Some parting advice my last CEO gave me when I went out on my own stuck with me.
“Maintain your integrity. In your business, it’s really the only thing you’ve got.”
It was interesting to me that he as an executive prioritized trustworthiness so much in a PR professional.
When I first started training people how to boost media coverage, I was surprised by the reaction of many. In every group there would be a few who would pull me aside during a break or at the end.
They’d confess that they found my approach refreshingly honest. “You’re not slick,” more than one of them said. This caught me off guard because it’s the only way I knew how to do it. I’d been fortunate to come up through the ranks surrounded by straight shooters. Plus, I reasoned, journalists will figure out if you’re conning them and then you’re through.
But I soon learned that many people in PR haven’t had that experience. They’ve often felt icky about how PR was taught and practiced. They struggled, fought and pressed forward anyway. But they always suspected there had to be a better way. So when they see me with a platform to push methods that rely on trust and relationships instead of quick wins and misleading claims, they breathe a sigh of relief. They realize they CAN make it in this business without feeling sleazy.
You should never feel as though you’re compromising your integrity in your attempts to gain media attention. It’s never worth it in the long run.
Furthermore, when readers . . . journalists . . . bosses or anyone else knows that you always tell the truth and you don’t stoop just to earn media points, you gain a compound interest of street cred in your industry. It accumulates over time. And eventually it becomes a huge asset. You can get hired simply because influential people in your industry or market trust you.
Last week I talked to a guy who just signed a $10K/month solo client for that very reason. In his city, he’s respected by everyone – journalists, politicians, and business leaders. You earn that kind of respect in two ways – through intimidation, or through consistent trustworthiness. He’s chosen the latter :).
It sometimes takes a painful transition before you get to his level. You might need to extricate yourself from a situation where you’re expected to stretch the truth. Do it now while the job market is strong. It’s definitely worth it in the long run, even if only for your peace of mind.