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.
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.
- What type of outlets I’m pitching (National Radio, Local TV, blogs, etc)
- How I’m doing it (Pitch, Media Alert, etc.)
- Angle I’m taking
- 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.
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.
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.
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?