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Public Relations – More than Press Releases

Earlier this week, my friend Rosanna Fiske, APR, wrote a piece for the Poynter Institute about challenges journalists will likely encounter when transitioning to public relations. We’re seeing lots of folks making this transition now as ad budgets are squeezing the size of traditional media. The article raises some excellent points about what journalists face when making the transition. And there is so much more to public relations than press releases.

Maze showing pathwayWhen counseling clients, my first steps involve a lot of listening and some planning. I first determine the goals, strategies and objectives and get some idea how the client will measure success. Only after having that understanding should we open the toolbox to see which tactics can help achieve those goals.

If you don’t know WHAT you want to do, you can’t possibly know HOW to do it.

So, how does one do this without getting bogged down? By asking some key questions and doing some research. Some baseline questions I consider with each project:

  • What are we trying to do?
  • Who’s our competition?
  • To whom are we talking?
  • What do we want to tell them?
  • What do we want them to think about/do?
  • What do they currently think about us?
  • What is critical to our success?
  • What are you concerned about?
  • What is working currently?
  • What do we do better than anyone else?
  • How will we know we’ve been successful?

Once we have these answers, there’s normally a path that’s developing to take us to our destination. We can add to that plan and build in checks and balances along the way. As we make our way down the path, I use the answers to help remind the client why we’re doing certain things. For larger projects, I also plan a mid-point check to make sure we’re still on track.

Have any of the answers changed now that we have more information?

From my position as outside counselor, it makes me smarter. From a business standpoint, it helps me achieve meaningful results. That’s my system and I’m sure others have planning systems that work best for them. What are your methods?

 

By |2018-03-18T22:54:07+00:00August 16th, 2011|Leadership & Networking|14 Comments

About the Author:

Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, runs a strategic communications consultancy where she helps clients understand how to integrate new media into traditional communication programs. Mary has counseled clients in Tacoma, Anchorage, San Francisco, Oregon, and Colorado for nearly 40 years working with a variety of food organizations, several agencies, and as a key team member on two successful US Senate campaigns. 


14 Comments

  1. Shonali August 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Really good points, Mary. I’ve actually been seeing this transition of media to “the dark side,” as they like to call it, for several years now. One of the things that often struck me, as I met them at networking events, was how arrogant some of them seemed to be. “I write/have been on TV, so I can do PR.” Uh, no, not necessarily!

    • mary August 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      I agree Shonali. The arrogance of some is amazing. At the same time, I know some who learn quickly and take advantage of offered resource. I hope others will also learn. The comments on the Poynter post are interesting as well.

  2. Fiskey August 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Mary — This is excellent! I’d love to share your list of questions with my grad students, many of whom come to our Public Relations and Advertising program from other careers. Yes, journalists can do quite well in media relations. But what about market research, executive communications, employee communications, crisis management, and investor relations among the many other functions of PR?

    • mary August 16, 2011 at 3:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks my friend. Feel free to use my list…and tell your students to visit here often!

      My thinking is to address those other functions in what could be seen as part two of this post. Your list plus more – community & government relations for example. Additionally…heaven forbid…public relations campaign can include advertising and direct mail.

  3. mdbarber August 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    I agree @Shonali . The arrogance of some is amazing. At the same time, I know some who learn quickly and take advantage of offered resource. I hope others will also learn. The comments on the Poynter post are interesting as well.

  4. mdbarber August 16, 2011 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    @Fiskey

    Thanks my friend. Feel free to use my list…and tell your students to visit here often!

    My thinking is to address those other functions in what could be seen as part two of this post. Your list plus more – community & government relations for example. Additionally…heaven forbid…public relations campaign can include advertising and direct mail.

  5. kcturley August 17, 2011 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Mary, I love this post. I’ve had this conversation with several colleagues over time and believe strongly that PR pros who make the transition from other fields should consider pursuing their APR. I studied journalism in college and only had one PR class. I entered the PR world almost immediately but didn’t really “get it” until I started the APR process and forced myself to look at our daily activities in a new way. I quickly realized that it’s not about how well that press release plays with the media but how well we are able to counsel our clients or companies on the bigger communication issues. The laundry list of tactics is only as good as the forethought your put in strategic planning and asking the critically important questions.

  6. DeAnnBaxter August 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    In this economy, frankly, it saddens and worries me that so many PR jobs are going to journalists. I fear that that PR firms and companies seeking an in-house practitioner are placing far too much emphasis on media relations and not understanding the big picture. In my opinion, it’s important to get back to the basics, and this is a good list that covers just that.

    Also, a word of advice: I think it’s necessary to make sure that candidates interviewing for jobs ask pointed questions; Make sure the potential employer really “gets it” when it comes to public relations, and isn’t looking for someone to just spew out press releases and post messages on Facebook.

  7. mdbarber August 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    @kcturley This is a good testament to the value of accreditation. I was an English major in college and practiced several (well, many) years before getting my APR. I learned so much in the process that I applied to my career. I wish more would take the time. It’s so personally rewarding. The APR studying dramatically strengthened my ability to be smart and strategic in the planning process and made me a better professional. We need to work hard to convince others of this as well.

  8. mdbarber August 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    @DeAnnBaxter Thanks DeAnn. I have a similar fear and wish more journalists would take advantage of professional development opportunities from organizations like PRSA. I think they might….once they fail at the job they didn’t realize was so multi-faceted. But, time will tell.

    Your advice for job candidates is good too. Oftentimes, we talk about what the employer needs to know about the candidate and forget that the candidate also needs to do some interviewing as well.

  9. 3HatsComm September 1, 2011 at 8:05 am - Reply

    The transition of journalists is to media relations and publicity, not public relations.. and there’s the rub as we continue to define ourselves against that. PR is more than news and press releases, and your list of questions highlights that. Asking questions has always been part of my process, I put a lot of these to clients to really get them thinking about the program, what they really need (vs. just want), what can be done to achieve those goals. FWIW.

  10. mdbarber September 1, 2011 at 10:29 am - Reply

    @3HatsComm in my opinion, the rub is that the journalists don’t realize there’s a difference. And, many companies just want someone to get them on the news without realizing they could have much more. Its that continual education we all need to keep up with. So glad you’re asking the questions too. It’s how we can differentiate ourselves and attempt to change perceptions about our field.

  11. rajean March 6, 2013 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Excellent post, Mary. I’m pinning to my Pinterest board, “Public Relations Like a Boss,” if you use the platform, let’s be sure to follow each other. Mine is a mix of business and pleasure, which is my life 🙂

    • mdbarber March 6, 2013 at 10:55 am - Reply

      @rajean Thanks for pinning it to your board. I’ll check your board out. I have to admit I haven’t done as much on Pinterest as I should. But I need to try to make time…for that and G+ and….

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