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What’s More Important: Your Story…Or How You Tell It?

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It’s the Public Relations version of the chicken and the egg debate. What factor carries more weight when it comes to effectively communicating a story or message? Is it the quality of content or is it how you present it and to whom?

I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. As a Public Relations consultant, I’ve had to. At the core of what I do is help people write and share their personal or professional “stories.” After nearly a decade, I think I have the answer. Before what I share what it is, I first want to make a few things clear.

Even the best story won’t get noticed if…

It’s not told. This may sound more obvious than helpful, but it’s where so many people get stuck – the beginning. It’s challenging to put something into words, especially when that “something” is important to you. Conversely, you may think you’ve told your story or shared your message, but it doesn’t accurately capture the emotion or value you want to convey. If a story is not told, or told correctly it will never get the attention it deserves.

It’s hard to understand. Even if you put into words everything you want to say, that doesn’t mean that it is content that will get noticed. If your story is poorly written it will be hard to grasp the core message. It also won’t be enjoyable to read, which will turn people off before they get too far in.

It’s irrelevant. One of the easiest ways to annoy people is to waste their time with a story or message that is irrelevant to their interests or purposes. Worse yet, this can negatively impact your reputation and cause people to tune you out even if you do have a valuable message to share with them later on.

Even the most clever presentation will be ignored if…

It’s lacking a real story. All the glitz and graphics in the world won’t overshadow a story that has no real story. I most often see this when clients want media attention for something that’s not really newsworthy. No matter how you spin it, you’re just not going to get national media coverage for hiring a new account executive at your mid-sized firm.

It’s hitting the wrong audience. Think of what you’re trying to sell and who is most likely to buy it. It’s important to meet your target audience where they are. How do they consume media? If you’re trying to share the story of your fashion business with a local sports reporter, the chances are just about 100% that they are not interested in publishing it – at least under their column. When pulling media lists or targeting a demographic, check and re-check that you’re hitting the right audience.

It doesn’t provide value to others. If the story you’re telling is solely self-promotional, you’re not going to connect with your readers. As humans, we need to know what’s in it for us. It’s perfectly fine to have some personal gain from the story, but this needs to accompanied by a component of service, helpfulness, insight or entertainment.

The Answer

As your gut might tell you, it takes both a strong story and powerful presentation to have the best possible outcome. Either of these on their own simply isn’t enough. Throughout my career I have seen examples that reinforce this conclusion again and again. A client will come to me wanting to gain media attention for something that simply isn’t newsworthy. There’s no angle or reason anyone else would care about that particular topic. It sounds harsh, but my job is to be honest and, at times, deliver the hard truth. After all, it can save a client both money and frustration.

Or the opposite might be true. They have a great story to tell, newsworthy through and through, but the way in which it was crafted doesn’t do it justice. A story told poorly might as well be a story that is never told, because you’re not really telling the true story. It’s hidden. In this instance, there is something I can do to help. When a client comes to me with a genuinely good story to tell, it’s like striking gold. It’s extremely fulfilling when I’m able to set the story free and get it in front of the right people to amplify its reach.

If you feel you have a story to tell, keep in mind that it takes both solid content and smart dissemination to effectively share your message. That’s not to say every story or message needs to be the wittiest, most captivating thing people will ever read, but at minimum it needs to hit the points I mentioned above.

And if you’re still not sure if you have an interesting story to tell, or that it’s not being shared as well as it could be, ask a professional communicator! We know what to look for…and we’ll give you the good, the bad and the ugly.

What untold story do you have to tell? Practice your “pitch” by leaving a teaser in the comments below!

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Posted by on February 11, 2019 in Business, Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Bring Media Attention to Your Place of Business

how to bring media attention to your place of business

If your business has a brick and mortar location, it could be highly valuable to earn on-site media coverage to showcase your space and give your customers better insight into what you do and who you are. But how does a business attract media attention? If you’re among the lucky few, the media might find you; however this is not commonly the case!

Instead, you need to take matters into your own hands by developing a strategy to get in front of your desired media outlets and make it undeniable as to why they should feature your place of business in an upcoming news segment.

Take a look at a few of our tried and true tips for bringing media attention to your place of business – and commit to trying these out for yourself in 2019!

