From left: Lynn Sweet, Howard Arenstein, Doug Stanlin
I’m clearly a geek, but I’m going to proudly say it: it’s an exciting time to be in media relations.
I started my career in media a decade ago and as the field has changed, the practice of getting key messages in front of target audiences via the media has only gotten more interesting. From crafting the story idea, to hearing the spark ignite for a reporter, to reading or listening or watching the final story unfold – the entire process is exhilarating. Social media has only broadened that landscape for me – I have more choices than ever to spread my clients’ messages and make an impact with the audiences that matter. And while media relations may seem more complex then the days when I used to thumb through a Bacon’s Media Directory to find a reporter’s name and beat, in a lot of ways I find it much more strategic and exciting.
This geeky love I have for media relations was recently nourished when I was lucky enough to attend the PR News Media Relations Next Practices Forum as a guest of sponsor BurellesLuce. I got to hear from some of the best talent in the industry across all walks of PR life including corporate veterans Stephanie Anderson of OSRAM SYLVANIA and Ed Markey of Goodyear; consulting mavens Karen Hinton of Hinton Communications and Andrew Gilman of CommCore Consulting Group; and nonprofit leaders Laura Howe of the American National Red Cross and Glen Nowak with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; among others.
And – I can’t but help but show a little pride here – Ogilvy PR had a great client showing: Mark Phillips of the USO and Colleen Wilber of America’s Promise Alliance both had wonderful insights to share. The keynote speaker was former Marriott spokesman and current Senior Director of Communications for Catholic Charities USA, Roger Conner, who shared his PR experiences both humorous and humbling.
The knowledge these speakers imparted was too much to share in detail, but some highlights were:
- Think like a newsroom
- Use social media to collect real-time feedback on the quality, tone and resonance of a conversation – listen constantly
- Let others (volunteers, employees, customers or consumers) tell the story for you
- Don’t script people – just teach them how to use social media tools effectively
- Don’t tell media what the news is – just tell them what you have and how they can use it
- Individuals as influencers are becoming increasingly important – never underestimate your audience
- Say the full message: not just “go online,” but “go online and donate”
- Mobile media is the next frontier in terms of location, platforms, video, social search, virtual collaboration and cloud computing
- Before you spend any resources, make sure audience is there; speak the right language and understand who you’re trying to influence
- Stop trying to control the message – just be part of the conversation
- You must call media on their mistakes – they are working as fast as we are, and mistakes happen; it’s our job to give them the correct information
- Claim as much real estate as you can on a TV screen – provide information for the lower-third/crawl, facts, b-roll, bulleted messages, etc.; have your spokesperson hold a prop
- Your actions must match your words
One of my favorite parts of the forum, the “Media/PR Smackdown,” was a panel of well-respected and much sought-after journalists Howard Arenstein, Correspondent of CBS Radio News and CBS News Radio’s Washington, DC, Bureau Manager; Doug Stanglin, Editor of the “On Deadline” blog at USA Today; and Lynn Sweet, Columnist and Washington Bureau Chief of Chicago Sun-Times. They reinforced the tried and true of the media world – don’t call unless you know the reporter’s beat, you know your pitch fits perfectly with what they cover, you’ve already sent an email, and you have a personal relationship. But they also taught me a thing or two about how journalists have embraced the recent changes to the media relations landscape. Reporters love Twitter. I can’t emphasize that enough. They love it personally, and they love it professionally. Doug Stanglin uses his Twitter as a news aggregator. Reporters also love blogs – their own and others. They no longer have one deadline a day – they have them throughout the day. And they are truly excited about sharing their news on different platforms.
So apparently I’m not the only one geeking out about media relations today.
Above all, the overwhelming message of the forum was loud and clear for me: I am not alone. I heard it from the friends I made at my table and around the room and the speakers who represented so many industries and so many types of PR. We’ve all had great ideas but neither the adequate time nor resources to get the job done well. We’ve all dealt with public crises that we didn’t see coming. We’ve all been met with overworked and under-resourced journalists who can’t (or won’t) hear us out. We’ve all had to deal with leadership who didn’t understand how the media work and expected us to move mountains with only a spoon to start digging. But we all love what we do. We love shaping stories, spreading our clients’ messages, and entering in the public conversation. We all have a passion for getting it right the first time. And we all have a zeal for where media relations has come from – and where it’s going.
And somehow, just knowing that – that I’m not alone – feels good.
You can find more about the forum on Twitter: @mrf.
This was cross-posted on the @BurellesLuce blog, Fresh Ideas