Tag Archives: pr

Ten “Boring” PR Skills You Need to Have

A few weeks ago, I was talking to some college students about PR, advertising, living in Chicago, and the work I'm doing at C-K. They loved hearing about the work that we've done with Corona, Porsche, and Cedar Fair. We talked about branding, TV commercials, media tours, and social media. By the end of our conversation, they were all telling me that I had their dream job and were asking me if we had any openings. At this point, I was feeling pretty proud of myself – after all, this was a much cooler reaction than when I'd regale them with stories of working with the IRS or the TSA. However, when I got got back to my office, I realized that I did those students a disservice. I got them all excited about riding roller coasters, drinking beer, and driving fast cars, but failed to mention the really fun stuff that I do every day. 

You want to get really excited about PR? Check out my budget spreadsheets and staff forecasting tools! Join me as I write a statement of work and analyze row after row of statistics! Excited yet? Maybe you'd rather stay at the office until 8PM writing a performance review? 

The best PR pros do a lot more than Tweeting, drinking with press contacts, and attending events. That might be what got you into the industry, but if you want to move up the ladder, you better sharpen these ten boring PR skills too. 

You may think these things are about as exciting as watching grass grow, but you'll want to learn these things if you want to keep growing.

  1. Manage Upward. Do you know how to pitch new ideas and get fast approval to try them? Can you manage your boss and his/her time so they don't become a bottleneck? Learn what makes your boss tick. Learn how they work so that you can expedite getting things done when you want to try something new. Gain their trust so are empowered to take risks and know they've got your back. 
  2. Manage your time. How many hours does it take you to write a press release? Do you know how to estimate how long it will take you to do something and then manage your own workload to get that job done on time? One of the best skills a junior person can develop is the ability to accurately estimate how long it will take them to do a job. 
  3. Give feedback. Do you know how to give honest, constructive feedback to a colleague? To your boss? Learn how to give both positive and negative feedback. This goes beyond saying "good job" – it means giving feedback so that people are motivated to do better. It means giving feedback so that they learn from their mistakes without feeling like an idiot. 
  4. Analyze statistics. Do you know how to make sense out of a mess of numbers? Can you comb through a bunch of spreadsheets and tables to find something meaningful? Learn how to analyze data, but even more than that, learn how to distill it down to laymen's terms. 
  5. Build and manage a budget. Do you know how to allocate $10,000 to get the job done? How many hours do you need? How many hours does your Assistant Account Executive need? How much of that should be allocated to hard costs like giveaways or vendor fees? Learn about hourly rates, profit margins, and scopes of work. Learn how to adjust on the fly and reallocate costs as needed while still staying under budget. 
  6. Delegate. You aren't scalable. You may think you're a hard worker and that you'll do whatever it takes, but at some point, you're going to realize you can't do it on your own. Learn how to delegate work to other people. Learn how to accept that other people may do things differently than you, but that doesn't make them wrong. Learn how to leverage your team's strengths and understand their weaknesses so that you use everyone's time most efficiently. 
  7. Develop and manage a project plan. Can you break up a big project into small tasks, assign them deadlines and then manage to those deadlines? Learn how to create a project plan that integrates deliverables, interim deadlines and costs and how to manage against that. This goes for small projects and multi-million dollar accounts. I've used project plans to help plan my work for everything from website content to huge accounts with multiple workstreams. 
  8. Work remotely. Can you be productive from your couch? How about on a plane? In line? Learn how to maximize your productivity when you're not in the office. I'm not just talking about using technology like wireless cards, cell phones, and video conferencing. I'm talking about knowing how to manage your work so that you're able to take an early weekend because you know you've scheduled your conference calls for while you're on the road. I'm talking about using your time on the plane to write your blog posts or catch up on your RSS reader.
  9. Ask for help. I don't care how smart you are or how hard you work – you're going to need someone's help at some point. Maybe it's because they've got a skillset or experience you need. Maybe it's because you're on vacation and need someone to handle a client crisis. Learn that you don't have to do everything on your own. Learn how to ask for help before it's too late. 
  10. Write a performance review. Sooner or later, you're going to have to write someone's performance review or at the very least, contribute to one. Many organizations have implemented 360-degree reviews where you may be responsible for collecting feedback and writing a colleague's review. Learn how to objectively solicit feedback about someone else, analyze that data and write an objective review of that person's work.  

What other "boring" skills would you add to this list? The opportunity to pitch an idea to the producers of the Today Show or to go bar-hopping with the editors of Maxim may be what got you interested PR in the first place, but those opportunities only happen once someone has done the dirty work first. Someone has to build the strategy, develop the project plan, allocate the resources, manage the budget, and get someone to sign off on the idea before you're going to get the opportunity to make that call. Learn these boring skills now so that you can contribute to the entire process, not just the fun stuff at the end. 

