Words Every PR Pro Should Know

This post is cross-posted from FW PRSA member, Lauren Fernandez’s blog

There are many words that every public relations professional should know. Below are four that I think you should never leave home without – preferably in a cool Johnny Bravo lunch pail.

high-five

Preparation

I’ve heard many say that a PR pro is only as good as their next pitch. But how do you get there? How do you make sure that your message is being heard; that the right outlets and correct beat reporters are receiving your pitch? You prepare and plan. Media plans are an effective tool when outlining your course of action. My media plans to detail this way.

  1. Date
  2. What type of outlets I’m pitching (National Radio, Local TV, blogs, etc)
  3. How I’m doing it (Pitch, Media Alert, etc.)
  4. Angle I’m taking
  5. 3 points I can touch on if I connect with a reporter

Media plans should also include your follow-up time, and if applicable, what you plan to do after the event occurs. Being prepared to pitch a press release is important as well. You will, at best, have 30 seconds to hook a reporter. If it is filled with ‘uhms’ and stammers, the likelyhood that a reporter will continue to listen to you is pretty non-existent. You don’t sound prepared or knowledgeable, and a reporter views you as their first source and connection to a possible story. If they have a hard time with you, that will cast the first impression on your client. Even if it’s a great story, if you can’t get it out, it means nothing.

Evaluation

The best laid out plans need to be consistently evaluated throughout the process. You need to be able to demonstrate value by setting benchmarks and continuously measuring the impact. If it’s not working, change it. A media plan is not set in stone. A reporter hates the idea? Maybe you are pitching the wrong beat. You aren’t gaining any traction? It could be because you’re not hitting the target audience appropriately. If you continiously evaluate your success and learn from the failures, your plan will go consistently smoother and shows that you can project manage efficiently.

Concise

The two most important skills (in my opinion) for a PR pro to have are writing and research. Writing should be concise and tight, and get straight to the point. Remember the 30 second rule? You need to be able to grab a reporter’s attention in the first two sentences. I joke that PR pros have to be ADD because they are constantly switching projects or getting new ideas, and reporters are no different – I had a reporter friend that said unless they can see me sitting in front of them in a cute dress and smiling, they probably will have an image of me in their head as a robot talking/writing to them. If your writing doesn’t follow the basic principles (yes, including AP Style) you will be viewed as incompetent by the reporter. It doesn’t matter if you have the best hook in the world – if it isn’t written well and tight, you might as well forget getting a placement.

Confidence

It seems to be a no brainer, but you have to exude confidence in your professional role. You are the expert. You know the client well and should be passionate about the topic. If you are nervous, a reporter will pick up on that. They will probably ask you harder questions and try to find the “juicy juice” because they think you might slip. Before you pitch a reporter, practice. Write down a few sentences, or opening lines, on your computer to refer to when you’re on the phone. Bullet some key points to hit on. Practice in front of the mirror. Pull a co-worker aside and have them fire questions at you. Send a news release to someone who has no link to the company and ask them if they would be interested in reading a story on it. This will give you the confidence that you can pitch a release and have a great story for a reporter to pick up on.

So, what words do you never leave home without?

Public Relations Roles explained through Baseball Positions

CJ Wilson of the Texas Rangers pitching

This post is cross-posted on the Next Communications blog.

In honor of the start of the 2009 Major League Baseball season, I thought it might be fun to create a listing of the roles and functions for public relations by baseball positions.

