Keeping the Relations in Public Relations

Last month, PR 2.0 pundits Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge launched a new book titled, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR. In summarizing the book, Mr. Solis states on his website:

What we’ve learned and what we know (about PR) are quickly fading into irrelevance and obscurity. Reporters and analysts are now sharing the stage with a new generation of influencers. In addition to a still relevant process of media relations, we now need to expand our scope of participation and outreach by also identifying, understanding, and engaging the everyday people who have plugged-in to a powerful and democratized online platform for creating and distributing information, insight, and opinions – effectively gaining authority in the process.”

While it’s true the PR game is changing half-hourly with new communication tools, media resources and most importantly, the emergence of social media “influencers” whose reach often exceeds that of any major journalist, it’s imperative to maintain and build off core PR values and practices.

So before I plunge into Mr. Solis and Ms. Breakenridge’s pert publication (I ordered it), offered is a list of traditional PR actions and behaviors  to make you more likable and fortuitous as you shape your part of the social and traditional media galaxies.

  • Cold Call – It’s often best to start with, “Do you have a minute?” and proceed accordingly. The key is a complimentary or germane statement about something they’ve written and you have read followed immediately by the pitch. 87% of time you’ll get a voicemail so be concise in a positive, upbeat tone and send a follow-up email to let them know they can respond either way. Very few people will find it intrusive if you’ve absorbed their work.
  • Ask Questions –  It’s a two-way street and learning from the press or influencers (including certain gossip) will help enhance relationships. Information fed to a client can be as valuable as any media.
  • Challenge a Viewpoint – Do so respectfully and only if there is sound reasoning to support your argument. If it is a factual error, wield saber and mace until the offending party relents and offers a correction.
  • Offer Guest Editorials – The challenge to satisfy a 24-hour news cycle has created more opportunities to control the whole message in a non-promotional(ish) way. The story idea is the key and having a C-level “by line” doesn’t hurt, especially if “the writer” has presentable background knowledge on the topic. The topic should be compelling while relevant to your client in the present or near future. It also works for guest blog entries.
  • Make a Funny – This is more appropriate when a contact has been established and you want to register more on their radar. Humor can’t be forced but most people in any profession enjoy a hearty guffaw and it’s more about being opportunistic. The best approach is often a brief, self-deprecating anecdote or comment about something work-related and it must be kept squeaky clean. It’s not for everyone but if you can make someone laugh, they are more likely to stay engaged or engage more often. 
  • Practice Listening – People on the other side have pets that get sick too, and sometimes, you’re the only one that’s available to hear about it. Embrace these opportunities, it’s therapy and relationship building.
  • Poll an Idea Without Pitching – Gather opinions on a topic or concept without expecting or asking for anything in return. Use the knowledge gained and go forth into the world with a higher level of enlightenment. Facebook and Twitter make this really easy too. Darn you 2.0!
  • Write a Thank You Note – I know, paper = murder but you can always buy cards made from recycled materials. A simple, personal, hand-written note is more tangible than a “props tweet” any day and has the greatest effect when completely unexpected. The cards make the most sense after a dinner or face to face engagement.
  • Trade Lascivious Favors for Editorial – I’M KIDDING! Sheesh, lighten up a bit. While potentially effective, such an act is a depraved means of getting media coverage and is certainly not condoned by this agency.

PR and social media are part of an ever-changing landscape and PRos must have the ability to reinvent themselves while maintaining what has proven successful in the past. Fluent writing and communication skills will always be stalwarts of PR, but companies now have to respect the power of viral videos and influencers who can start a tempest or craze in two-and-a-half minutes or under 140 characters.

While popular opinion suggests the world begins and ends with social media, it’s valuable to have a grasp of the basics along with a memorable sense of style and personality to support all the compelling ideas and useful support you provide media and influencers.

Posted by: Nick B.

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