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Why I Hate the Word “Pitching”

I've grown increasingly frustrated when I hear my PR colleagues tell me they're going to "pitch the media." Maybe it's because my non-PR friends look at the term so pejoratively. Maybe it's because it implies a certain level of salesmanship. Maybe it's because it erodes my own idealistic view of the media as the fourth estate and that I hate seeing so much of it be controlled by pitchmen who take advantage of lazy journalists. Maybe it's all of the above. For me, it's almost as bad as our industry's most hated word – "spin." Then I read Amber Mac's excellent piece on Fast Company about how social media can help save the PR industry from bad pitches as well as Gini Dietrich's follow-up post on Spin Sucks, and I got all riled up again how PR people rely on blind pitching instead of focusing on the "relations" part of public relations.

When someone tells me that they're pitching something to the media, the default image in my head has sadly become this –

From spamming thousands of reporters and bloggers at a time in the hopes of getting 1% of them to cover your "news," to copying and pasting entire pitches and only changing the name, to using outdated information, PR people have become used car salesmen, interested more in making the sale than on building an honest relationship. At some point, it became acceptable to send an awful pitch out to 10,000 people and hope that 1% would cover it instead of crafting customized pitches that go to 200 people with the expectation that 50% would cover it. Wonderful. Glad to see that we're modeling our pitching approach after Nigerian email scams. Aren't we better than this? PR people have to stop trying to take the easy way out. Stop being lazy and start taking pride in each and every pitch you make. It is YOUR name after all that will be tied to that pitch. It's YOUR agency's name that may end up on a blog somewhere as an example of a bad pitch.  Act like every pitch you make is a reflection of you and your agency…because it is.

One of the things I've told my teams over the years is that the best media pitch is usually pretty simple. It's usually something along the lines of "hey man – just read your latest post and wanted to clue in on a client of mine who's got a cool new product that I think you'd like. Check it out and let me know what you think." While the "pitch" is surprisingly simple, the reason it works is because of all the work that's required to get to that point. For it to work, it assumes that you've established a relationship with this person, that they trust you, that you only share things like this that they are truly be interested in, that you've interacted with them before when you weren't pitching him on something, and that the link they click will give them everything they need to know – photos, videos, quotes, contact information, research, etc. In other words, there's no need to worry about crafting a perfect pitch if you've already laid the groundwork – at that point, it's just two people talking with one another.

Let's all work together to change the connotation of the word pitch and agree that we should aspire to be better than used car salesmen and spammers.  Let's make pitching less about trying to sell the media on something and focusing on providing them with what they need – good stories to tell that will be interesting to their readers. Let's pledge to:

  • Get to know the people covering our clients before we start pitching them
  • Read at least three different stories/articles/posts they've written before reaching out to them
  • Know if my contact prefers to be contacted via Twitter, email, Facebook, phone, or carrier pigeon
  • Avoid making our first contact with the blogger/reporter our pitch email – Retweet them, comment on a blog post, answer a question they have
  • Help the media do their job even if there's no direct benefit for me
  • Pitch fewer people but aim for a higher success rate
  • Stop blindly "trying to create more buzz" and instead be more of a PR consultant to my client
  • Write my pitches in actual English like I'm talking to a person instead of my client's key messages
  • Refrain from spamming dozens of reporters with the same email
  • Never ever send an email with any form of the words – "just checking to see if you got my email" (because they did, and then they deleted it)
  • Validate everything that I find out about a reporter/blogger from a PR database
  • Clearly identify the "what's in it for me?" for everyone I contact
  • Include my name, contact information, and links to more information
  • Stop overselling our pitches – when everything is ground-breaking, innovative, and the first-of-its-kind, nothing is
  • Coordinate our pitches with our clients so that they aren't surprised by questions from the media
  • Realize that no one likes to feel like they're being pitched, but they do enjoy hearing a good story
  • Read and proofread and read and proofread everything before I hit send

These are just off the top of my head – I'm sure there are plenty of others. If you're a PR pro, what other tips would you add here? If you're a reporter/blogger, what do you wish PR people would do better when pitching you? 

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From the Government to Big Brands, From the Left Brain to the Right Brain

Three months ago, I made a huge change in my life. After eight years as a government consultant in DC, I picked up my family and moved to Chicago to work at Cramer-Krasselt. I went from DC to Chicago, from consulting to PR, from government clients to big brands, from the suburbs to the city, from leading virtual teams to being in the office with my entire team every day, from being at the tip of the spear of the #gov20 movement to being just another PR guy prattling on about social media – and for the last three months, I've been trying to adapt to this new life of mine.

As you can tell, a lot has changed, but a lot has remained the same too. I still spend way too much time in meetings. I'm still having varying levels of success managing office politics. And I'm still trying to change the status quo. I'm not ready to say that PR in the private sector is any better or worse than government consulting – it's just different. And for me, different is good. Instead of being the grizzled veteran who's been with the company longer than most people, I'm the new guy. Instead of being the guy everyone runs to for social media advice, everyone here at least knows the basics, with many knowing much much more than that. Every day, I feel challenged. Every day, I learn something new. Every day, I realize I'm in an entirely different world now. Even though I still do PR and communications, the clients and the environment are very different. So while there are some similarities, in many ways, it's like a whole new career.

