One of Dad’s favorite sayings when I would grouse about someone or something was, “Nobody is totally worthless. They can always be used as a bad example.” That always rang true for me when it came to how I worked as a reporter, a teacher and a media adviser. In many cases, I’d actually form policies based on how someone had done something and how I DIDN’T want to be that person or how I hated the way the person did something.
In examining the Anthony Scaramucci era (a funny term, given that I have fruit in my fridge that outlasted his tenure at the White House), PR expert Aaron Cohen provided some interesting tips on how to “Mooch from ‘the Mooch'” in terms of learning the ins and outs of public relations. It’s worth the read. A few thoughts on a few of his key points:
2. Build solid relationships with reporters.
Notice that I didn’t say “trusted” relationships. Those don’t exist.
It’s fine to play hardball as Scaramucci did, as it can show you’re passionate about looking after the interest of your client or boss. However, bullying or intimidating journalists isn’t going to get you the big coverage you promised.
Remember, even in the age of click wars and fake news, the finest living journalists (the ones you must influence) still report with the highest degree of integrity. Members of the media put their publication’s credibility—and their own—on the front lines every day. Words matter, but so do facts.
This is perhaps the core of all good relationships between news reporters and PR practitioners. I’ll disagree with the “trusted” issue a little bit, in that you can earn trust or destroy trust based on doing or not doing some of the things he notes below (bullying gets you nowhere, while sticking to facts and providing truthful information earns you credibility). However, at the core of the relationship is a professionalism in which it’s clear that you’re not going to be friends, but you don’t have to be enemies, either. It’s a truism that professionals on both sides of the PR/News relationship know and understand. Read Cohen’s take on the “Reporters will quote you” takeaway as well, and you get the idea of how these relationships work. If you want to vent about your day or your coworkers, a reporter should not be a last resort, but no resort at all.
5. Use a nickname for personal branding .
Don’t be afraid of using a catchy nickname as part of your own personal branding strategy. Nicknames to consider for yourself include, “The Bomb,” “The Bird,” “The Dude” and “The Sauce.”
This is the only point with which I’d REALLY disagree.
First, nicknames aren’t always what you’d hoped they’d be. My Dad used to work with a guy who earned the nickname “Shrimpy” when he was about 5 years old. It stuck. You don’t want to be in your 70s and hear someone yelling “Hey Shrimpy!” to get your attention at the grocery store.
Second, they don’t always convey respect. I doubt that a single member of the press corps referred to Scaramucci as “The Mooch” with anything but mockery.
Third, you earn the fungus on your shower shoes and you earn a nickname over time. Don’t give yourself a nickname. It’s the kind of thing that just screams, “I’m way cooler than you think I am.” Most people will disagree with you on that.
Hang on to this list and consider Cohen’s points as you move deeper into the field. It’s a pretty good way to learn something from a bad example.