1. Find the right angle.

It takes a lot more than saying “Hey, come out and do a story on my business so I can attract more customers!” Of course that’s the underlying motive for basically every business wishing to earn media coverage, however you need to paint a more interesting picture for the media. You need to find the right angle. Some options might include a special anniversary or milestone for your business. Or maybe it’s something related to a holiday, special occasion or piece of history in your local community. If you’re really struggling to find a compelling angle, think of how you can tie your story back to something charitable or “feel good.”

 2. Put effort into your pitch.

With the right angle lined up, don’t skimp on the quality of your pitch. The key to a perfect pitch is to find the right balance of being direct, courteous and creative. Make sure to address the WIFM (What’s In It For Me) so that the media can clearly see how this would interest their audience. With a quality pitch and a creative angle, you will drastically increase your chances of getting picked up.

 3. Follow-up and follow-through. 

Now that you have their attention, you need to follow-up with your pitch. If you get an interested response, act quickly. Nail down the time and location of the interview – and all the nitty gritty details. Quickly decide who will be on air and their key talking points. Make it as easy and seamless as possible for the media to cover a great story and you will form the foundation for a long-term relationship that could yield more coverage in the future!

On the flip side, should you get a “No” response, or no response at all, you need to follow-through. Be persistent, but friendly. In your follow-up email ask for a courtesy “No” if they have left you hanging, simply so you can close the books on this pitch. If they do say “No” kindly ask for a piece of advice as to how you can better pitch to them in the future. Maybe they don’t cover that beat – but you might be able to find a new angle in the future that does align with their topics.

 4. Make the most of the media coverage.

If you’ve successfully earned media coverage for your business, be your own best publicity! Ask how soon a link to the story will be ready and set a strategy for sharing. You’ll want to get this out on your social media outlets (personal and business) as well as finding a place for it on your website. Depending upon the coverage, you might also want to further promote it with sponsored social media posts, or create a blog post to tell the story of the behind-the-scenes aspect of the day. There is no limit as to how you can share quality content!

 5. Don’t lose momentum – plan for the future!

Finally and most importantly, don’t lose momentum. You deserve a pat on the back for a successful media pitch, but then it’s time to get back to work. How can you harness the power of this first feature story? Are there other outlets that may now be interested in doing a story as well? Can you find a new angle? Or maybe your strategy is to let a little time pass and then pitch a new angle in the next month or so. The more media coverage you get in a moderate amount of time, the more people will wonder what all the buzz is about!

Have you had success in earning press coverage at your place of business? Share your success story or ask a question that we can help you answer!

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2019 in Business, Business & Success

 

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Do I Need Advertising or Public Relations?

Do I Need Advertising or Public Relations

It’s a really important question – and one that business owners’ return to time and time again. Do I need PR or advertising to grow my business? The answer…it depends! As like most things in life, it’s situational and really depends upon your goal, budget and target audience.

In this blog, I break down some of the most common scenarios businesses face and whether ad or PR is the better strategy to address each. Let’s go!

I want immediate and guaranteed publicity for my business.

You want to start with advertisingWith advertising, you get what you pay for, rarely will it be more or less. The benefit of guaranteed media placement is that you can count on it showing up when and where you want it to. If your business needs this immediate boost in publicity and can’t risk anything less, advertising is the way to go – at least to start. Where PR can come in, is when you want to complement this with the power of organic media exposure that, when done right, can garner a whole lot of media attention for a fraction of the cost of paid placement.

I have a limited budget, but a great story to tell.

You want to start with public relations. If you have a naturally great story to tell, your business will do well with the boost of some public relations. PR thrives on taking a great story and bringing it to the forefront of media and before your target audience. With advertising, you have limited space to tell your full story, so it might not have the same impact if you try to fit it into a 15 second commercial spot or on a bill board. With PR, you gain the platform, like a featured segment on the morning news, or several paragraphs in print or online to really dig into the meat of things.

I can communicate my core message in less than 8 words.

