If you’re interested in a long, successful career in public relations, the key thing to remember is that you have to stay engaged. It is really easy to get complacent, to think you’ve “figured it out” and to take client and reporter relationships for granted. You need to stay engaged in the clients’ journey and what is driving both the company and the people you support. You have to stay engaged in the clients’ story and the developing trends and issues that create both opportunity and risk. And you have to stay engaged with the reporters and analysts that help shape your clients’ markets.
I have reporters and analysts that I’ve been friends with for almost two decades. Like any friendship, it takes work. The good part is, this is work I really enjoy because these people are actually, truly friends. Not friends that need something from me, though they often do, or friends that I need something from, again though I often do. They are friends that I can talk to about my kids, job, hobbies, ups, downs and everything in between. Don’t forget to continue to build on friendships with reporters. While many people will tell you that your rolodex is what makes you valuable, that sells these relationships short. Work on these relationships because that is what friends do.
So often, PR people just want things from reporters. They want them to respond to a pitch, to agree to an interview and to write a story. Reporters want things too. They want access, they want honest information and perspective, and they want it quickly as they are often on deadline. Reporters also want you to really understand what your client does so that you can help them understand if they might be a fit for a specific story. Reporters want you to be engaged.
I remember when Twitter first came out I thought it was silly and useless. To be clear, I was not engaged with anyone or on any topic on the platform. Over time, I realized that it was a very interesting way to stay on top of what people were thinking, and more importantly for my PR business, what they were writing about. I regularly tweet about client news, my thoughts on the market and use it to respond to what is posted by others. Recently I noticed that Jon Swartz of USA Today had written about the HB2 law in North Carolina. I DM’d him, offering to help connect him with N.C. tech companies on the topic for a local viewpoint. He was interested, so I connected him with a prospect that could provide insight. That prospect was able to share its CEO’s view that hopefully the N.C. tech industry could influence the state’s politicians that a change to that law was needed. This all happened because I stayed engaged on the Twitter platform and with Jon on what he is writing.
Finally, you have to be engaged so that you can do more than block and tackling PR work for your clients. For one of our clients, Verne Global, we have several ongoing outreach campaigns in place, one of them is completely adjacent to what they do, but will help raise the visibility of Iceland as a smart place for data centers because of Iceland’s commitment to development of renewable energy sources. I couldn’t have come up with this idea if I wasn’t engaged with Verne’s business, its plans and the challenges and risks their clients face as they look to place data center compute programs.
There are lots of ways to stay engaged, far more than the three discussed in this blog. It’s up to you how you do it, but it’s definitely a lot more fun and sometimes, if you’re lucky, involves a night with a friend at a ballpark in Chicago.