As a PR professional, I am constantly educating those around me that do not work in the industry about what public relations is and does. Even those who work in other facets of marketing often cannot describe PR with confidence.
In honor of school years ending, and in light of the fact that education never stops, here’s my take on how public relations is like high school.
Typically, high school is the time in life when you discover what people associate with you:
“Amy… she’s the girl who always wears pink.”
“Oh, Candice is the girl who’s always singing!”
“Brad? That’s the guy who is really into basketball, right?“
Contrary to popular belief, PR is not just publicity – a.k.a. hosting the party. It is also selecting the guest list, choosing the decorations and refreshments, and monitoring what people say when they leave.
Just like high school, no one likes to be gossiped about. (But as we all know, people will inevitably talk.)
Measuring the perceptions of and reactions to both the associations that you’ve proactively developed, as well as the associations that others have created for you, is vital.
You want to know what others are saying so you can correct them when needed, ensuring that perceptions align with your truths.
“No, Mike is really into basketball. Brad is the guy that plays soccer.“
Can’t figure out why you’re not making any new connections? No one responding to your LinkedIn messages? Much like how the name of your company can repel even the most loyal customer or client, a bummer headshot can also “turn off” faster than a light switch.
Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a mid-level manager, or sitting squarely in the C-suite, your headshot can say a lot about you, your business, and more importantly your understanding of the world in which you operate. It’s STILL all about context, people.
Without further adieu, I bring you the top 10 types of headshots to avoid in a professional (and possibly even a personal) setting.
#1 The Thinker
What you think this pose says about you: I am extremely curious about life and am deeply moved by thoughts and ideas.
What this pose really says about you: I probably talk too much and am extremely annoying in social situations.
#2 The Exaggerated Creative
What you think this pose says about you: I’m quirky, creative, and just the type for your burgeoning startup.
What this pose really says about you: I don’t take myself too seriously and perhaps neither should you.
#3 The Come-Hither
What you think this pose says about you: I’m very open to listening and genuinely interested in what you have to say.
What this pose really says about you: We should date.
#4 The Best Friend
What you think this pose says about you: My friends are important to me and this speaks VOLUMES about my character.
What this pose really says about you: My friends are just as important as my job (except – and especially – on friends’ birthdays when friends are definitely more important than my job).
#5 The Kissy-Face
What you think this pose says about you: I’m fun and I’m like a total people person and nothing bothers me.
What this pose really says about you: I’m self-absorbed and think I’m cute.
DISCLAIMER: This type of photo is fine for, oh say, Facebook or something…but we are talking professional photos here.
#6 The Pouter
What you think this pose says about you: I’m not a threat, and you can trust me.
What this pose really says about you: I will not only step on your toes, but I’ll likely find a way to do it without you ever knowing.
#7 The Arrogancia
What you think this pose says about you: I am extremely confident and can likely handle anyone or anything you send my way.
What this pose really says about you: I have an ego the size of Texas and possibly really really really small…hands.
#8 The Drama Queen
What you think this pose says about you: I am a serious arteeeest and I don’t have time for trivial pursuits.
What this pose really says about you: I take myself way too seriously and will be a colossal pain in the ass to my manager.
#9 The Too-Coo-For-Schoo
What you think this pose says about you: I’m too cool for school.
What this pose really says about you: I’m definitely not.
#10 The Do-I-Even-Need-To-Say-It
What you think this pose says about you: Ladieeezzzz and gentlemen, look who has entered the building.
What this pose really says about you: Ladieeezzzz and gentlemen, look who has entered the building.
Tweet your silliest headshot faux pas to us @AirPR. (We promise not to laugh.)
It’s like hearing a long-distance runner turn down a plate of pasta the night before a big race or witnessing Cookie Monster refuse a plate of his favorite cookies (chocolate chip). You just can’t imagine hearing certain things from certain mouths without your world imploding in on itself.
That’s why, for the sake of humor and self-regulation, we’re exploring a few smh-statements that today’s public relations pros just never say.
“Writing isn’t my strong suit.”