You want to start with advertising. This is the reverse scenario of what we described above. Maybe your business is able to fully articulate its unique selling proposition in 8 words or less. In this case, you might better be suited for a strategy more focused on advertising. A short message can be easily communicated through digital ads, short commercials, sponsored social media posts and billboards. Once you determine this short message, you can advertise it consistently throughout these various facets to benefit from repetition.

I want to promote the charitable angle of my business.

You want to start with public relations. Even if your business is for-profit, you can still hitch your wagon to the promotional power of charitable giving. If your business or organization has a genuine charitable component (people can easily tell when you’re not being sincere!), this unlocks a lot of PR opportunities. Your story will more easily be picked up by local media and often TV stations or digital community calendars offer free promotion of such activities. Sure, you can also pay for this promotion, but why? When it’s charitable in nature, think PR first.

My business has some negativity publicity it needs to counteract. 

You want to start with public relationsIf you find yourself needing to counteract negative sentiment toward your business, this is a job for public relations. It’s important to add the “human” element to your business in such circumstances. For example, you may want to pitch your CEO for a media interview, host a press conference or issue a press release to address the issue. You can also implement some strategic activities to repair your brand, such as a free community event, open house or giveaway.

People are familiar with my brand, now I need to keep it top of mind.

You want to start with advertising. If you’re an established brand and your target audience is aware of who you are and what you do – congratulations! You’re ahead of most businesses out there. But seriously, this puts you in a prime position to benefit from paid advertising, because what you now need to focus on is maintaining this awareness and staying top of mind. Carefully placed digital, radio, television and/or outdoor advertisements with help you to continue to capitalize on what you’ve worked so hard to create.

What I hope is an obvious disclaimer is that every business and its particular situation is different. While I hope to provide some helpful, general advice and a starting point for your strategizing, it’s important to seek the help of experienced ad/PR professionals who know your market, understand your target audience and can help direct your messaging through the most effective channels.

Do you have another question related to how advertising and public relations are different, yet also work together? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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6 Ways to Grow Your Media Relationships

6 Ways to Grow Your Media Relationships

If you work in the field of public relations, advertising, even marketing, it’s inevitable that you will need to interact (i.e. get along) with the media to some degree. In fact, it’s absolutely to your advantage to forge real relationships – you know, the kind where you know a little bit about each other and try to help each other out, rather than just use one another.

But this can feel like a daunting task, especially if you are just beginning your career. The most critical thing you should remember is that members of the media are people, too. They’re not out to “get you” and hearing “no thanks” surely won’t kill you. So why not play nice and get something of mutual value out of it? Here are my six top tips for growing a meaningful relationship with media contacts.

  1. Become a (genuine) fan.

I’m not referring to Twitter (though following media contacts on social media isn’t the worst place to start). Rather, I’m talking about learning what beats each reporter regularly covers. Read their work, make note of topics that could relate to one or more of your clients, and most importantly give credit where credit is due. Recently a reporter used a press release I sent him to heavily and favorably cover one of my client’s issues. He included quotes I provided in the release, and he also sought out quotes from local individuals to fully flesh out the article. I truly appreciated his thoroughness. So I wrote him an email. I thanked him for using pieces of our press release and applauded him for seeking out additional quotes beyond a single source. He was flattered. As a result of this small step toward building a relationship, I feel like I can now reach out to him directly to pitch my next story.

  1. Take advantage of networking opportunities.

If you’re on the lookout for them, you will find that there are some very valuable networking opportunities to be had with members of the media. As a member of the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society (PPRS), I attended a recent meeting that was a “speed dating” mixer with just about every local media outlet represented. I was sure not to miss this event! As a result, I got great advice, lots of business cards and a handful of valuable invitations to “Pitch me anything you can think of!” I’ve already taken advantage of this for some of my clients. I can’t stress enough that meaningful media relationships, especially ones you can make face-to-face, will make your job easier, save you from the unknown and make you look like a rock star to your clients.

  1. Don’t hide your motives.

When you introduce yourself to a member of the media as a public relations professional, it’s pretty hard to hide your motives. After all, we are paid for our earned media placement and the gatekeepers to this are members of the media. Rather than being coy, I have found that being direct, honest and humble goes a lot further. I try to find a way to make light of the conversation, but also cut right to the chase. The media is hungry for quality content, and we have incentive to provide exactly that! Don’t hide your motives. Let the media know what you want, and they can then tell you what they need.

