Today we bring you a guest post by Sarah Rose Attman, president of Sarah Rose Public Relations and former staff reporter for US Weekly.
This post is presented by AirPR, a technology platform to increase PR performance. The San Francisco-based technology company is passionate about using data to show the true impact and value of PR.
As a 20-something single lady, I’ve come to realize that finding new business is strangely reminiscent of searching for a boyfriend. I want someone who I work well with, someone who is interesting, someone I believe in, and of course, someone who can afford me.
When I started my company, Sarah Rose Public Relations in 2012, I didn’t realize how important “business development” would be to my success. I was simply trying to improve my PR skills of media relations and digital strategies. As my expertise and pricing increased, I realized that attracting new businesses is a skill in and of itself.
There are many tactics people use to drum up new business, but in my experience new clients often show up in the most unusual places. Here are three of the weirdest ways I’ve gotten new business and three PR lessons to be learned.
1) “Oh, you’re Coral Tree Café girl?”
Before I had an office, I worked out of coffee shops. One day I ventured to a new spot in Los Angeles called Coral Tree Café.
I was sitting alone doing work when I noticed a handsome man walk in. I thought to myself, “I hope he sits near me” and lo and behold he did! He sat at the table right next to me and we immediately struck up a conversation. Turns out he was heavily involved in the Silicon Beach tech scene, and by the time I left, he had given me three new business leads.
I didn’t know how genuine his “connections” were until he coordinated a real live interview for me with a promising new account. This company would later become one of my best clients, providing me with years of work and tens of thousands of dollars worth of income. For a while when working with this client, people would come up to me and say “Oh! You’re ‘Coral Tree Café’ girl!” I was kind of a legend.
Lesson #1: You never know where a simple coffee shop conversation is going to lead. Be smart about what your offer up, vet your connections, and never underestimate someone who is genuinely offering to be helpful. PR is about authentic connections and solving problems.
2) “I couldn’t help but overhear…”
One afternoon I was having lunch in Washington D.C with my cousin who is a Business Development Director responsible for landing his company big, new accounts.
He was giving me a pep talk about how to sign on new clients by suggesting that I get out there more and network by getting coffees and lunches with new people each week. I was lamenting about how frustrating the networking process could be when suddenly a woman nearby interrupted us.
“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation….” Turns out, she had been listening to us the entire time. She owned a small PR firm in Detroit and was looking for help with work in the District. Did I appreciate her eavesdropping? No. But did she offer up a real opportunity? Yes.
Lesson #2: Watch what you say. Broadcasting your agenda or laments can lead to attention. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not so it is important to think about the story you’re telling. Remember, in PR you are in control of the narrative until you put it out in the public.
3) “Wow, your office!”
When I got my first office, I wouldn’t say that I went all out but OK, I went all out. The first order of business was painting it pink. The other tenants in my building were mostly men with early stage startups. Their idea of “decorating” was changing the background on their computer screens, so my mission to create a feminine, beautiful, and fun space was truly novel.
After painting, I bought bedazzled rhinestone supplies, framed press hits, bought bright pink desk mats, and installed a soft gray rug. My office stood out like the building’s crown jewel. Visitors stopped by on a regular basis asking for business cards and inquiring about my services.
Lesson #3: This is what PR is all about: Getting noticed and conveying the essence of your brand. I achieved all this while bringing in several new clients along the way. My office basically paid for itself.
In my experience, if you keep your eyes open and ear to the ground, business development opportunities are all around. It is important to not dismiss an impromptu conversation and to recognize the less obvious opportunities to tell your story. After all, you are your best PR.
Sarah Rose Attman is president of Sarah Rose Public Relations, a national agency that works with lifestyle, fashion, health and wellness, and technology companies. Prior to starting her business, she worked as a staff reporter for Us Weekly. Sarah is also a women’s health advocate and founded The Red Tent Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of college women.