Given that PESO strategies (paid, earned, shared, and owned media) are the new black when it comes to PR planning, it’s more important than ever that PR professionals possess polished writing skills that are close to if not at the same level as that of the reporters they’re pitching and the the articles they’re reading. Poor writing is no longer something that can be hidden behind the guise of “Well, I’m a relationships guy… that’s what our copywriter is for.” Exceptional communications and writing skills are fundamental PR musts.
Today’s PR pros know how to build effective social media strategies and they’re up to date on the latest social trends, including ephemeral content. They also know enough to not adopt every single social media platform that arises just for the sake of it. Not every platform is a fit for every brand. (Is Snapchat really necessary for your big-box auto parts client?)
“It’s all about impressions.”
We’ve graduated from AVEs and impressions and we’re now measuring in a far more sophisticated manner than we were 10 years ago. Impressions can still be a part of the PR measurement mix, but engagement, share of voice, power of voice, message pull-through, conversions, and more should be tracked too to give you a holistic view of how your PR efforts are moving the needle. One million impressions isn’t worth a cent if a reporter explained what your company does incorrectly, right? Impressions alone are just too narrow.
“My job is glamorous.”
Contrary to popular belief, the life of a PR pro can be the opposite of glamorous. Sure, we attend some high-brow events, tech conferences can be indubitably thrilling, and every once in awhile you may find yourself giddy with excitement if a New York Times reporter likes one of your tweets. But these are the exceptions, not everyday occurrences. Do you consider milling through data and analyzing blog performance glamorous? If so, well then, yes, our jobs are glamorous. Nevermind the rebuttal above.
“The boilerplate will have to do.”
Slip your toes into a journalist’s shoes and you’ll quickly feel the frustration they feel when they reach out for information and you either send them manufactured answers or attach your boilerplate and call it a day. Today’s PR pros know that every interaction is an opportunity to build a mutually beneficial relationship, and if you can help a reporter find the information they’re looking for you’ll soon be their go-to expert on that topic. Personalized messages and authentic interview answers are definitely the way to go.
“All press is good press, baby!”
Guys, please don’t. Just don’t. Your clients aren’t going to buy it, and neither does Judy.
On that note, what’s a one-liner that will never slip out of your mouth? Any PR pet peeves? Bonus points if you can keep the convo positive. 🙂
Do you remember the first time you reported PR results to a C-suite executive? With sweaty palms, a beating heart, and just enough adrenaline to make you trip over your words, it’s really not that different than being in love, huh?
Sure, CEOs are far less likely to be wooed than a Tinder date, but there are certain steps you can take to put the odds in your favor when communicating PR results, why they’re important, and how you’ll evolve your strategy based on those findings.
Follow these three steps next time it’s on you to communicate value to decision makers, and you just may find yourself in a very sweet place.
1. Begin by evaluating how much your executive knows about content.
A comic wouldn’t try out new material before taking the temperature of the room, so why would you report PR results to your CEO or C-suite executive without knowing how much they know about content in general?
Think about it in the context of where the industry is today. Today’s PR plans are not PR plans at all, they are robust PESO strategies made up of Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned media. If your CEO used to be a CMO, they’ll likely have quite a bit of knowledge in this area, but not everyone is so lucky and you may need to take this as an opportunity to (respectfully) educate. Use examples to reframe the state of PR today for them, and make sure they know what you’re considering when you evaluate a piece of content or PR initiative.
Tell them that all PR is content, and content is made up of:
Earned (publications like The New York Times)
Newswires (press releases)
Owned (company blogs)
Text (long or short form)
Video (amateur or professional)
Visuals (photos, infographics, etc.)
Here’s a go-to visual you can use when you need to explain how it all works, to C-suite execs or other cross-divisional partners:
2. Only report on what matters.
In our information-rich, digitally-driven environment, we need to continually evaluate and decide what matters most. Think about which pieces of media or content help you properly convey your key messages, reach your desired audience, generate top-of-funnel business leads, and map straight back to your business goals. Those are the pieces to share.
A few tips for reporting:
Top-line and bottom-line it.
The best of the month was X, and what this means is Y.
