What is the meaning of coverage in today’s PR world?
Every once in a while, a PR professional comes across that Very Special piece of coverage for a client – one that supposedly makes her client “look like” a credible organization. It's that old-school philosophy that some organizations live by – the ones that think the ultimate PR is coverage in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Forbes, etc. But, the question is, what if that coverage has nothing to do with the business the client operates; doesn’t position the company as a thought leader; or doesn’t even come close to generating leads?
Well, unfortunately that has become the story of some PR lives: Too many PR people are still missing the boat, getting coverage for the sake of coverage without considering the impact each hit has on an organization’s sales and marketing strategy, not moving beyond media relations into a wider range of opportunities for companies. In fact, Author Brian Solis talks about this very struggle and the importance of moving beyond media relations in his book “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.”
I’ve worked with these kinds of PR people. They call the top-tier papers daily trying to capitalize on any kind of coverage they can get for their client regardless of its true benefit. I even worked at an agency once where the CEO pulled my account team in and said, “I don’t care how you do it, but I want business press in the next month for this client. Figure it out.” When I questioned why we were taking this strategy, there was no rhyme or reason behind it. The answer was, “Because I said so.”
Let this be a lesson to all the companies out there that wonder how PR is beneficial for their organizations. If you don’t feel a difference in leads, industry buzz or increased Web site traffic within six months of employing a PR agency, then go back and evaluate where your PR firm is placing content and coverage. It’s probably not in the right place.
The right place is where customers are reading, searching and networking. It’s sitting down with a client during the first week of working with them and asking some of the following questions: What are your goals? How can PR help your lead generation and sales activities? Where do your customers tell you they find their information? These questions, along with others, help frame an initial public relations, social media and content marketing strategy that help PR people talk to the right influencers and place content in the right areas. These questions help PR move beyond the “hits just for hits” to the “a client is there because that’s where their customers are.”
On the job hunt for an entry-level PR job?
To both the chagrin and excitement of college seniors, graduation day is almost here. While the transition from college to working full time is tough, I’ve learned a lot. For those hopefuls looking to land a job in public relations, here’s some advice to help you prepare for your first job.
I graduated from BC in the spring of 2009 and started my work at Metis in November. I’ve worked consistently since the age of 13 and am certainly no stranger to hard work. My past job titles have include cider presser, swimming and canoe teacher, prep cook, restaurant gofer, after school teacher, barista, Resident Assistant, diversity consultant and more. All of these jobs have granted me insight into the working world, customer service and some areas of marketing, nowhere have I learned more about PR, online marketing and social media than at Metis. With each day, I strive to make what I am learning more actionable to further improve the quality of my work and optimize my day.
So, what are the Metis lessons from my first four months and how can they help you?
1. Write everything down - documenting every conversation and saving every e-mail ultimately cuts down on so much confusion in the long run. You never know when you are going to have to re-access information. Make sure it’s saved and organized.
2. Ask questions, ask questions and ask questions - Ensuring you understand every aspect of a project gives everyone the results they want, passes the time and makes it more fun. Asking questions is not irritating. It only shows you care and are trying to better understand your job.
3. Learn how to say “no, but…” - If you’re overwhelmed by what you have going on in any given day, don’t be afraid to say no to a new project. Just be sure to find out if what you’re doing is a real priority so you can help identify the best course of action for getting the new task done.
4. If you make a mistake, own it, fix it and move on - Mistakes happen. Getting wrapped up in defending yourself only makes things work. Figure out what went wrong and how to fix it ASAP and learn from that. Agencies have a short memory for mistakes… as long as you learn from what happened.
5. Build your network - Networking offers a great venue to expand your social and professional circle and there is nothing better than having another person you can call who will deliver advice when you’re in need.
6. Get into the habit of bringing lunch - Ok, so I am still working on this one. Eating out every day is not only a waste of money and time but it get’s repetitive. Even with so many restaurants in the South End, you quickly realize there’s only so many ways to make a sandwich and a debit card is not the same as having a meal-plan. Skip it and pack bag that lunch.
7. Listen to everything that goes on in your office - No, you’re not trying to become a mole. However, your coworkers have rich experience. Simply listening to how they handle a call, interact with a client, or run a meeting grants you so much insight into how to improve what you do.
8. Be diligent about reading up on industry news - Keeping up-to-date on news going on in your industry requires a lot of front end investment but offers a major reward. Reading daily identifies leads and allows you to creatively tackle any project.
9. Keep a list of daily responsibilities, set reminders and jump in- Sure, looking over the “to-dos” at the start of the day can be overwhelming. Yet, once you begin, everything takes less time than you would imagine. That’s why reminders are vital. It’s only when you let something drop and work begins to add up that you become overwhelmed.
While constantly implementing what I’ve learned is a challenge, it’s one I’ve become passionate about doing on a daily basis. Keep these in mind and you are sure to see a huge return on everything you do.
Want to learn about some other skill sets that will make you successful? Check out Dave Fleet’s great blog post, 14 Key Skills & Attributes For New Public Relations Professionals.
For me, one of the most fulfilling aspects of public relations is building connections and having meaningful conversations with people – ultimately developing lasting relationships with my clients, partners, editors and analysts, and anyone else that crosses my path. Just this week I bonded with a reporter over an all too familiar scenario in business: there are not enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to get done, and still make time for self-fulfilling activities. What started out as small talk (and a slight complain-fest), turned into a great discussion about making time for endeavors that are significant and personally valuable.
CNN recently highlighted a research study from the University of Arizona that suggested how people can move away from “small talk” and engage in deeper, more meaningful conversations to find true happiness. In the study, experts found that the happiest people tend to have twice as many substantive conversations as unhappy people. Conversations are key for online marketing and public relations professionals – we find success by learning about our industry contacts and clients, connecting with them and working to maintain these relationships.
