How to Handle Business Publicity at the Job

How to Handle Business Publicity at the Job, by Shirley George Frazier. All rights reserved.

It was a proud moment in my entrepreneurial life when I opened the local Sunday newspaper and saw my picture as the face of a weekend business event.

I was the owner of a gift business and believed that showcasing my gifts at this show was a smart marketing decision. My belief resulted in many sales and a decent amount of referral business in the coming months.

The business was just 1-1/2 years old and wasn’t lucrative enough to sustain my lifestyle, which means I still worked at a full-time job.

Moments after arriving at the job on Monday morning, an employee came to me with his newspaper in hand.

“Shirley, you’re in the paper!” he exclaimed, as if I didn’t know or hadn’t seen my picture. “What were you doing? You own a business?

The questions kept coming.

That person showed the paper to another worker, and more people came to my cubicle to announce they now knew about my pursuits.

No shame on my part

I owned a business and knew just about everything to say to prospects and customers wanting what I offered, but I hadn’t prepared for co-workers and their questions.

Thankfully, I was not ashamed of my media notoriety. Seeing my face and knowing that potential customers were reading the story was a triumph.

When you own a business, you have to market in whatever way gets the word out about your firm. That means there’s a chance that people employed at a company you still work at will ask questions if they see anything in the media related to you.

Thinking back, I was incensed about the questions. None of the employees were prospects or clients. They were nosy and had no business asking about anything I did outside of the job. Still, people ask, and before you find yourself in this position, you have to be ready to respond tactfully.

How to handle it

What you are creating with your business defines part of your life’s purpose. Be proud. However, decide in advance how much you’re willing to share with people who are not entrepreneurial, especially at a job.

If a boss learns about your outside pursuits (and trust me, the boss will find out from a menacing worker), be ready for questions in her closed-door office.

You have the right to pursue whatever you wish in life, and if the media comes calling, do not back away. Business is challenging, and getting media exposure is part of the glamour and risk you take to succeed.

Prepare your answers

Depending on the questions, you might respond with:

    • “Thanks, but it’s not something I talk about here.”
    • “I keep my personal and work lives separate, and I hope you can respect that.”
    “I don’t discuss at the job what I do on my own time, but thanks for your interest.”

Keep a level head when responding no matter what you say. Try to keep your anxiety down and positive energy high. You don’t want what you achieved for your business to be crushed by other people’s inquisitiveness.

Also important is realizing that you are now being watched closer than before. Your Internet use on the job may be monitored, and the same is true about your telephone usage. Of course, your cellphone is the go-to device, but any long-term time spent away from your desk will be questioned.

An employer might begin building a case for termination if it’s thought that you plan to leave, and that case may deny you unemployment benefits if you’re terminated before your business generates enough income to fund your lifestyle.

Live with no regrets

Remember, the publicity you pursue on your own time is your business. Go after media attention as often as possible. Do not stay away from opportunities unless you’re so concerned about employment that you can’t take a chance on losing that job.

Stay mindful, though, that a job can be terminated at any time. You don’t want to think back and say, “I could have ______” or “I wish I had ______.”

Looking back at the above picture and accompanying article, published in the summer of 1992, I would do it all over again. Why Business Ownership is Your Next Goal is worthwhile to read as you prepare for your own media fame. The only change I’d make would be preparing for the onslaught of questions from co-workers who felt it was okay to hound me about my pursuits during non-working hours.

How would you handle questions at a job about your entrepreneurial ventures?

©ShirleyGeorgeFrazier. All rights reserved.

About Admin

Shirley George Frazier is an author and speaker on small business, marketing, and content creation. She is also the world's expert on the gift basket industry. Call Shirley at 973-279-2799 or email to invite her to speak at your next online or in-person event.


  1. Shirley,

    This post brings back memories of the days when I began my gift basket business while I was still a full-time professor. I was careful to never promote my business to my colleagues, although some of them asked about my service and placed orders.

    As my business began to grow and I was appearing at public venues, however, I decided that I’d rather be the one to tell my dean about my business before a malicious and jealous colleague told her. So, when I was invited to do a presentation at a Borders Bookstore in a city adjacent to the school, I met with my dean to tell her briefly about my “hobby”. I did it that way, not because it was her business what I did in my own time, but for all the reasons you mentioned above.

    I didn’t fear being fired, but I did realize that colleagues can be vindictive if they are threatened by what they perceive as your success. Sometimes they can make things uncomfortable in the work environment. One custodian, for example, upon learning about my side business, stopped me as I walked across campus, “Are you trying to make ALL the money?” WHAT? A custodian I saw only a few times in my 20-year career! News of my business had spread widely indeed! I guess because my designs WERE gorgeous, he and others assumed I was making a “killing” and that I must be greedy to have a full-time career and a side career.

    I covered this and other issues of handling a business while still working full-time in an ebook a few years ago. It’s important for readers to heed your advice about keeping the two separate, but at the same time not be deterred from excelling at both. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Hi Flora,

    The custodian’s question (really a rant) has me laughing loudly. How dare you be talented in more areas than teaching, right?

    Your pro-active approach, informing the dean about your side enterprise, was indeed smart. Thinking back, I could not have told my supervisor. Your environment was more tolerant where mine was not, which is a shame (my situation) for too many entrepreneurs.

    I’m very glad you weighed in on this so creative people can decide which option is better for them, their stress level, and future outlook with or without the corporate job.

  3. This is interesting. I’d have never thought about people needing to figure out a way to announce their business at work unless it was a bit dodgy. I guess I always assumed they’d know somehow and it wouldn’t be a big deal, unless it was in direct competition with their workplace.

  4. Hi Mitch,

    This situation is a delicate balancing act for more employees than we imagine. Each of us has the right to pursue the lifestyle we wish. However, some bosses want to also be boss over your non-working life, and some co-workers want you to stay with them, never rising to a better way of living.

    This is why entrepreneurs must decide to either stay silent about their side businesses or mention just enough to cover themselves in case of publicity.

    A business in direct competition with the employed industry is a whole other conversation. I can only imagine the problems arising from that exposure.

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