Use numbers to tell the story.
This resulted in X% changes month over month, and X% increases…
Speak to business wins.
This is what X activity did for business goal Y.
Share what’s next.
With X data, we are going to focus on Y.
What that looks like in real life:
Our CNN article drove roughly 4,000 potential customers and nearly 14% of them took some sort of action on bacon.com.
Compare that with digital advertising, in which .02% to 2% of ads ever drive someone toward action on bacon.com. Molto impressivo!
We increased our earned media coverage by nearly 17% this month, which means more exposure for the brand. What a win!
3. When reporting, always use the 70% Noise Reduction Rule.
In other words, dramatically reduce whatever you’re planning on sharing with your C-level executive. Communicators can be verbose, and we sometimes layer in too much irrelevant information.
Look at everything you thought you needed to say and instead share only 30% of what you were originally going to communicate. Think about how much more of an impact you’ll make when you’ve whittled a 10-slide deck down to 3 slides of impactful data that can help the business immediately.
But don’t take my word for it though. Gerry Tschopp, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Experian said it well, “I want to know enough about PR ‘wins’ so I can speak to business leaders in key data points or success stories that drive business and reputation. And then communicate every month, how we perform against objectives that support our business strategies.”
In closing, to truly romance your C-suite executives, (metaphorically) text them less.
Nearly five years ago to date, when I was still in my twenties and San Francisco rent didn’t eat up half of one’s salary (imagine that!), I set out to solve a problem that many said would be “nearly impossible to do.” As any entrepreneur would, I thought: “PERFECT! I’m in.”
I managed to convince two extremely brilliant computer science engineers and one idealistic PR domain expert to join me for the early stage ride…and ride we did.
After the sale of our first product line, Marketplace, in early 2015 and with our focus now squarely on helping our customers showcase PR value through our Analyst product (Analytics, Insights, and Measurement), we’ve seen marked growth in both company size and revenue.
We currently serve customers ranging from Qualcomm and McGraw-Hill Education to Experian and Kiva. We hit our success milestones early and are certainly proud of the product we’ve built, the talent we’ve attracted to join us, and the customers with whom we work every day to solve problems.
After five years and as we launch our Reporting product this week (which increases PR productivity exponentially) I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. But we’ve got a ways to go as an industry.
We still struggle to find standardization and consensus about both the PR role and how to communicate and showcase value to decision-makers. And unfortunately, some PR pros are STILL doing 2 things that should send them to PR Hell – which I imagine would consist of being forced to smile & dial 17 hours a day, repeating the same pitch over and over with no response:
Sending mass (note: not personalized) emails to journalists with only a press release and no context. What’s worse, these pitches are often offbeat and wholly irrelevant.
And perhaps more importantly: Reporting PR’s value by using Advertising Value Equivalency (AVEs), which has not only been banned by the Barcelona Principles committee but also VASTLY (and I mean VASTLY, we have data people) undervalues PR.
While it is certainly an uphill battle of sorts, here’s what I know as fact based on over a half billion news articles we’ve tracked and analyzed over the last five years:
1. Earned media coverage (whether it’s the New York Times, Marketing Land, or a guest post on the Google Analytics blog), is anywhere from 2 to 5 times more effective at getting potential customers to engage with your brand than traditional/digital advertising. The point? Having someone else make people aware of you is extremely important and generates curiosity and credibility.
2. Owned media (i.e. building your brand through your own channel) is often just as effective for top of the funnel lead generation as earned media or advertising. The caveat: DON’T talk about yourself too much if at all. Instead think “educate, entertain, and engage.”
3. Competitive intelligence is mandatory to understand what your organization is doing well and what it isn’t. Companies don’t exist in a vacuum and neither do your PR activities. Benchmarking against yourself? That’s only mildly useful. Benchmarking against your competitors gives you far more insight into how you fit into the big picture.
4. Press releases are useful for companies that have reached brand ubiquity in a specific category, or whom are required to make public statements of record for either investors or shareholders. Newswires are a commoditized channel for reporting news. They shouldn’t be used in attempt to build a story or a narrative, but rather to report facts.