This isn't to say that one is better or worse than the other – in fact, it's the dichotomy of the two that I'm enjoying. While I find myself learning more and more about branding and advertising every day, I'm also teaching my new colleagues a lot about staff forecasting, team management, performance reviews, and strategic planning too. If I've learned anything over these last three months, it's that the typical PR pro would be more effective if they thought more like a consultant, and that the typical government consultant sure could benefit from some more creativity and risk-taking.

If you've done PR in both the public and private sectors, what kinds of differences have you experienced?

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Seven REAL Ways You Can Use Social Media to Find Your Next Job

I read this post yesterday that included an infographic from Online Colleges discussing some of the ways in which you can use social media to find your next job or internship. It even included five tips to help you "stand out from the crowd." Unfortunately, rather than highlighting some of ways in which people have used Pinterest to land their next job or created a resume using a QR code, or creating an interactive video resume, they instead recommend the exact opposite. Recommendations like "be your most professional you," and "treat your profile like your resume," make you blend in with, not stand apart from, the crowd.

The infographic is right about one thing though – social media does give you an opportunity to stand apart from the crowd. But you're not going to do that by treating your profile like your resume, being professional, and keeping your accounts updated. Stop looking at social media from a place of fear ("oh my god, my Facebook profile has pictures of me drinking a beer!!!  Ahhhhhhhhh!") and start looking at it from a place of opportunity ("other applicants may have more experience, but how many can actually showcase their entire philosophy and beliefs to the interviewer before ever actually stepping foot in the interview room?"). 

Social media opens up all kinds of doors for today's job-seekers – 

  • You don't have to rely on the formulaic resume and cover letter
  • You no longer have to post your resume and pray that someone sees it
  • You don't ever have to talk to that "to whom it may concern" guy again
  • The company's resumes@companyname.com email isn't your only point of entry

So if you're truly interested in using social media open these doors and land that next job or internship, try these seven tactics:

  1. Be present. If you send someone your resume, one of the first things they're going to do is Google you. Be aware of what they will find. Yes, like most people will tell you, having that local police blotter article about your DUI five years ago show up on the first page is bad, but so is not having ANYTHING show up. If you're allegedly a PR professional, and I can't find a single thing about you beyond your high school team softball photo, your resume better be damn impressive because that's all you're giving me to go on. 
  2. Make sure your online presence is reflective of the type of job you want. Are you trying to be an accountant? A designer? A PR specialist? A management consultant? As you might imagine, these positions require very different skills and personalities. I would expect that the online profile of someone trying to get hired by an advertising agency to be VERY different from the profile of someone trying to get hired by a government consulting firm. Blanket statements like "be your most professional you" are meaningless because they mean such different things to different people. "Professional" to a government consultant is probably going to come across as dry and boring to me.
  3. Be You. The best personal brand is the one that best reflects who you actually are, not some contrived image that you want people to think you are. It's going to be much better for the both of us if we're open and honest about who we are and what we're looking for. If I bring you in for an interview based in large part on your super creative Pinterest-based resume, I'm going to expect a super creative person in the interview, not to hear that you hired someone to create that resume for you and you don't actually know how to do that. 
  4. Talk about what you do and who you are. The easiest and most effective thing you can do. Are you a PR specialist? Then start a blog and talk about your approach to public relations. Get on Twitter and share your thoughts on the latest PR crisis. Share links to PR articles you're reading on Facebook. This isn't rocket science. If you're a graphic designer, talk about the latest trends in graphic design. Share your opinion on who's doing it right. Don't tell me that you do something, show me your thoughts and beliefs and what sets you apart from the hundreds of other people who claim to do that as well.
  5. Talk with people in the industry you're trying to get into. Want a job in government public affairs? Get on GovLoop and start commenting on people's blogs. Want a job in public relations? Participate in the PRSA LinkedIn group. Want a job in sports? Get the #sportsprchat on your calendar. Be a part of the conversation. 
  6. Talk to the person/organization you're trying to work for. The old advice was to research the company that you're applying to so that you know what work they do, who their clients are, etc. That advice still applies, but that's literally the bare minimum you can do. Be prepared to do more than some simple secondary research and instead look to see who from that company is on Twitter and start following them. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Comment on their blogs. And for the love of God, talk with them about something OTHER than the fact that you want a job. You wouldn't walk up to them in real life and hand them your resume before even introducing yourself would you? Then don't do it online either. Tell them how much you liked their last blog post. Answer a question they asked on Twitter. Give them your thoughts on that last link they shared on LinkedIn – just do something other than say "hey are you guys hiring? Check out my resume!"
  7. Start early. I don't want to see that you started your Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels all on the same day two weeks ago and now you're applying for a job with me. Start building up your online presence before you start looking for a job. I don't want to hire someone who is just going through the motions – I want to hire someone who understands that their use of social media is about a hell of a lot more than just finding a job. It's about becoming a better professional, demonstrating that you're a lifelong learner, and explaining who you are rather than just what you did.

What other tactics would you add? How have you used social media to get a job or internship? 

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