Recently I approached a well-known internet personality about an interview. I wanted to discuss a new website he had launched and get his perspective on the market it’s competing in.

Interview requests are always hit-or miss; sometimes you never hear back. I was pleasantly surprised, however, and received an immediate response.

Long story short: upon confirmation that he was excited to do an interview (and wanted to include his partner in the interview), I sent along my questions, as the subject’s assistant had agreed to conduct the interview by email.

A few days later, I got an email from the subject requesting a phone interview. I agreed and suggested some options for setting it up.

After that, the subject and his assistant disappeared. I sent several follow-up emails, which have all gone without response.

These things happen and while it’s frustrating to spend time preparing interview questions that disappear into a black hole, I understood that this person is very busy. Interviews that were agreed to don’t happen for many reasons.

While I’m not going to name the person I was to interview (that’s not important), I will say that I was especially surprised since he’s wildly regarded as an expert on using social media to build business. If this is the way he handles PR, I thought to myself, is the reputation deserved?

PR is a valuable tool for any business, especially a new business. It can expose new users/customers to your offering, help you build buzz and lead to other media ‘hits‘.

Although good PR isn’t ‘free‘, when results are achieved, the value of the media you receive can far exceed the amount invested in both time and money. That’s why so many businesses spend lots of time and money on PR.

So you don’t want to screw up your PR, right? Here are 5 valuable tips to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes my subject made:

Respond. When someone provides you with an opportunity that will expose people to your business, respond. Even if you can’t provide what they’re asking for, a response is a professional courtesy that has a tangible benefit to you: you’ll continue to get contacted. If I request a comment from you, for instance, on a story relevant to your industry, I’m far more likely to contact you in the future if I hear back, even if it’s to say “I don’t really have anything I can add.”

Follow through.
If you commit to doing something, whether it be an interview or sending along information, come through. After all everybody likes someone who delivers.

Don’t leave people hanging. If you absolutely have to break a commitment, do it in a professional manner. If you’re busy and need to postpone, say so. If you have to pull the plug, cancel and apologize. Whatever you do, don’t be a flake. It reflects poorly on you and the business you run.

Walk the walk.
If you’re known as a social media expert, for example, being as responsive as customer service at Big Company Inc. isn’t going to give someone confidence that you’re really an expert. That reduces the odds that you’ll be contacted as such in the future.

Needless to say, I won’t be asking the subject mentioned here for any more interviews but with this post, I’ve hopefully turned his loss into your gain.

Photo credit: erix! via Flickr.