5. If specific, trackable metrics and KPIs (blog sign-ups, demo requests, etc.) don’t exist for PR, then you are simply doing a brand building and mindshare exercise. Which is completely fine and these things are important. But it’s going to be very hard to quantify in a meaningful way, thus making it nearly impossible to “make a case” for PR to a data-driven decision-maker (think CEO, CMO). Moral of the story? It’s important to categorically understand whether something will have a “qualitative” or “quantitative” metric.
6. All publishers are not created equal, and it’s impossible to know which outlet will get you the most “ROI” without some historical data or without asking the right question in terms of what you are trying to “measure” and who are you trying to reach. Which again makes the point for gathering data sooner than later. The point: Don’t ask “which publication will get us the most reach or impressions?” But rather “which publication will get the most people to engage with our brand in a meaningful way?” Then A/B/C test the hell out of your hypothesis.
7. Social media amplification is not always a proxy for a successful PR campaign. It is simply a signal and one particular part of the equation. While social media share counts (except of course, ahhhem, Twitter) are useful for understanding whether your HEADLINE is interesting (did someone say clickbait?), it only tells part of the engagement story.
If you’re a PR pro who already gets all this, then you are AMAZING and you should ask for a raise! But if you read this, scratch your head and go “Whaaaa?” it’s time for a PR reboot.
For PR/Comms pros, CMOs, and content producers everywhere…this industry isn’t getting any easier to navigate. If our data tells us anything, it’s that unless you prioritize the auto-aggregation and reporting of your PR efforts you will waste valuable human capital and budget.
And when you DO finally decide to do the analysis, what you will surely find is that at least 75% to 80% of it has been a complete wash. All that is to say…you’re better off jumping on the bandwagon now.
In the meantime…we will continue to run towards the light, along with anyone who is willing to join us!
From her brilliant trends reports to our mutually shared love of integrating data into content, Sal is one of those PR pros who quite simply “gets” it. So it should come as no surprise that when one of Sally’s latest offerings (a concise and spot on round up of must-have PR skills) crossed my path, I jumped at a chance to share it with all of you.
Cision recently launched a campaign around the hashtag #PitchPRomise that has stirred up conversation in the PR community – both pro and con. The premise of the Pitch PRomise is there is a perception that, in general, PR pros don’t take enough care with the distribution of press releases and pitches.
It’s dangerous to generalize and slap a label on any group of people and this is probably why we’ve seen an indignant backlash from PR folk who protest that they’re being accused of bad practices that they don’t do. However, just as a brand has an image, so too does the PR industry. Image and perception are closely tied together. Corporate image is a core function of PR, so we should understand how an image gets formed and why the actions of some might impact the group as a whole.
25 years ago when I first started teaching PR at the university level the number one complaint from editors and reporters was that PR practitioners sent them irrelevant press releases and pitches. Many PR pros at that time were using the “spray and pray”method of distribution. They’d send the release or pitch to as many reporters as possible and hope for a result.
I taught my students to build relationships with the media – it’s called Media Relations after all. I made it very clear that the best results came from getting to know the reporters and only sending them material that fit their beat and the topics they covered.
I still talk to reporters, editors and bloggers on a regular basis, but for a different reason now. For the last five years I’ve produced the annual t and, sad to say, the number one complaint about PR from the media is still the same: we don’t do our homework and we send irrelevant press releases and pitches about topics that they don’t cover.
If this has not changed in 25 years I submit that we do indeed have an image problem. I don’t think Cision is stepping out of bounds here. They’re reacting to a legitimate issue. (Note: I don’t work for or with Cision or use their products)
And yes, I do know that this is not what every PR practitioner does. But it must be happening with enough volume and consistency for the media to be holding this up as the number one #fail of the PR industry for a quarter of a century.
And now that PR and journalism are becoming more and more digital, the ground is shifting beneath our feet. There are news skills we need to learn when dealing with the media. What journalists need is changing. Their job is not what it was 5 years ago.