I read this study and smiled in appreciation. It’s a simple enough discovery, but one that some people go through each day without realizing or acknowledging: conversations that connect people in a meaningful way can lead to happiness.
Some people are discouraged by the physical disconnect that social networks promote, but I use social media daily to build meaningful connections with people with whom I might not otherwise speak with on the phone or run into on the street. This happiness study can be applied to our belief that with social media, customers will be successful social networkers if they stop broadcasting and transition to authentic engagement. Brands that do not get personal and actually speak with their customers will lose out in the end – both from a business and happiness perspective.
What types of conversations do you think are meaningful and how often are you having them? If you feel like you don’t, perhaps set a goal to have one great conversation a day. Become your own test subject and see how it affects your days, mood and overall happiness meter.
The reductive nature of reality television certainly does not provide the best forum in which to portray solid business operations. Viewers look for drama and blunders, and they find a bevy in “Kell on Earth.” Bravo’s new show chronicles the inner workings of Kelly Cutrone’s PR firm, People’s Revolution, which represents international fashion houses. Operating from a multi-story New York compound, which serves as a work and living space for Cutrone, the show gives viewers a 360-degree view of the business and Cutrone, a single mother.
Each episode consists of a barrage of drama. Dejected interns are expelled from the office after creating hack-job gift bags going to major design editors. The entire team is in a flurry for hours over a spreadsheet that could not be printed, which ultimately leads to the loss of an account. A new assistant is hired and quickly fired after tweeting about her new job. With such constant chaos and endless miscommunication, the entire business comes off as a lackadaisical farce.
While viewers may flock to Bravo to get the latest fix of this frenzy, are they getting the reality? When you introduce cameras and cut a 12-hour work day to 44 minutes, a lot is lost. Of course, the reality format prompts producers to focus in on the squabble, the lost client or the fight between interns. This makes it easy to forget that People’s Revolution is still the leading PR and branding firm for the fashion industry. Overlooked are the years Cutrone spent fostering relationships, the countless client success stories and the deep focus Cutrone places on mentorship and career development. Or the success of her newly penned book, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, offering empowering career guidance.
While we may love the drama, we lose a lot with the editing. Quality PR is built on a series of seamless interactions requiring countless hours of detail management. Building databases, trending news, reading and all of the other daily, detail-oriented tasks certainly make boring TV, yet it’s what makes PR firms successful -- Including People’s Revolution. This passionate commitment to the actual work is cut from “Kell on Earth” and we are left with interns fighting over stamps.
I don’t think real PR makes good TV. The compulsory commitment to jobs with long lead times and too many hours in front of the laptop would leave viewers in the doldrums -- hence, Bravo’s hyper focus on the explosive. While it would be easy to dismiss Kelly and her gaggle as guilty pleasure TV, we have to remember what gets cut. Ironically, it’s where the true success of her business lies.
If you have spent longer than one or two years living in New England, you learn how to live and work through the long, cold winters. You make extra time to get up, warm up the car, wear layers, etc., but even the most winter-tested individual is challenged when Mother Nature takes an unexpected turn and the phrases“ disaster area” and “National State of Emergency” start popping up hourly in your vernacular.
While Metis is based in the South End of Boston, I live and commute into the city from Southern New Hampshire. One of my favorite blogs, Workshifting, pretty much sums up how I operate on a daily basis. Last Thursday I experienced one hell of a windstorm, along with the rest of Northern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire and Southern Maine. As of today, we still don’t have power. Not only did we lose power at the house, the entire town and all the surrounding towns for 150 miles lost power. In total, more than 250,000 people were sitting in the dark. Imagine that many people without gas, credit cards, heat, hot water or cell phones, and you can expect that the phrase “all hell broke loose” comes next.
This was a powerful weather event that stopped life as we know it for several days and left people scrambling for alternate ways of doing the things we take for granted each day. It was a forceful storm -- not one that moved the earth, tore down cities or left thousands homeless, but a near-hurricane that significantly shook up the way you view the reliability of the tools you rely on to keep your business moving.
Losing complete connectivity last week taught me some valuable lessons in how to really work SHIFT.
Here are five lessons I relearned during the 2010 New Hampshire Windstorm:
1. You are only as strong as the network that supports you – my team jumped in and helped out with everything I was working on and helped me shift assignments to ensure that our clients wouldn’t be affected by my absence. Life and work definitely goes on without you, so set yourself up to be as replaceable as possible.
2. Plan for the worst and expect the best – Create a contingency plan. If you don’t have a team, then work with partners that can easily help you if needed. I learned some valuable lessons about being better prepared for the future, and am implementing them now to ensure that when the next natural disaster comes my way, I am even more prepared.
3. Be upfront about your personal needs – I was in a complete state of shock. We had trees down everywhere and neighbors in need. I had to be honest with myself and my team to help them understand exactly what I was facing. Not having power at the house is a total nuisance. The entire town(s) or an entire region not having power is truly a different matter.
4. Create a true workshifting environment – being able to work anywhere at anytime is really lip service unless you act on it. I learned that I was not as prepared for workshifting as I had thought, so I am setting myself up with the right technologies – extra batteries, new generator, satellite phone, etc. – along with the other applications I use (Box.net, Carbonite, Google Wave and more) and processes (updated phone lists, calendar updates, etc.).
5. You can always disconnect, even when you feel you “can’t” – Receiving such a forced disconnect was shocking to my system, but taught me a valuable lesson that it’s good for me to get “off the grid” more often. Being available 24x7 or on-demand for my team, clients and partners takes its toll. You always promise yourself that you’ll take a break but it’s easier said than done. The realization that taking off for five days is not the end of the world, especially during a natural disaster.