  1. Provide quality, ready-to-publish content.

Being friendly and professional with the media will help you make initial contact and get their attention, but what you do once they’re listening is the most important part of forming a lasting relationship. You must deliver quality, ready-to-publish content – or at least accurate and useful news tips that they can turn into their own story. If you prove to be anything but a reliable source, don’t wonder why members of the media stop answering your phone calls and emails. Proof and fact check your content, be responsive and go the extra mile to make yourself a valuable resource.

  1. Be proactive with your pitch.

When trying to get publicity for your clients, don’t wait for the opportunity to come knocking on your door. It reasonably won’t. Another piece of growing media relationships is to be proactive with your pitch. Reach out to them early and often. Sell them on the value of your idea. Help connect the dots so they can see how your story relates to their readership and their reporting style.

  1. Ask how you can help.

Most important, be genuinely interested in learning how you can help a reporter out. Ask them what topics or beats they’re covering right now and what some upcoming topics might be. You may be in position to lend some expertise, or to hook them up with a contact who can. Build a relationship based on trust and reliability. The more your media contacts know they can turn to you as a “connector” to help piece a story together, the more opportunities you’ll have to plug clients into these key opportunities.

Do you have another point to add that has helped you grow your relationship with media contacts? Share your advice by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2018 in Business & Success

 

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Top Things Every College Student Needs to Do Before Graduation

college graduation

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with some Penn State undergrads to mentor them on the steps they should take right now to better position themselves for a career in the field of communications.

I will tell you that the post-graduation job hunt was rough when I was in school, and it’s just as challenging, if not more so, now. Especially for students who dream of moving to a big city and working for a big name brand, the competition is fierce! I was encouraged to see how seriously these college students were taking their studies and internships and how eager they were to learn more about polishing up their personal brand to make them a desirable hire.

Whether I was talking to a freshman or fifth year senior, studying public relations or film and video, I found myself repeating the same core piece of advice. Here’s what I told my mentees, and here’s what I want to tell you to. Building your personal brand, at every stage of your career, is highly important. It’s one of the few things you can control and actively improve each and every day.

So while you furiously continue to send out those resumes and cover letters, scour the internet and refresh your inbox – here’s what you can be doing to make the most of your time spent waiting for a call-back.

Polish Your Resume

Just about every college or university has a dedicated “career services” office that offers some great advice to get you started in the right direction with building a professional resume. That being said, many of my colleagues and I have run into the issue of career services’ advice being slightly different than what we know to be current best practices.

The bottom line here is to first seek initial help from career services, but don’t stop there! Do your own research for resume advice from respected online sources. Also ask alumni or family friends who work in your field (and who will know what information and formatting the industry wants to see on your resume right now) to review your resume. You are likely to encounter differing opinions, and will need to seek balance, but use your best judgement as to who best understands your industry.

Create a Linkedin Profile

Most college students are on Linkedin. If you’re not, well start there. If you are on Linkedin already, how polished is your profile? There are countless articles on best practices for creating a professional Linkedin profile, so again, do your research!

If I had to quickly prioritize the main areas that can make or break a good Linkedin profile, they would be having a professional-looking profile picture, using your personal summary to really “tell your story,” fully and accurately listing your education and job history and prioritizing your list of skills to increase your SEO.

Treat it like any of your other college projects, giving it your attention to detail, creativity and technical know-how. After all, building your personal brand is likely the most important project you’ll ever work on!

Build (and Organize) Your Contact List

Growing your personal brand is similar to growing a business’s brand in that you need to establish a quality list of contacts (potential leads, referrals or employers). Throughout your high school and college career you have made quite a few professional contacts, whether you realize it or not.

It’s important to take the time to capture these contacts and organize them in an excel spreadsheet. Take an afternoon and list out anyone of influence that you know, or know through someone else. These could be local business owners in your hometown, contacts from a past job or internship, your professors and faculty, or friends’ parents. Don’t discount anyone! Even if they do not work in your career field, think of how many people they know. A contact two or three degrees removed from someone you know personally, just might help you land your dream job.

