It occurred to me this past week that it was my 10th anniversary in public relations. After about a decade in public radio as an announcer, on-air tech, director and producer, I decided to move into a related communications profession to stretch my talents a bit and create- hopefully- an upward career trajectory.
It hasn’t all gone to plan– hello Internet bubble/goodbye Internet bubble, but I have not regretted my move, despite how much i loved working in radio.
So, I give over my weekly “Social Media Top 5″ to a “Public Relations Top 10″ – the top lessons I have taken from my years in the profession so far:
- Public Relations is Not Evil: We in the industry fight that perception every day, and PR could do much better PR for PR. I recognize that every day I walk into a bar with a lawyer and a car salesman I am literally acting out an old joke. Public relations is advocacy, and that is an adjustment from the supposedly “neutral” world of journalism. However, PR done honestly is advocacy in the interest of making good content. If we take the attitude we are helping reporters (and the reporters see it that way), it’s actually quite fun.
- Public Relations is a Media Job, Not a Sales Job: People will disagree with this, but it depends on what you are comfortable with. As a media guy, I always resented the attitude that getting a PR placement is “closing a sale.” What an awful, cynical way to look at your profession (let’s forget that in some ways it’s true). Successful PR pitches tell stories, as do the resulting placements. Want to make a journalist hate you? Treat your pitch like a sales cold call.
- A Good Rolodex does not Equal Good PR: I have blogged about this elsewhere, but it bears repeating: good relationships are essential, but in the end they only get people to return your calls. If you do not have a good, relevant pitch, you are nothing. Yes, build those relationships, but remember that even of the reporter is your friend, to get a placement you need to build a rapport based on your pitch, not based on being buddies.
- Brief is better: Creative writing is not just about being clever. In PR It’s more about framing a pitch to get attention. That usually means being brief and organizing your information to get your eye or ear. Bullet points, “Twitter-ized” headlines, and easy to find fact nuggets and supporting materials are the key to readability, not a great analogy. That said, clever can put you over the top- but clever is the icing, not the cake.
- Phone? Email? (and IM? Twitter? Facebook?): I have seen too many PR managers stress phone over other forms of contact (correctly) but without context (wrong). Phone is the best weapon, but in many situations it is the “nuclear option.” What is your pitch? What is the urgency? Know how your target media wants to be contacted and what kind of messages they should get.
- What Goes Around Comes Around: I loved producing audio. When podcasting came around, I was in hog heaven, able to put my old skills to use, albeit in a new, stripped-down setting. The social media movement has opened my industry to more types of content creation, and it is exciting to watch this part of PR grow and find itself.
- Networking is Business and Career Magic: This isn’t actually a PR-related point, but my realization of networking, and my getting better at it, coincided with my growth in my new field. Networking builds confidence and reputation. Online networking, of course, has exploded in the last few years, but as I have noted many times, cementing relationships– with peers, with potential clients, with media members– by meeting with them whenever possible has been invaluable. And one other way to look at it– you are not just getting to meet people, they are getting to meet you.
- The Industry is Changing- Embrace What’s Next, or What Might Be: In many of these points I touch on the effect of social media on me and my industry. What is most important about my involvement in social media is that it represents involvement in something ahead of its full adoption by the industry. The question to ask now is “What should we be looking for next?” while at the same time perfecting integration of social media into standard PR practice.
- No One is Smarter than YOU: Hand-in-hand with increased networking (above), realizing you can teach other people things– or at least they will listen to your opinions– is something I have grown to appreciate. Blogging and other social media, again, have made the opportunities to think out loud easy and plentiful, but the willingness to put them out there is the big obstacle.
- Embrace the Industry Leaders: Talk to them, trade knowledge, and become part of the crew, whether or not they are competitors. Whether they are industry figures like Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson or Jeremy Pepper, colleagues like Todd Van Hoosear, Adam Zand, Terry Frechette or Chuck Tanowitz, competitors like Christine Perkett and her crew as well as many of the former colleagues already listed, or employers who saw enough in me to give me a job like Tony Sapienza and Paula Slotkin and of course my current boss (one of them I should add), Todd Defren, there is a lot of knowledge and opinion out there to share.
Yes, I’m leaving lots of people off the list from #10, including many people I have a lot of respect for in the social media world who are not necessarily strictly PR folks. Feel free to speak up for yourself– in fact, comments can be #11. Here’s to more years in the industry.
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* Cake photo by “diongillard”