This complaint from the media is only going to get worse if we don’t learn:
How to do media analysis online
Spot the gaps in media coverage we can fill
Figure out what the media really needs and wants today
Produce stories that are timely and relevant
Pitch them correctly
Offer rich media assets and content in a way they can actually use
There are 15 Digital Skills every PR pros should master in 2016. Media Analysis and Media Relations Online are just two of them. Visual Content and Visual Literacy also impact your media relations results. Metrics and analytics are essential to tracking results.
Day in and day out, PR pros focus on storytelling, relationship building, and painting their client or company in the best light possible. Since we are so laser focused on executing all the time, I’d like to ask something that might throw you for a loop: When is the last time you thought about PR’s PR?
In the spirit of wrapping up 2015 and looking forward to a new year, I wanted to encourage all the PR pros of the world to take a minute, reflect on your work, and then get pumped for what’s coming down the pike.
I’ll state the obvious; PR pros are damn good at their jobs but just in case it’s a little trickier for you to reflect inwardly, I’ve got some really solid reasons why you should high five yourself as well as a few tips on how you can ensure your best work is yet to come.
Strut Your Stuff
It’s been an exciting year for the PR industry. The PRTech ecosystem is expanding by leaps and bounds and making great strides to help us do our jobs better and more efficiently. Technological innovation is helping PR pros identify what stories are moving the needle, know what messages are/are not resonating, and uncover opportunities to gain mindshare.
Not that it’s a competition but for the first time PR is armed with data, real data, that actually demonstrates the tangible business impact of our work. For years Marketing and Advertising have had concrete numbers to show their value and now, PR is able to sit at the big kid’s table and contribute in a meaningful way to the data driven conversation.
It’s easy to feel like PR is siloed off from other departments, but that isn’t written in stone anywhere and why should it be that way? In order for PR pros to do their best work possible, collaboration is a must. As my colleague, Rebekah Iliff, astutely pointed out: When Comms connects with Content, the potential synergy is off the chain.
Think about the infamous PESO model. To best leverage this 4 pronged approach, it’s pretty important to tap the expertise of others to help with the implementation and execution of your integrated communications strategy. When all of the various players are informed and aligned, teamwork really does make the dream work.
Since building relationships is something PR pros do best, it makes a heck of a lot of sense to turn that skill internally and focus on cultivating relationships with your peers across departments. It’s pretty much a guarantee we’ll be better and more productive, or at the very least we’ll have more interesting water cooler talk.
Reinvest Your Dividends
In order to maximize learnings culled from a campaign’s performance, you must ask yourself: What am I going to do with the information I glean from my evaluation?
It’s not hard to get drowned in data, so it helps to have a beacon or two to focus on. Do you want to see a specific key message conveyed? Or a certain audience reached? What about extracting useful information about the brand?
Once you are able to identify the most important and pertinent information you’re after, you can then analyze the outcomes of your inputs (aka your PR strategy). Analysis is all about asking questions.
As soon as you are able to answer nitty gritty questions, the sooner you can reinvest these dividends into your next press push. This involves replicating your successes and tweaking the tactics that missed the mark. If there was some magical equation that guaranteed the exact PR results we wanted, you’d be rich and I’d be out of a job… so the greatest takeaway here is to learn from the past and incorporate it into the future.
So what do you think about all this? Were these PR for PR pointers helpful? We’d love to hear from you – please share your thoughts, feelings, constructive feedback or your favorite holiday tune in the comments below.
We know, we know…sequels so rarely live up to the hype of originals, but I can assure you this part duex is guaranteed to deliver as much punch and pizzazz as what came before.
A few weeks ago my colleague and engineering partner-in-crime, Frank Jing, knocked it out of the park with his succinct and astute overview of Big Data and its role in PR (Part 1).
Not only did he touch on what Big Data is and why PR peeps should care about it, he also provided insights into how to think about this phenomenon and three reasons to embrace Big Data now.
As someone who lives and breathes Big Data on a daily basis (no seriously, I’m currently surrounded), I want to take one step further and provide some actionable ways you can harness the power of Big Data.