How you choose to use this list of contacts is up to you, but I suggest sending them a professional email, preferably through Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, announcing your upcoming graduation and highlighting your skills and education. Make a direct ask for these contacts to pass on your resume to anyone they know who may be hiring in your field. Be sure to attach your resume! By making it easy for your contacts to forward this email, you have the potential of reaching hundreds of people who just might be looking to hire someone like you!

Create a Portfolio of Your Work

Now more than ever, college students have all the tools they need to quickly and easily create an online portfolio of work. Especially if your major is one that has great visual components (graphic design, landscape architecture, art, etc.), you simply must have a professional online portfolio of work to be a top competitor in your field.

Wix, Squarespace and WordPress (and many, many more) offer free websites that you can customize and launch in a few, easy steps. Sure, it’s not going to look like a $50k+ website, but that’s not necessary! What’s necessary is showing a potential employer that you are a professional go-getter who is tech savvy and who goes the extra mile. Be sure to link out to this online portfolio from your resume and in email emails you send to potential employers/contacts.

Hone in On Your Career Objective

Does your resume include a clear objective for what you’re looking to get out of your career? If you want to stand out, it’s so important to clearly communicate your “why.” Work to define your career objective, or you can call it your professional mission statement. In about two sentences you should be able to describe your drive to work in the industry and the unique skills you bring to the table.

Best of all, with a clear objective, you will have a strong and polished answer to provide to any potential employer who asks you the common, but often challenging question of “So what do you want this job?”

Scrub Your Social Media

This is a hot topic for our current generation of college graduates. You’ve likely built a robust collection of social media posts and pictures throughout your college career. While the archive of memories are ones you don’t want to forget, they’re better saved offline. You’ll want to dedicate quite a bit of time to carefully “stalking” yourself on social media to remove anything that could even remotely be a red flag for a future employer. Look at your profile through eyes. How do you want to be represented?

Do keep in mind that simply deleting posts and images is by no means a guaranteed they won’t appear elsewhere. You’ll want to also search for your name and any other distinguishing characteristics (such as your college’s name, hometown or major) and see what comes up. If you need help scrubbing some less than desirable search results, or you simply want to move favorable search results (such as awards or honors) up in ranking, I highly recommend Brand Yourself. Seriously, check it out!

Network with Your Professors

This final piece of advice is what I feel is most overlooked by college students and that’s utilizing the network (and knowledge) of your professors. They’re the ones teaching you everything you need to know about your industry, certainly they have a highly influential network. Schedule time to really talk with them about your career goals, ask questions and express and uncertainty or frustration. Office hours are not limited to reviewing class materials.

You will never regret building a personal relationship with your professors who can continue to support you after graduation. On a similar note, be sure to utilize your alumni network. We truly care about you guys and want to see you thrive in the same industry we dedicated our college career to studying. I speak from personal experience when I say it brings us alums great joy to see the next generation succeed!

Do you have other advice to share with college students preparing for life after graduation? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2018 in Career, Education, Life

 

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How to Promote Your Business Using Public Relations

How to Promote Your Business Using Public Relations

So your business has done something awesome. Maybe you’ve set a new record, received an award, given back to the community or opened a new location. You want to get credit for your good work, but you’re not sure how to get anyone to pay attention. What can you do?

The good news is there are a lot of ways in which you can promote your business using public relations. Here’s a look at the top 6 PR tactics I recommend using when you want to promote your business, or even you – personally!

  1. Press Release

Not everything is worthy of a press release. I mean, you can still put the time and effort into sending one out but the media is not really going to care unless your news is deemed interesting to their readers. Be strategic with the angle of your press release. Be sure to clearly answer the question “What’s in it for me?” that readers will likely have. If your business received an award, great! But why should anyone else care. That’s what you need to focus on if you want your press release to get picked up.

  1. Letter to the Editor

Unlike a press release, writing a letter to the editor is an opportunity to share your opinion. You must be factual, but you can also add your personal insights. You can use a letter to the editor to promote your business indirectly, yet still effectively. Keep a lookout for recent news or events that relate to your industry. Offer your advice or bring to attention a larger issue impacting your community. Most importantly, you will be given a byline, which you should be sure includes your business’s name and website.

