Tanya Hall | Crain's Austin

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Tanya Hall

Background:  

Greenleaf Book Group is a hybrid publisher and distributor focused primarily on non-fiction authors. The company has published more than 35 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-sellers, including "The Reboot with Joe Juice Diet" by Joe Cross and "Positive Intelligence" by Shirzad Chamine. 

The Mistake:  

Bashing our competitors while I worked at E! to try to get an exclusive from a publicist.

There was a pretty intense lesson I learned back when I worked at E! When you work at E! you are third-rate in publicist's mind, and the job I did involved nurturing relationships with publicists and trying to get access to their clients. 

At some point, someone in the higher-up ranks decided that the reason we were not getting more exclusives was because we were not bashing our competitors enoughThe higher-ups circulated these statistics that were pieces of spin, that you knew were a stretch when you looked at them, about other shows like "Entertainment Tonight" and "Extra." And we were supposed to use them to move the conversation back in favor of giving an exclusive to E!  

We were given orders to go and get exclusives. I got on the phone with publicist and I had my little piece of paper in front of me with terrible things to say about my competitors. And when the time sort of felt right, I went for it. "You're not planning to give that to 'Access Hollywood' because ..." and added the statistic was about how long their viewers watch.  

And there was dead silence on the other end. I knew right away that it had backfired. And the publicist just said, "They don’t do that to you guys. I suggest you don’t behave that way."  

It was so clear that I had committed this major faux pas and I said, "You're right. I won't do that again. I'm sorry."  

Bashing your competitor just calls your own character and integrity into question. 

The Lesson: 

I was never able to get a second of that publicist's time again. And needless to say, I did not get any exclusive out of that particular call.  

It became quickly apparent that bashing your competitors just calls your own character and integrity into question. And certainly, in most cases, is not going to do anything to help you. After that point, instead of bashing our competitors I decided to try to play up the strong parts about E! which in our case was our work with multiple shows.

Changing my strategy to a more creative negotiation and trying to make it mutually beneficial for the publicist and E! helped. 

Follow Tanya Hall on Twitter at: @tanyahall. 

Pictured: Tanya Hall | Photo courtesy of Greenleaf Book Group. 

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