With 10 years PR experience, I’ve learned a few things. Thanks to some great bosses, media contacts and friends, I’ve tried to distil it down to 10 key points. Hopefully they give new PRs some insight, and they might even give some old dogs a reminder.
(In no particular order):
1. Read long-form
The internet and click-bait in particular means we’re constantly consuming small chunks of not much (even though it’s fun). Take the time to read features and longer-form articles. Knowing a lot about a subject (or at least more than others at the table) gives you insight and puts you in a better position to give expert advice to your clients. Another geeky and slightly embarrassing tip for becoming well-read – listen to AM radio and the BBC World Service, not just commercial stations.
2. Insight is everything
Speaking of insight, this is what grounds a strategy. Do your research, ask people for their opinion, watch how they behave and react to a product, service or challenge. Gather your insights together and ask yourself: what does this tell me and how can it inform my strategy?
3. Make the story work for all channels
I was at a breakfast where Bauer Media’s Deborah Thomas spoke. When asked about what she likes in a pitch she said: “It’s not just about the magazine”. So think about how the same pitch can work on a website, Instagram, Facebook and in video. Work out timings and how each channel relates.
4. Look outside your bubble
I remember a statistic that said more Sydney communications people had eaten at North Bondi Italian (when it existed) than had been to Parramatta. Where are your clients’ audiences? What motivates them? What media do they consume? A pretty event in South Yarra for the people you see at every other event versus the same money invested in a targeted campaign in Caroline Springs? Weigh it up.
5. It’s ok to say no
It’s hard to say no, but if you say yes to everything, you’ll often get overwhelmed. A really great piece to read is Who’s Got the Monkey?. It’s a fantastic book that covers the meaning of managing time, as it relates to the interaction between managers and their bosses, peers, and subordinates. The monkey analogy is pretty cool too.
Everyone says this, but it’s so easy to get stuck behind the computer. Go to events, organise coffees, follow-up and thank guests after an event. Work hard on building relationships with a few key media-friends. The value of testing a story idea with a trusted contact can’t be underestimated.
7. Honesty and integrity
This is absolutely key to being a trusted source for your clients and the media. It can be tempting to tell people what they want to hear, but your job as a PR professional is to give well-informed advice and counsel. Over the years, I’ve learned that being transparent in this way leads to an ultimately better result and happier clients.
8. Work/life balance
I’ve often been guilty of emailing over the weekends or staying late, but I’ve found the older I get, the more I realise that the more time you invest outside of work, the happier you will be at work. Get better at time management, assess what your real priorities are and knock them over.
9. Pitch beats press release
The default option is to draft a release, tailor an email and blast it out. I try to avoid this. Instead, use the press release as a supporting document to a well-researched, snappy pitch. It may seem like this will take longer, but the success rate is much higher, especially with the increased time pressures facing journalists. Another option is to create a social media release – host it online with great images, video and other content. Still write a great pitch but direct media to this resource.
10. Understand social media, even if you don’t love it
The conversation has been happening and if you don’t have an understanding of social’s role in the PR mix, you’re missing a prime opportunity to directly engage with your clients’ audiences. In PR today, social communities are just another channel that should be considered as part of any comprehensive campaign strategy.
By Ben Handberg
Which PR tips have you picked up over the years? Share them with us!