Every year – around the time when the snow starts to melt, the sun stays out later, flowers start to bloom and animals that were in hiding all winter come back out – the travel bug always seems to reappear and bite me. As I prepare for my first trip of the year, I’m realizing many lessons from travel also pertain to public relations. Below are five travel tips that also apply in PR and specifically, in speaking to media.
Refer to guidebooks and travel sites before your trip. Just as most travelers do meticulous research on their destination beforehand and plan out a trip itinerary, public relations practitioners should do the same level of research. I don’t mean read PR Week or even our Metis blog as a guide for how to “do” PR; I mean scope out your destination—the publication that you are targeting. You probably wouldn’t enter a new country without understanding anything about its culture, the sights or the language (more on that momentarily). In the same manner, you shouldn’t try to pitch your story to a publication without understanding its audience, recent articles and coverage areas.
Learn the basics of the language. Travelers who are unfamiliar with the language of the countries they visit usually need to rely heavily on local guides who can help translate. However, even with a guide, it is smart to at least know a few key terms in the local language, so you can greet others politely, ask for directions to your hotel or the local embassy, or find a restroom. In technology PR, we need to know the basic technology, the competitive landscape and industry trends and happenings. While you’re not always expected to rattle off the technical specs of the solution your company just released, you should be able to explain what that solution does, who it benefits and what needs it meets.
Pack accordingly. In travel, this is a skill I have yet to master. I tend to over pack, wanting to make sure I have coordinating footwear and accessories for each outfit and an outfit for every possible situation that could arise, however unlikely those situations I dream up may be. Just as I’m learning to pack my suitcase more efficiently, it is important that PR pros pack their pitches adequately, too. You definitely do not want to under pack—a pitch with no substance will get you nowhere with a journalist—but you don’t want to over pack either and risk turning a reporter off with information overload. It’s a tough balance, but one that PR professionals must master.
Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. When you explore a new travel destination, even with Google Maps, you’re likely going to need to ask for directions at some point. Whether it’s directions to the airport or a recommendation for a good dinner reservation, it’s part of the travel experience to get guidance from locals, taxi drivers, the hotel concierge or fellow travelers. In the world of PR and media relations, this also holds true. You should seek out the feedback of your team for recommendations on targets, message resonance and clarity, or additional angles. The journalists you are pitching can also serve as local guides. For example, as you develop relationships with reporters, you can ask about what stories they are interested in right now, if there’s someone else from their publications who will be at a tradeshow or whether they have feedback on a particular angle.
Save up your airline miles. Frequent flyer miles are a great thing, but these days, they take much longer to accumulate and there are many limitations to when you can actually cash them in for flights. Similarly, consider your correspondences with your media contacts as flights through which you earn miles. By fostering good will and actually being a resource for a reporter, you earn miles toward a good working relationship. It might just result in a crucial piece of coverage when you need it most, an introduction to a new business prospect or an invitation to an exclusive event the publication is hosting.