos and Don’ts.
- Media Appearances: Every once and a while, have your co-founder or staff do an actual media appearance especially if the appearance is among friendlies or low risk.
Training your staff to handle the media will only help you. When co-founders and senior staff know what to say and how to say it, it makes the whole company and especially you, the founder, look great. Also remember to be humble, that you want to help the ball club, and you and your staff will do fine.
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This post is part of a 7 part series titled 7 PR Secrets Every Founder Should Know But Are Not Told. If you stumbled upon this searching the innerwebs, please join us for the full series. I would really appreciate it.