Virgin on brilliant – the 5 words I used to introduce Richard Branson

I’d just finished registering the press ahead of a Richard Branson keynote speech at a major business show, there were already 60 in the room and rising.

No surprise. Branson is a dream for journalists and an absolute PR natural. What was a surprise was that he didn’t have a PR officer attending to conduct the press conference itself.

There was no apparent solution until it began to dawn on me that I should conduct it. After all, I had been a business journalist myself and already had over a decade of PR experience.

So, in words Branson himself uses I stepped up: “Screw it, let’s do it”.

I introduced myself to his PA and waited on the stage for Richard to arrive. He duly did to a thunderous round of applause, full of smiles, reclining in his chair. How does one introduce one of the most famous business figures of all time?

“You might recognise this chap” is not the classic I had expected to tumble out of my mouth but it worked.

The room relaxed and we went on to discuss anything from global business to negotiating with the Rolling Stones. I was reminded of the episode whilst on holiday (from where I am writing this column, hence the picture) reading his classic autobiography “Losing My Virginity”.

The book is peppered with anecdotes about his relationship with the press, good and bad but what he makes look effortless is also a carefully considered strategy.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Most companies don’t acknowledge the press and have a tiny press office tucked away out of sight. If an inaccurate story appears…and is allowed to run…it becomes fact. Then, every time your product is mentioned, this same story will be repeated”. 

The lesson here, yes, Branson is a natural at PR, a maverick even but he still ensures he has safeguards in place. So in 2017, I’d urge you to be more Branson. Be creative and proactive with your PR (PLEASE) but also ensure you have the ability to react. Most of all in 2017, if you have been holding back, waiting for someone else to make their move, stop it now.

In other words, “screw it, let’s do it!”