The Tony nominees were announced this week, and it’s award season for public relations as well. We are pleased to be contenders in a couple of categories. Nothing beats acknowledgment by industry peers for a job well done. The timing also provides a good opportunity to review the kinds of traits that create award-winning PR teams.
The following illustrate some habits to help any PR team excel at their jobs. Although research shows that it takes 66 days to form a habit, we challenge you to incorporate at least some of these right away.
Write more and write better
Good, error-free writing is under threat today. We constantly find horrid examples committed by journalists. Some are benign and others are really galling. It seems the need for speed in writing and editing is taking its toll. Don’t let this happen to you! One of the best ways to improve your writing is to create the ideal environment in which to write. Create the conditions you prefer when writing – e.g. complete silence, music in your headphones? If writing doesn’t come easily to you, set some goals such as completing 1000 words or writing for two hours. Set a timer and give yourself breaks. It helps tremendously to read work aloud, you will catch 99% of common errors that way and be sure to embrace editing, don’t short circuit the process. Best of all, have someone else critique your work.
Continuing education in PR can provide a keen edge and there are many options from podcast to online and offline classes. We are big fans of webinars such as those offered by Cision and PR News on topics ranging from Craft a Crisis Plan for High-Speed News Cycles to Breaking Down the State of the Media in 2017. The content is varied and meaningful, you can participate on your own time and they’re usually free. As there are advances in digital media, public relations measurement and other key areas, staying current can mean the difference between an average campaign and one that really ignites.
And do some educating
We’re big believers in giving back to students and those newly entering the field. There are many benefits in addition to the good feelings that come from sharing knowledge with others. Teaching, whether remotely or in a classroom, hones your speaking skills and offers an edge in PR presentation. And exposure to eager PR students helps fill the new hire or intern pipeline. Each teaching opportunity is also a chance to promote your skills on social media or perhaps a blog post or newsletter item. Again, there are myriad ways to share your wisdom and experience with others. Recently we took part in a webinar sponsored by Meltwater on Using Data to Achieve Efficiency and Accuracy in PR and Communications. Consider panels, webinars, guest-teaching at local schools and more.
Embrace technology and look for new tools
It’s estimated that the Apple App store grows by 1,000 new apps a day. Obviously only a fraction of theses will help you in business, but it does pay to look at what’s new in apps, software and hardware on a regular basis to see where PR can benefit. Here’s just a sampling. Don’t have time to read every relevant article right away? Pocket is an app that lets users save links for later without the need for internet connection. Want to make a killer impression the next time you meet with a prospect? Charlie App combs through hundreds of sources and automatically sends you a one‐pager on who you’re going to meet with, ahead of time. Finally, who hasn’t wished their phone took better pictures? For events or capturing the CEO in an interview, try VSCO for professional editing and filters for IoS and Android.
Break out of your reading rut.
The Skimm, Buzzfeed and Jezebel are all fun to read, but to improve business acumen, writing and conversation skills, consider broadening your reading horizons. Take a fresh look at your business to assess whether you’re on top of all the verticals and trades; nearly all are likely available online and getting to know the subject matter and the writers will also help anyone pitch more successfully. Next, where do you get pop culture news? To be creative and strategic in PR, it’s almost equally as important to know about the latest industry merger and what Rihanna wore to the Met Ball. Successful newsjacking and borrowed interest are time-tested PR strategies that rely on savvy pop culture knowledge. Finally, running a PR division requires basic business expertise. Publications like Inc. and Forbes are still valuable, as are any number of good business blogs — Daily Dose from Entrepreneur and QuickSprouts’ short, easy-to-read posts, to name two.
Volunteer to do some pro bono PR
Finding a way to meld an avocation with your vocation is an easy win-win. Many PR companies take on pro bono work supporting causes as varied as domestic abuse prevention to the arts. But we also find taking on a PR project for a cause that resonates on a personal level offers great satisfaction – and great experience. The work can be as varied as a restoration project in your hometown to alumni PR for your alma mater. In addition to flexing some PR muscles that may have grown rusty, a pro bono assignment can also open doors to contacts in various fields. And the smart PR pro knows how to work contacts into relationships, as the unpaid work can turn into a seat on the board of a non-profit that is important for both business and personal reasons.
Pick up the phone and pick someone’s brains
It’s human nature to feel appreciated when someone seeks you out for your skills or knowledge. A good practice for many successful executives is to make a habit of calling a media contact, associate, mentor or other business associate on a regular basis. The value of a friendly phone call to catch up and seek advice can’t be underestimated. Unlike email, a personal call can be refreshing and serves to forge a connection. And if within that phone call, you also want to get some actual business accomplished, follow the steps laid out by Fast Company.
Get out of the office
Go out to lunch, drinks, and dinner. Everything about a relationship changes when you get off the conference call and out of the office. Spending more casual time getting to know a client, a colleague or other business partner will change the tenor of the association for the better as you get to know someone’s interests outside of work. It’s a good idea to arrange a quick coffee or drinks in lieu of a call every now and then, to see if you don’t immediately feel a stronger connection. Stronger connections lead to increased trust, which improves any PR relationship.
Keep lists and learn from them
A good friend and media colleague, Paula Rizzo, has written an entire book on the subject. The joys of list-writing are numerous and include organizing subjects, freeing up time and minimizing stress. In public relations, starting and maintaining some simple lists will recharge your brain, give you back sand keep a project in line. For example, keep a running list of great PR ideas you’ve seen executed or read about. At the same time, keep a tally of total flops – ideas to stay away from. Also helpful, turn these lists into visuals via Pinterest or some other site to store creative output. These tips can save a lot of time in brainstorms and with ideas for new business proposals. We also advise creating lists of tasks for big projects and finding the best way to communicate them to your team. Some people are fans of Google Docs which allow for easy collaboration, as does Microsoft Office Online featuring its OneNote program. Whatever way you choose, get everyone on board with list-making and do something fun with the time you save.
Conquer something that isn’t your strong suit – yet
Is there an element of the PR practice that you’ve yet to master? Boredom breeds dissatisfaction, while feeling as if you’re on a learning curve can be inspiring. We find it helpful to periodically take a hard look at skills and see where there’s room for improvement. Is it time for that web analytics session? Could an investment in visual design pay off? Hate numbers? Maybe it’s time for a crash course in accounting.
Finally, integrating new habits does take time, though hopefully not 66 days! But try to tackle one or two at a time and see if it doesn’t make a marked difference in your PR efforts.