21st Century public relations

I wouldn’t say this was the world’s best video, but it does make a few good points.

1. Writing well is the single most important foundation skill for PR practitioners.
2. Knowing your client’s business (which includes knowing what’s going on in your client’s industry and in the business world in general) is the single greatest value add you get when you hire a PR firm or public relations professional.
3. Love the line about needing a ‘spine or a backbone to tell clients what they need to hear.’ This is about managing expectations: ‘tell them some things that they may not want to hear.’

Managing expectations can be either a pleasant or an unpleasant task, depending on what your client’s expectations are. If it’s front-page/top story mainstream media coverage, the client is a local start-up with a web site, and you’ve realized, by following mainstream and social media for years that the tide is turning and journalists have become bored with topic (as happened during the dotcom bust), you need to manage the client’s expectations downwards and remind them that PR is a process, and good results don’t happen instantaneously.

If it’s a client who assures you that this isn’t a good day/week/month/year to get media coverage, expectations may need to be managed upwards. There are still slow news days. You don’t know whether you’re going to be successful unless – and until – you try. Public relations professionals read, view, analyze, and interact with media all the time. Let me blunt here: if you hire someone to put a new roof on your house, do you micromanage your roofer? Instead of micromanaging your public relations consultant and contradicting them at every turn based on your sporadic reading/viewing of local media, take the time to find a consultant you trust. And then trust them to know what they’re doing.

Here’s a great paragraph from Inmedia Public Relations:

…[T]he role of advocate is more than simply conveying our clients’ stories to the outlets that matter. We must also be willing to impress upon clients the agendas, or the simple realities, of the markets we are trying to reach on their behalf. What elements of their story must we have to effectively attract and retain the attention of the media we are targeting? What works? What doesn’t? How is the way the client wants to approach things more of a hindrance than a help to our efforts? To adequately serve our clients, we must deliver frank and honest counsel that sometimes includes feedback from the marketplace that may be painful to hear.

And finally, my response to one of GG Johnston’s 2009 PR predictions. The Denver consultant said:

The debate will rage on about whether or not PR firms can participate in online conversations on behalf of their clients. Would we call and pretend to actually be our clients in one-on-one conversations on the phone? No, certainly not. So, why would we pretend to actually be our clients on blogs, micro-blogs and forums? The answer is, we wouldn’t.

To which I replied:

In the same way we have to media train our clients, we need to provide them with social media training and alert them to social media opportunities they’re not aware of/not maximizing. It’s really no different than creating an editorial calendar and pitching mainstream media – we never did the interviews for clients either, did we?


About ruthseeley

Ottawa born, Toronto educated, lived in the Lower Mainland and southern AB for more than a decade. Passionate about community, democracy, and good books. Fond of the Oxford comma.
This entry was posted in client service, media relations, public relations, Social media. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 21st Century public relations

  1. Ruth:

    Happy new year and thanks for the inmedia plug. I think the key thing is to find that delicate balance between impressing upon the client how much bloody hard work often takes place behind the scenes for every successful media hit without sounding like you’re trying to protect your behind against unsatisfactory results.


  2. ruthseeley says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Leo, and indeed – will our days of stuffing press kits at midnight evah be over? 😉

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