A Year and a Half in PR

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I have been slacking on my posts! I have now been working in the Public Relations department of an Advertising Agency for almost a year and a half. Here is what I have learned about Public Relations since graduating college.

In college I learned that public relations is a planned process to influence public opinion, through sound character and proper performance, based on mutually satisfactory two-way communication. I can thank my PR professor for drilling that into my head.

PR is a Planned Process:

The first thing that I have learned since being in the work force is that if the process is not planned it’s not going to be effective. Here is an example. I was in charge of doing community outreach for a small event for one of clients. I had several clients at the time and this event wasn’t a huge priority. Since it wasn’t on the top of my mind I didn’t start reaching out to media until it was too late. PR professionals can’t expect to send information late and then expect the journalist to publish information about the event on short notice. Journalists have deadlines too.

I work with magazines and their editorial deadlines are months before the issues print. I contacted a magazine editor in December about content for their April issue. I was able to secure an interview and coverage. This would not have happened if I reached out in March. The editor would have already written the story and had the necessary sources.

Two-Way Communication: Journalists like Emails, Don’t you?

Sometimes it can be hard to process large amounts of information during a phone call. When pitching reporters ALWAYS send an email before calling. If you call and ask them to write about your new product or amazing event, the first thing they are going to say is, “Please send me an email with all the details.”

I have tried this and it doesn’t work. Send an email and if you don’t hear back follow up with a polite conversation phone call. There are two reasons why the reporter probably didn’t call you back. One, they saw the email and didn’t think the idea was newsworthy or relevant and deleted it. Two, it got buried because they receive hundreds of emails a day. There have been times when I followed up it worked out great. There have been other times when I could tell they were audibly annoyed I was following up. It’s part of the game.

Journalists and PR: Love, Hate Relationship

Since I have started working in PR I have had the chance to speak with many reporters and editors. The feelings toward PR are obviously mixed. There are reporters that absolutely hare PR and don’t like receiving pitches. There are reporters that don’t hate PR, but they like it when it works to their benefit. Then there are the reporters how have no idea what PR professionals do.

I am sure there are many different other feelings toward PR that can be placed in between, however this is what I have experienced. I would be happy to know your thoughts below in the comments.

I was an editor before and I have received tons of terrible pitches so I totally understand each of the feelings I have described above. The best way to help cultivate relationships with reporters is to send good thought-out, newsworthy pitches. They may not be able to cover it every time, but that’s where the relationship starts. This leads me to my last point, research.

Research Before Sending Pitches

This sounds obvious, but it is very important. I learned this lesson the hard way. About a month into my job I sent a pitch to a Huffington post contributing writer. I skimmed (did not fully read) some of her articles and I felt I had a good grasp of her stance on a subject. I sent her a pitch and she ripped me apart. I didn’t’ read enough because the stance I thought she had was the exact opposite. She ended up writing a nasty post about me on her blog and said that I didn’t look old enough to be working in PR. This hurt. I apologized and she responded with “ignorance is no excuse.”

Keep this in mind while pitching. Make sure you ask all the necessary questions before pressing send on that pitch. Asking one more good questions could save you a lot of time, and embarrassment. The reporter even took my LinkedIn profile picture and put it in the blog post! Don’t let this happen to you.

Hopefully you have been able to learn a little bit from my experiences. If you have had different experience with PR I would love to hear them.

 

 

Nothing is ever free, except in PR

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With so many news outlets and different sources it can be intimidating to try and gain their attention for your company or PR campaign.

Have you ever had to pay for a journalist for an article? You better not have.

PR is generally free. What I mean is that you shouldn’t be paying people to get earned media. It needs to be earned, not paid for.  If the PR campaign is exciting enough newspapers, TV stations and other media outlets will pick up on the campaign and cover it.

Obviously there are the costs that go with producing a PR campaign, but it is nothing like advertising. Millions and billions of dollars are pumped in to companies talking about themselves. In PR, other people are talking about your company. Now that’s credibility.

I have the unique perspective of being a journalist while studying public relations. I see both sides. I am one of the editors for the school newspaper.

Once in awhile I will have someone come up to me and say we (a college department) want to work with the school newspaper and get a lot of articles in the paper this semester. I then ask them what they were thinking of doing, this is usually followed by a blank stare like I am supposed to have the ideas.

Don’t say you want to work with someone and come with ZERO ideas. Like I said it’s earned media, there has to be some work done.

As an editor I want current, timely and new material. I don’t want to write about a boring event that is going to happen. If you want the article or PR then you have to do the work and we the journalists will do the rest.

It is really interesting studying PR while working as an editor. I see the use of press releases, but if that subject line doesn’t stand out or if the email is constructed terribly I just delete it. Granted I do this and I don’t even get that many press releases. Imagine an editor who gets hundreds a day? He is definitely less patient.

Currently I am working on a PR campaign for Circle of Love, a local bridal and formal wear store in Rexburg, Idaho. We want to get an article in the paper about the owners and the event we are going to be having. However, this event isn’t going to anything that is really newsworthy or amazing.

On the flip side, if I give it an angle that an editor will like it could potentially become newsworthy and relevant. For example, the owners of Circle of Love own a lot of buildings downtown. Those buildings are over 100 years old and were once Hotels and other stores. My pitch could be something like this.

“Buildings that are over 100 years old in downtown Rexburg are not being used for their original purposes. Buildings that were once hotels are getting a face lift. The owners of Circle of Love are revamping them and turning them in 21st century building of business. There will be an open house on March 9th from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. to show off their store Circle of Love. There will be free food, raffles, grab bags for the first 25 people and lots of great deals on a bunch of items.”

Not the greatest pitch, but definitely more interesting than “Hey we are having a cool event can you cover it?”

You should have to work for your earned media, not buy it.

Remember that if your idea isn’t worth writing about that is not the editor’s fault, it’s yours.

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Make sure that it is timely, newsworthy and exciting. Most of all remember that we shouldn’t be entitled. Earned media is not a hand out, hence the name earned in earned media.