  1. Pitcher (P) – In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throws the baseball from the pitcher’s mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter who attempts to either make contact with it or draw a walk. In PR, the pitching role is one where the professional attempts to garner publicity or attention through effective media relations.
  2. Catcher (C) – Positioned behind home plate, the catcher can see the whole field; therefore, he is in the best position to direct and lead the other players in a defensive play. In PR, this is role of strategy. Like a catcher, the PR professional sees the big picture where they understand that actions will lead to specific reactions.
  3. First baseman (1B) – A first baseman is the player on the team playing defense who fields the area nearest first base. In PR, this is the role of first response. The initial response to problems and/or crisis will make or break the situation.
  4. Second baseman (2B) – The second baseman often possesses quick hands and feet, the ability to get rid of the ball quickly, and must be able to make the pivot on a double play. In PR, this role is of measured quickness. A public relations professional helps to protect reputation and vital relationships when an organization is under attack.
  5. Third baseman (3B) – Third base is known as the “hot corner”, because the third baseman is relatively close to the batter and most right-handed hitters tend to hit the ball hard in this direction. In PR, this is the role of coordination and quick reactions that comes with experience from having to catch hard line drives or difficult internal communication challenges.
  6. Shortstop (SS) – Shortstop is often regarded as the most dynamic defensive position in baseball so naturally the PR role is one of adaptability. The one constant is that things change, it is up to the public relations professional to be aware and keep up with the changing landscape of the profession, media, and organizational industry.
  7. Left fielder (LF) – Outfielders must cover large distances, so speed, instincts, and quickness in reacting to the ball are key. They must be able to learn to judge whether to attempt a difficult catch and risk letting the ball get past them, or to instead allow the ball to fall in order to guarantee a swift play and prevent the advance of runners. In PR, this role can be equated to good judgment. Professionals need to understand when not doing or saying something will provide the best benefit to the organization.
  8. Center fielder (CF) – The center fielder has the greatest responsibility among the three outfielders for coordinating their play to prevent collisions when converging on a fly ball, and on plays where he does not make the catch, he must position himself behind the corner outfielder in case the ball gets past him. In PR, this role is made up of the credibility a professional must possess in order to be an effective communicator to both internal and external audiences. Just like a center fielder, the PR professional needs excellent vision and depth perception.
  9. Right fielder (RF) – Of all outfield positions, the right fielder often has the strongest arm, because they are the farthest from third base. However, oftentimes, as in lower-levels of baseball, right field is the least likely to see much action because most hitters are right-handed and tend to pull the ball to the left field and center. In PR, this is the role of monitoring and measurement. Unfortunately, many professionals are not as up to speed in this area (me included) as we should do whatever it takes to learn how to measure. It requires additional work and research, but it is one of reward and justification for jobs well done.

Additional Positions

  • Designated Hitter (DH) – The designated hitter is the official position in the American League to bat in place of the pitcher. In PR, this is the role the understands the usefulness of social media for listening and engaging an organization’s community. The professional needs to fully grasp various aspects of the social web to reach audiences including, at times, as a way to by-pass the mainstream media.
  • Manager– A manager controls matters of team strategy on the field and team leadership. In Pr, it’s the same thing; coordination of play and tactical movements are integral for successful public relations.

Play Ball!

 

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Public relations being hurt by public’s cynicism about business

There were more than a few cringe-inducing moments in last night’s diatribe against public relations on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. It is illustrative of the populist sentiments of the moment fueled by the tsunami of bad economic news and unfortunate business practices.

I hear and understand what Ms. Maddow and others who are raising their voices in criticism of investing in PR are saying. She is not alone by any stretch. Chicago Mayor Richard Daily thisweek took steps to cancel 11 PR contracts with the city. His administration had come under criticism for wasteful spending and PR was the poster child.

It is important that we as a profession listen to these scathing critiques. It is clear that there is a difference between what we believe we do and what the public believes we do. That is a fact.

So what did Rachel say? Take a look:

 

Rachel Maddow does her best impression
of Keith Olberman

Well, at least I’m not part of Burson-Marsteller! I’m sure they didn’t like to see their brand linked to virtually every bad thing that’s happened in this decade.

Michael Cherenson, who heads the national board of the Public Relations Society of America has written on this subject as well in his post, “An Ill-Considered View of AIG and Public Relations,” on the PRSAY blog.

“I…doubt very seriously that AIG is engaging public relations firms to soothe the taxpayers’ souls, or portray the company as just another innocent victim in the current economic meltdown. My guess, as it would be in any crisis, is that the reputable and highly qualified public relations firms working on AIG’s behalf are tasked with explaining what happened, what AIG is doing to fix it, why such steps will be effective, and why those steps will prevent future such occurrences. Only then can the process of rebuilding AIG shattered image begin.”

Even with the laundry list of “evil” that Maddow read, public relations can play an important role — not in seeking to manipulate or distract attention — but in helping an organization understand how it needs to change in order to rebuild trust. We help organizations align what they do with what they say they do. And we provide a clear understanding of what the public wants and needs from them so they can make the necessary adjustments in their attitudes and behaviors.

In times of trouble, organizations have a tendency to turn inward, which is almost never in the best interests of their communities. Public relations can be a catalyst for positive change and greater openness. How do we get that point across in an era of growing cynicism and distrust?

Using Wikis In Marketing And Media Relations

This is cross-posted from PRSA member Kay Colley’s Community blog. It is her presentation from the Best of the Southwest Communicators Conference last weekend. The conference was put on by the Texas Public Relations Association and PRSA Southwest District.

Wikis are really good tools to create community. Far better than blogs because they offer a more open environment and an egalitarian approach to participation. Check out this SlideShare presentation and let me know if you agree.

Go to Kay Colley’s presentation wiki.