Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Persistence is Key

While there are only four days left in the first month of the year we wanted to share one last blog post about another resolution to consider.

Working in the PR industry, all PR pros have experienced the feelings of frustration and disappointment when calls and emails go unanswered from reporters and editors. Unfortunately this happens more frequently than many of us would like, but the key is not to give up. So, the final resolution to add to your check list before January is officially over is persistence.

Persistence is key in any industry, not just for PR practitioners, but before we go any further, we need to outline what persistence is not. Persistence is not bombarding the media with repeated emails and phone calls with the same press release or pitch. Persistence is not making a follow up call to ensure a reporter received the press release you emailed. And persistence is most definitely not getting upset and yelling at reporters when they don’t like your story idea.

Many times PR pros feel pressure from clients to get stories in the media. With the start of 2010, all businesses are ramping up their media relations efforts again, hoping to make last year’s down economy a distant memory. Persistence is the number one tool all PR practitioners will need in 2010 to help their clients achieve their business goals.

When you make the first pitch of the year (which I’m sure many of you have already done) and a reporter does not like it or does not respond, try again. Find a new angle to work with. Can you tie your client’s story to a timely event or holiday? Can you create a local angle from a national news trend? The lesson here is to keep trying but ensure that you are sending fresh ideas – if you keep sending the same pitch, your email will most likely end up in the “circular file” as reporters are constantly struggling to fish out the best, most timely story ideas from their already flooded inboxes. The Bad Pitch Blog has some great pitching tips with real life examples of bad pitches. You do not want your (or your client’s) 15-minutes of fame to be on this blog. Just like the age-old saying goes, “think before you speak,” you should also “think before you pitch.”

One other thought – maybe your pitch is not getting through to the right person. Again, persistence is paramount. When a story isn’t getting through, take a step back and re-evaluate. Did you do your homework? Are you pitching the right reporter? Just because a reporter is listed on Mediatlas or some other online editorial research service does not mean this reporter still covers this beat or is even still working at that publication. Do not rely solely on these services as your research tool – when your pitch is not getting through it’s time to think like a journalist and figure out the missing link. Check out this great article from Bulldog Reporter that provides more tips on pitching.

Persistence was the key to our success from this recent TV hit on Austin’s Fox network. One of our clients MileMeter is an innovative by-the-mile insurance company that just launched a little over a year ago. Its unique by-the-mile pricing system is no longer new so we had to devise a new angle to remind the media and the public of why by-the-mile insurance is still a newsworthy story. As a first step, we waited – we waited because we were busy doing our homework to figure out which reporter would most likely have an interest in our story. Once we found that reporter, we crafted a targeted pitch geared toward this reporter’s interests and previous story coverage on the Fox network. While we would love to say we got an immediate response from this reporter, we didn’t. Rather than giving up or taking the approach of beating a dead horse, repeatedly sending the reporter the same tired old pitch, we took a step back and re-evaluated our pitch. We followed up again but with a new timely, local angle and bingo, we got a hit! Check out the TV segment below, which was a direct result of persistence.

Persistence is one trait that all PR pros must possess if they ever hope to succeed, but on that same note, it is our duty to figure out why a story idea isn’t working versus re-sending the same thing over and over. While your job is to sell your client’s story to the media, there are times when a client’s idea just isn’t newsworthy. PR execs are hired for a reason – to provide expert counsel to clients. So if you know a story idea won’t mesh, tell your client why and then figure out another angle that will work. Again, your clients are relying on you to create media-worthy ideas so you have to be persistent in order to find that hidden gem in a story.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting More Serious With Your PRSA Chapter

It’s the start of 2010, which means business and social calendars are starting to fill up with networking events. For many PR pros, between attending several luncheons and panel discussions whilst mixing and mingling with fellow industry colleagues, you might find yourself smitten with your local PRSA chapter. If that’s the case, you are probably looking for ways to get more involved so we wanted to give you a few tips on how to take this “relationship” to the next level.

Diving in deeper with your local organization can be a bit like taking the next step in a dating relationship—you need to define that relationship and make the move to pursue what it is you want. Here are two things to consider:

First, decide where you intend for this relationship to go. Would you like a long-term commitment with your local chapter, perhaps spearheading a committee or even starting a new committee for the year? Or, are you planning on a more casual liaison - do you have a great idea for a one-time event? Establishing your expectations up front is the key to avoiding spreading yourself too thin.

Once you have defined the relationship, perhaps the most important thing you can do is take the initiative in pursuing the project/committee of your “desire.” Would you like to head up the social media committee? Do you believe the chapter needs more diversity programs? Be bold and approach your chapter leadership with an outline of proposed initiatives. PRSA leaders will be able to connect you with the appropriate resources to make it happen and will be thrilled to have another volunteer on board to help generate fresh ideas.

Here at C. Pharr, we’ve each found fulfilling yet diverse opportunities within the Dallas PRSA chapter:

Leah Ekmark and Marie Powell - Drinks+Diversity co-chairs
Katie Flodder and Vicky Smithee - NuPros co-chair and NuPros board
Shelby Tuttle - Agency referral

If you have innovative ideas and a desire to make an impact, consider carefully what you’d like to accomplish and then be bold. It’s time to take action in order to create meaningful opportunities for yourself and your local PRSA chapter. As with any relationship – both on a professional and business level – this saying rings true, “You only get out of something what you put into it.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

January is National Mentoring Month

During the first part of January nearly the entire world is busy trying to keep their New Year's resolutions while others are still trying to figure out what resolutions to make. The point is everyone is wrapped up in making this year better than the last.

You know the drill - many of us vow to lose weight this year or save more money in 2010 but how many of us have really stuck to these resolutions? One attainable resolution many of us should consider is becoming a role model/mentor for someone in 2010 whether it is in your professional or personal life. In fact, January is officially known as National Mentoring Month! Being that person others can count on for guidance or lean on for advice is something that brings dual rewards for both involved. Even better, anyone can serve as a mentor or mentee during any stage of life.

In the PR realm, finding a mentor is the key to success in our fast-paced industry. The path of public relations is diverse, constantly changing and evolving most recently with the advent of social media. There are many career options to pursue making it essential to have someone there to help you navigate the field while introducing you to contacts and telling you which books and blogs to read.

So when that intern strolls by your desk asking what to work on today, be sure to take a little more time showing him/her the ropes. Remember, they are there to absorb everything they can and to seek your professional guidance - chances are you were in that same position at one point in your career. Who knows, your intern just might have a thing or two to teach you about social media. This role of reverse mentoring is commonplace now so even the most seasoned PR veterans are learning new tips about social networking.

Don't think you're off the hook if your company doesn't have interns or you're not in a position to manage the intern duties - you can still serve as a mentor for a new colleague (young or old) in your organization. And if you're still making excuses and don't think you have time to establish a mentoring relationship, then how about being a mentor for the day? Dallas PRSA hosts Pro Am day each spring, which allows college students from all over Dallas and beyond to shadow a PR professional for the day. It's a great way to give students a taste of a day-in-the-life of PR. Be sure to check Dallas PRSA - details are coming soon.

So as you're thinking about all the New Year's resolutions you've already broken, this is one resolution you can keep.