PR Resolutions

Business Communications, Leadership, Public Relations

It’s that time of year when we all make resolutions and promises…many of which fall by the wayside by the end of January.  However, I think as PR practitioners we need to do better.  As we enter into 2010 our profession is still not give the respect I believe it truly deserves.  Too often PR is still viewed as “spinning” bad news to make it acceptable to the masses.  There are too many outstanding communicators out there to allow this misperception to continue.

How do we kill off this old stereotype? We collectively step-up to make sure that we don’t allow our profession to be viewed as window dressing but a critical function to every company we serve. How?  Here’s a few starters.

  • Know Your Business and Your Customer
                                                                                                                                    Before you start throwing out ideas about how to obtain more coverage or the greatest new promotional idea, make sure the efforts line up well with the overall strategic plan for the company.  Take the time to think about your work from the customer perspective– ask yourself why would a customer care and how would your ideas improve their experience.  Also be sure that you’ll be able to measure how your work will have an impact.  Even if you fail, you want to learn from the effort rather than have no idea if you made a difference.     

  • Use New Tools to Improve Your Work       
                                                                                                                                           Don’t recycle the plan your boss used when you started.  That’s a sure-fire way to maintain a very average program that becomes irrelevant…and doesn’t exactly position you as a great strategic mind.  Take advantage of the new technology out there and think critically about how social media may fit in your mix.  Look at if there is a fit in your company for Skype to cut down on some costs and encourage better collaboration. 

  • Don’t Just Use New Tools to Improve Your Work              
    On the flip side of that last point, please don’t chase after the new shiny toy so much that you forget about core fundamentals.  I don’t care how many followers you can get on Twitter if you can’t explain what the heck it is your company does and why anyone in their right mind would use your product or service.  Be sure to communicate all the methods you want to use in reaching your audience. Your discussions should never strictly focus on a technology but what the technology can do for you. 

  • Deliver What Reporters Need    
                                                                                                                                                                         One of the issues that hounds our field is the “smile and dial” approach where a PR person is asked, typically by a client, to just call your reporter friends and pitch this great new product.  Here’s the problem, if you have no idea what the product does or (even worse) the product is junk and you still pitch it then it’s your reputation that takes the hit.  We need to be smart enough and strong enough to push back to our companies and clients if there is no valid news angle. 

  • Be an advocate for communications 
                                                                                                                                                     This is especially aimed at my corporate readers more than agency but it applies to us all.  If you are being paid to be an expert communicator, you also need to help others in your organization understand the true importance of the role.  If you have a truly groundbreaking product that nobody knows about, then you have nothing.  If communications is always viewed as the least important part of a planning session then you know something is critically wrong culturally and you need to change it.  Take the time to explain (supported by examples of your results) the value of communications and be a leader in speaking up for the importance of our profession. 

So, in 2010 let’s all resolve to eliminate the missteps that plague our profession.  Let’s do a little PR work on PR this year.  What else belongs on this list?  What else can we do to improve our collective reputations?  Let’s think big this year and make some real change.

It’s More About GAAP Than Gap


You may have heard me say it before, and you’ll definitely hear me say it again (hint- great series of pros in future posts), but I believe that communications professionals do themselves a disservice by not having a good grasp on broader business principles and strategy.  If you’re offering your clients recommendations on one piece of the puzzle like media relations, social media, or internal communications but can’t make educated, informed comment on their business model and competition then you aren’t providing the full value they need. 

If you are working within an organization and want to have a role in the strategic direction of the company, it’s essential you can speak the same language as those you want to influence.  PR people cannot expect to walk into a C-level discussion and be viewed as an equal member of the team unless you can add real value to a discussion that stretches beyond how the company will capitalize on sales, but how you will drive sales. 

Fundamental to that level of discussion is viewing the business in the same manner that other leadership views the business.  Many communications/PR schools haven’t heavily integrated business programming into a PR track and many practitioners have come from a variety of backgrounds where they may not have been exposed to fundamentals of business strategy.  How can you pick up enough knowledge to put you on the right track?

Find a colleague who can serve as a mentor- This is a great way to learn more about specialties you may not initially understand well. In my experience, if you express an interest and willingness to learn, people are willing to help you along.  Many times they’re actually flattered.  This was especially true when I reached out to accountants who, I’m willing to bet, hadn’t really been approached often with people “wanting” to learn more about their jobs.

Expand that bookshelf- There are hundreds of great books out there that can provide an introduction to basic finance, accounting, sales theory, and business strategy.  A quick search on finance produced a great list of options to help you get started. 

Change your process- Before heading into any meeting, come up with a couple questions that you want to have addressed when you have time to do so without worrying about being on the spot in real-time.  If you’re looking to better understand the sales process, look at recent reports see what seems to be working and ask for more information on the “why” behind the success. Over time, you’ll learn a great deal and be able to better add value.

The Gap is great for a day of shopping, but better understanding GAAP can fund that shopping.

I Want it Now- The Veruca Salt Theory

Business Communications, Public Relations, Social Media

It’s human nature to want things, it really is.  I understand the desire to always have the latest and greatest ‘it’ as well as anyone.  However, while thinking about that concept in terms of communications, it’s an urge that professional communications pros need to restrain when it comes to identifying the right strategy for an organization.  We can’t allow ourselves to want for anything and everything like the wonderful Veruca Salt character, “Hey, Daddy, *I* want an Oompa Loompa! I want you to get me an Oompa Loompa right away!”

The Veruca parallel actually started in my mind when I was having a discussion focusing around social media (SM) and the opportunities that can be gained by playing an active roles in the SM space.  Now, let me be crystal clear here, I thoroughly enjoy and believe in the power of social media.  I’m not a huge naysayer that believes Twitter is a bunch of people posting where they went to lunch but I am saying that not everyone has to have a major Facebook or Twitter presence. 

The first step any organization should take is looking clearly and honestly at their overall goals.  At that point,  the organization and their agency/consultant/staff should look at how to create the optimal mix of social media, sales, marketing, advertising and PR come together to make a real difference to the organization.  In many cases, SM makes a great deal of sense especially for companies that have a strong consumer element.  If you’re customers and audience are there, then it’s a no-brainer that you should be too.  If you’re customers aren’t there…well, I’d figure out where they are.

As communications pros, we can’t just chase the latest shiny object we see.  If we are to provide good counsel and leadership, you have to remain focused first and foremost on the ultimate goals of any organization and that may include saying no to a Veruca Salt in your own group.  It’s hard sometimes (who wouldn’t want an Oompa Loompa of their very own) but it’s ultimately that smart, strategic counsel that will pay off for you and your organization or clients.