  1. Guest Column

Contributing to a guest column is another great way to gain media attention for your business. Your writing will be published in the main news sections, which is an advantage over letters to the editor or op-ed pieces which can sometimes get buried. Some outlets openly welcome guest contributors and post their rules for submission on their website. Others are less clear. You should reach out to reporters who regularly cover your industry or area of expertise. Most importantly, be sure you provide high quality content and are timely with your responses. If you can build a relationship with a reporter, you will have the opportunity to contribute again and again.

  1. Media Pitch

If you have something really newsworthy to promote, consider reaching out to reporters and pitching them your story. If you can earn a live feature story at your place of business, this is a highly valuable marketing opportunity! Now, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. You need to make sure your pitch is clear and compelling. Again, be sure to answer the “What’s in it for me?” by making it obvious how your story impacts their audience.

  1. Public Speaking
    You don’t need to be a polished public speaker to make this PR tactic work for your business. If you have a compelling story to share, maybe it’s how you’ve grown your business or how you’re giving back to the community, you can promote your business and its work through public speaking. Think of local clubs and organizations that often have featured speakers. Reach out to them and pitch the idea of having you as their next guest speaker. Getting in front of your local community is a great way to grow your presence, and grow your business as a result.
  2. Case Studies

If absolutely nothing else, you can always promote your business through case studies. Do you have an exceptional customer story to share? Has your products or services drastically improved someone’s life? Writing case studies for such examples will help to illustrate what your business does. You can then take these case studies and promote them on your website, social media, e-mail newsletters and by sharing them with specific potential customers who can relate to them. The best thing about case studies is that you’re not relying on the media or someone else to make sure they get published – you’re in control of how and where they are promoted!

Which of these tactics do you see most valuable for promoting your business? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

 

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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What No One Tells You About a Career in Public Relations

Businesswoman sitting in boardroom with laptop looking frustrate

Beyond earning a degree in Public Relations and pursuing a few internships along the way, the best thing to prepare you for a career in PR is real life experience. Unfortunately, this also means there will be a lot of learning and adjusting as you go. As I approach my seventh year working in the industry, I may still be “green” in many ways, but I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and know-how that simply can’t be gained by sitting in a classroom.

Here’s what I’ve learned about a career in Public Relations that no teacher or text book will tell you. Take a look!

You will have to explain to people, often, what exactly it is you do

The TV show Sex and the City may be to blame for the myths and false assumptions about Public Relations. I promise, we don’t schmooze at publicity events and drink all day. I think everyone would pursue a career in PR if that were the case. Again and again you will find yourself having to define and defend what it is you do and the value it provides. The good news is you’ll establish a solid pitch that will serve to win over your clients.

You will be referred to as “marketing” again and again

I make it very clear that the services I provide are Public Relations, yet I’m often referred to by clients as their “marketing person.” While marketing and PR serve to very different purposes within a business, I can see why they’re often lumped into one broad category. At the end of the day, I really don’t care if someone refers to my role as marketing, publicity or business development. So long as we are on the same page with our strategy and deliverables, we’ll get along just fine!

People will expect guaranteed media placement for everything you pitch

In this industry, you will find that some clients are “press release happy” where they think everything the business does deserves media placement. Even when something newsworthy does come up, issuing a press release is by no means a guarantee that it will be picked up by the media. We know that, but we often need to manage client expectations. At the end of the day, the media will determine the fate of your news. Which brings me to…

The success of your strategy will be at the mercy of a lot of other people

The reality of Public Relations is that there will be many elements of your strategy which simply aren’t in your control. You will need to do everything within your control to set yourself up for the best possible outcomes, but at the end of the day you are at the mercy of the media, the community, your clients timely responses and approval, the weather (I’m not kidding) and a variety of other elements you can’t even predict until they hit you over the head unexpectedly.

You will get to see your work impacting the world

Finally, and most encouraging, is the truth that a career in PR allows you to see your work changing the world. Piece by piece, your PR strategy will cause a ripple effect that will change public perception, grow businesses, help the community and much more. When Public Relations does what it’s intended to do, it’s a powerful and beautiful thing!

Do you work in Public Relations? What “truth” of the industry did you find most surprising? Leave a comment!

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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