Once you are fixed on the Big Data idea and nailed all the basics, it’s time to identify the challenges or problems you wish to solve and how best to solve them.
Here are 7 of my suggestions:
1. List all your current frustrations plaguing your work. There’s a good chance Big Data can solve quite a few!
2. Get familiar with the most common terminologies of Big Data. Look up things like predictive modeling, natural language processing, data mining, databases, etc. Treat these words like medical jargons. You don’t have to know them inside and out, but it’s better to know *of* them when your doctor err…engineer…starts using them.
3. Make it a point to regularly talk with your tech people, but be patient. The language barrier may be high at first, and the same word can (and often does) mean different things in different circumstances, but good data people will be able to translate. Use their expertise to your advantage!
4. Decide if your Big Data strategy will be DIY or if outside help is required. Big Data means big decisions. The expenses of buying equipment, managing databases, integrating with existing systems, and doing automated analysis can be significant up front. Luckily, there are more and more companies providing customized solutions for Big Data, but it’s worth considering if you have the resources in house to get you up and running in the interim.
5. Start collecting data NOW! This is an “act first, ask questions later” kind of mindset. Yes, yes, it is crucial to develop a robust strategy for collecting, structuring, and storing data. But big data is an iterative process that begins with collecting data. It’ll be much easier to refine your collection and storage strategy as you go. Besides, storage is cheap and you can always discard what you don’t need.
6. Figure out what your data is telling you. Obviously, having the data is only half the story. Deriving insights and weaving those into your storytelling is also paramount. I suggest sitting with a data-minded individual and talking through your hypotheses. Starting with postulations can often be the easiest jumping off point to affirm or debunk your subjective hunches.
7. Keep up with what’s happening in the advancement of technology. The tides change fast, so be sure you know how to surf ‘em. Pick 1-2 tech focused publications and make it a point to do a monthly or bi-weekly deep dive into their coverage so you stay in the know.
Perhaps most importantly, believe in the power of data-driven decisions. It won’t replace experience and it’s no substitute for human capital or emotional intelligence, but like a great sequel, it can deliver unique insights and give you a fresh new perspective.
For decades, PR has been *relegated to a position that oft leaves us “last to know first to blame.”
*dismissed, made to feel inferior, downgraded, lower in rank/status
But now, ladies and gents, the tides are a’shifting (not sure what accent I’m going for here, but it’s really working for me right now)…ahhh yes, PR is about to have it’s day in the sun.
Before I go on waxing poetic about how data and analytics have enabled this to a degree – that story has been told, has it not? – the REAL shift is that the really really smart people on the Comms side of things have started talking to the really really smart people on the Content side of things and figured this out:
PR is good at communicating messages and stories
All Content is, actually, are stories and messages put into a format which is then distributed on some channel (did I mention “convergence”?)
Thus, PR is probably a likely candidate to drive the Content machine
And as Lee Odden astutely stated during last week’s PRSA International Conference panel session hosted by Marketwired:
“Content is the future of PR.”
YEAH IT IS. And guess what happens when PR owns Content?
Welp, you guessed it: We are the first to know. We are in the driver’s seat. We get to set agendas. We are no longer asked to put together some bullshit press release in order to satisfy a quota set by some arbitrary upper completely removed from the sitch.
But first…yes, always with a catch…it’s going to require a rather sizable shift in thinking. In fact, it’s basically an entire reversal of our former systematic approach to PR.
How to think about PR in 3 steps:
STEP 1: Stop thinking about pitching a publication, start thinking about pitching a channel.
STEP 2: Stop thinking about a pitch or press release, start thinking about the best format to communicate with your audience, customer, employees, etc.
STEP 3: Stop thinking about sheer volume of outputs, start thinking about the how you’re going to measure the performance of the formats you put out through channels.
If you’re reading this, you likely already know that Content is empowering PR like never before: it is the mechanism by which PR lives or dies. It is how we communicate with key stakeholders which include customers, media, employees, and of course…the general public.
So now that we have re-framed the relationship PR has with Content, the question is…what are YOU going to do about it?
Tell us @AirPR. Also feel free to take us to task. We like that.