Last night, sadly, I found myself watching a programme called the 'X Factor' - a UK TV 'talent show' that enables a few chosen singers to get on stage and do their stuff, with the hope that the exposure might just lead them to making it as a rock star... .. and sometimes one or two of them win through and become, as we would have called it in my day, 'one hit wonders'... OK, just occasionally someone really talented does make it, but generally, to someone like me, who grew up with Elton, Queen, and other superstars, it all seems a bit of a farce. But one thing did catch my attention yesterday; when one of the judges applauded one of the contestants for 'really going for it, and taking a risk' - in her view, risk taking was one of the qualities that a potential 'star' would really need in order to make it.
Risk taking is close to my heart. One of the things that I spend some of my time doing is 'mentoring' young, potential entrepreneurs, and we have a fairly constant discussion about their ability to 'take a risk' - actually, in most cases, their inability to take a risk. For many, particularly those that have fallen into being an 'entrepreneur' just recently because, at the moment, they just can't get a job, taking a risk is beyond their comprehension, and our conversations normally ends up with my saying that if they can't get their heads around it, then they really need to work harder on getting a job.....and give up on the idea of living the life of an entrepreneur which is, on a more or less daily basis, a risky old business.
Risk taking is, of course, a fairly large part of PR; many of our clients worry about sending out a press release, holding an interview or placing an article in case there is a possibility that something 'bad' might be written. What they really want is to send a press release/article or speak an interview that, without a shadow of a doubt, will be published word for word.. and, if that is not guaranteed, then they wont do it. Unfortunately, as we always tell them, there IS a risk in doing PR and it is usually impossible to ensure that what is written is exactly how they would want it. But, if they are not prepared to take a bit of a risk, then they probably shouldn't do it in the first place.
On the other hand, we do have the 'gung ho' clients that, show them a microphone/tape recorder/whatever, and before you know it, Christmas comes early for the lucky journalist that is there to hear it... and we have to deal with the fall out! Media training is one answer. The other is to avoid those particular people being in front of the journalist in the first place, and for us to act as a barrier - i.e. to be the person/companies' spokesperson. Easier said than done.
If all else fails, though, I really do believe that 'there is no such thing as bad publicity'. OK, it can seem bad at the time... but in the long run, very few people remember what was said about you/your company... they just know that they have heard of you - and that is usually quite a positive thing!