The Public Relations Professional – Call Me Maybe
The year was 2006.The PR approach: Call Me….Maybe.
I remember picking up the phone, trying to act poised when really I was trying to keep the phone from shaking. I had my notes and the press release in front of me. I could hear my colleague’s voice in my head, “Be clear. Be concise. Make it count. You only have a few seconds. Give a great elevator pitch.”
I finally mustered up the courage and dialed the phone number of one of the most noteworthy technology reporters at the Boston Globe. He picked up the phone and said, “Tell me why I should give a shit?” I thought, ‘You have to be kidding me? This is how you answer the phone. What if I was your mother?’
I froze. I couldn’t talk; the words that sprang out of my mouth sounded like a fifth-grader reciting Shakespeare. But, somehow, I collected my thoughts, delivered my pitch and he requested the press release. Phew! My first big pitch and I was a step closer to getting my client covered in the Boston Globe. I immediately emailed the press release and anxiously awaited his reply. Would he write back to ask for an interview? Would he call?
This is what I like to the Hail Mary of media relations; the leave- it- to- chance approach. What I knew before I picked up that phone was a.) our client sold technology stuff and that b.) this specific outlet covered technology stuff and c.) the reporter on my list had written about technology stuff. What we knew– nothing (said in my head emphatically like Bill Cosby in Season 3, Vanessa’s Rich, 1:50)!
What we didn’t know – everything else. We didn’t have market research. We had no way of knowing if coverage would actually lead to sales conversions. And, we definitely didn’t know if the person who saw the article wanted to receive content from us in the future.
The above scenario is not meant to say that the only thing PR professionals were doing in 2005 was imploring for coverage. There has always been much strategic planning on how to connect community relations and guerrilla marketing efforts to employee relations and media opportunities. But, for some, this was their tactic.
The year is now 2012 (in case you forgot).
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently agreed in April, 2012 on the modernized definition of public relations: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” This definition is still pretty broad, but by including the words “process” and “relationships,” PRSA is trying to capture the dynamic social media has brought to the world of PR.
As public relations professionals in the 21st century, we all have much to learn. You must know the “old ways” while adopting a multitude of new online public relations strategies, embracing 24/7 social media and becoming a trusted expert in content marketing. (No big deal, right?)
If your job title is a version of one of the above, I recommend reading the three books below to get a better understanding of the must-have-skills requried to help your company succeed.
Collect Market Research
“Searchers aren’t an isolated demographic from the rest of your target audience. Searchers are your target audience. And they’re telling you exactly what will compel them to buy your products, engage with your company, and become your strongest advocates. The largest source of this data is through the major search engines, particularly Google…Just as valuable as the words they type are the ways they behave. Search engines know exactly what people click on after they enter a query.” Marketing in the Age of Google: Your Online Strategy is Your Business Strategy: Vanessa Fox.
“Historically, measurement has been a tough practice, even before social media came into the scene. PR professionals have worked tirelessly to show how public relations can lead to valuable business outcomes for an organization…many professionals decided this translated into impressions (eyeballs) and the value of media coverage…As you discover there are many metrics in social media, your need to show your social media measurement directly ties back to higher-level business goals – that is, reduction in expenses or increase in revenue.” Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional: Deirdre K. Breakenridge.
“Marketers are then flipping the funnel over entirely as they quickly learn that customer service, reputation management, branding, positioning, and public relations (PR) are occurring in digital channels as well as positioning, lead generation, and nurturing…Whatever digital platform you’re creating content for, ensure comments and feedback mechanisms are in place, easy to use, and monitored. This not only creates a platform for participation, it’s a gauge of how well you’re doing, what excites and interest your audience, and will doubtless feed in ideas for shaping and improving future content.” Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher – How to Use Content to Market Online and in Social Media: Rebecca Lieb.
Public relations will continue to transform. The changes that have arrived and continue to infiltrate our profession make it necessary for continuing education, but more importantly; these new technologies and shifts in thinking provide exciting opportunities to connect with our audiences on a deeper level. Those who embrace these new competencies will flourish; those who rely on the “Call Me Maybe” approach will be left behind.
What other resources have you used to continue your public relations education?