This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend “The Reality of PR: A Survivor’s Guide to the Public Relations World,” our PRSSA regional activity, hosted by Penn State PRSSA. Besides meeting lots of great young professionals from other chapters, I had the opportunity to hear from multiple PR speakers from across the region. Below are my favorite top tips from each of the speakers I attended:
Reality tip #1: PR pros must learn how to craft the conversation. –> Public relations is increasingly a field focused on two-way communication, a conversation tailored to appeal to a target audience. As a PR professional, you must know how to create and own your conversation. The first step is listening, which allows you to better understand the desires of your target audience. Once you listen, learn to personalize your outreach to that group; avoid anything generic and general. Provide plenty of details in your personalized outreach. Finally, be persistent. (Learn the skill of being assertive, but not aggressive!) And, if your message is hijacked, learn to stay the course — don’t panic, stay positive, and don’t deviate from your original message.
Tip courtesy of Michael Hinman, Account Executive & Media Manager at Environmental PR Group
Reality Tip #2: Strive to create “Milkshake Moments.” –> The “Milkshake Moment” is adapted from the Steven Little’s book “The Milkshake Moment: Overcoming Stupid Systems, Pointless Politics, and Muddled Management to Realize Real Growth.” In his book, he describes calling room service at hotels he visits and asks for a milkshakes. Most places do not offer this on their menu, so most will apologize and say they do not have that available. However, most places have the materials necessary to make the milkshakes; they have ice cream, milk, and chocolate syrup. Those working in the kitchen either do not want to take the time to make the milkshake/figure out the pricing or they simply think that if it’s not on the menu, they can’t make it. As a PR professional, we have a duty to our customers to figure out how to give them what we want. We must learn to be problem-solvers and critical-thinkers so that we can be successful in that “milkshake moment!”
Tip courtesy of Linda Burkley, President of Ardis Communications LLC
Reality Tip #3: Develop your photography skills. –> In small, sometimes one-person, PR departments, the PR professional is expected to be the in-house jack-of-all-trades: copywriter, event planner, media relations specialist, branding expert, graphic designer, etc. Being able to take photos is an important part of your skill set, especially if you are part of a small PR department. It’s important to provide photos along with your news releases or to post of your website, so you must be able to know what constitutes a decent photograph. Dig out your digital camera and start clicking!
Tip Courtesy of Laura England, Executive Vice President of Communications at Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association
Reality Tip #4: Part of a PR professional’s job is to help the journalists. –> As a PR practitioner, you must learn to develop your media relations skills. Most importantly, you must be ethical and credible when dealing with the media. If you chose to be unethical, you are not only hurting the reputation of yourself and your company, but you are also likely to lose the trust of the media, which means they won’t come back to you in the future. Being unethical is almost automatically grounds for severing a relationship with journalists. Learn how to deal with the media in an ethically sound and correct way. Don’t be afraid to use phrases such as “no comment” or “that decision has not been made yet” if there is really nothing else to say.
Tip Courtesy of Bill Epstein, Director of Communications at the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1776
Reality Tip #5: One of the best PR tools is the words “I’m sorry.” –> For a variety of different reasons, we often forget that saying “I’m sorry” can go a long way. “I’m sorry” indicates that we have made a mistake, which is not always ideal in a legalistic sense, but may in fact strengthen our relationships with various publics and individuals. Asking for forgiveness is a key way to show that our organization is human just like the individuals we are apologizing to.
Tip courtesy of Patricia Whalen, assistant professor at DePaul University; part of the Ben Bronstein Lecture in Ethics