Part of your job as a freelancer for the RPG industry is to have a public face. This is all part of the networking you do to keep track of the pulse of the RPG world. Public relations, in the context of this article, is all about how you deal with the public who consume your work and the industry who hires you to produce that work.
For this article, I am going to focus primarily on the face to face aspect of public relations management. Next month’s article will focus on the internet aspect of the deal.
Face to Face: Keeping Your Suit On
When in the public eye, the rule to follow is: Keep your suit on in public and cry in private. This means to present a professional look and demeanor. A neat appearance and a calm expression will go a long way. Keeping things civil in the face of adversity, farce or confusion will garner the best results for you and your reputation.
When it comes to the public, anything can happen. People will ask for autographs on their books (I recommend a signature that is not like the one you use for writing checks), pictures of you with them (the value of a neat appearance) and they will want to talk to you about all sorts of things. How you deal with them will be remembered.
Patience and politeness is the key. Even if you need to deny a request, leave the area or continue with business. A cordial response, “No, I’m sorry, I cannot read your manuscript due to contractual obligations” will be received much better even if it is not the desired answer.
Mistakes, They Do Happen
When it comes to mistakes, be prepared for them to happen. Be it misspeaking, getting someone’s name wrong, being late or any of the thousands of other things that can (and will) happen to a freelancer. It is best to acknowledge it, apologize for it, fix it if you can and move on. Dwelling on a mistake you made (and are aware you made) will not help you or the situation.
Sometimes, it is hard to admit you made a mistake. Swallowing your ego and pride is never an easy thing. However, I have discovered that nothing stops bad press in its tracks like a sincere apology. Also, everyone makes mistakes. If you catch someone making a mistake in regards to you, think about how you would want it handled if the shoe were on the other foot and react accordingly.
Yes, keeping your suit on really does mean treat people as you would like them to treat you.
To Respond or Not To Respond
There will be times in your career as an RPG freelance writer where you will be called out on something you did or wrote. These will feel like personal attacks. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they aren’t. And sometimes, the attackers (AKA Trolls) are just looking for attention. You always have a choice on whether or not you will respond and how.
Personal attacks: Sometimes, people will say inflammatory things to you in person while you are at dealer’s booth, during a reading or at a book signing. Your best bet is to let the event organizer deal with them. Or your handler or that good friend you have with you for just such an occasion. If they want to have a real dialogue with you, determine if it is the time or place. If they don’t, your best bet is not to respond.
Panels: Frequently, while you are at a convention on a panel, you will be challenged on what you say or think by the audience or the other panel members. If the challenge is not within the scope of the panel, say so and ask for the next question. If it is, answer it as professionally as you can. It is possible to have a cordial disagreement with someone based on experience. Frequently, spirited discussions are the most interesting thing about panels as long as they remain professional.
Online: I will spend a lot more time on this next month but, by and large, if someone calls you out on the internet—lambasts an opinion, gives a bad review, etc—your best bet is not to respond. At all. Humor does not translate well. Explanations can be nitpicked to death and, generally, no matter what you do, you will not win.
In the end, if you are a professional, you will be treated as one. Even if people disagree with you. You are allowed to have emotions but there is a time and place for them. Keeping your suit on in public is one of the best ways of managing your professional reputation.
Do you have any hints or tricks on managing personal PR? Or do you have a question you’d like me to answer? Comment below and I will do the best that I can to respond.