What It Takes To Succeed in Public Relations

People outside our industry sometimes ask what qualities or proclivities are required for a successful PR career. I’ve always resisted the stereotypes – from PR party girl to press agent – because very few people I’ve worked with conform to those two-dimensional images. And yet, there are some “types” who have a passion for PR and seem to thrive in it. Are they that way from the start, or does the business bring change over time? You decide.

The stress addict. This is the classic agency animal who thrives on constant change, multiple clients, stretch goals and brutal deadlines. Those who are easily bored often fall in love with the PR life, especially on the agency side where variety rules. But beware, the constant shifts can be murder on your attention span.

The word nerd. Yes, we still exist. Plenty of PR types started in editorial or journalism. We love language and enjoy nothing more than pounding out a blog post or even a press release in a pinch. Even better, we can refresh a program by coining a phrase or putting an old idea in a new package.

The pop culture vulture. In my view, creative success and satisfaction are virtually impossible without a passion for what’s new and now. The water cooler is now Twitter, and the buzz cycle is faster, but being plugged in has huge rewards in this business.

The networker. On the agency side, you’re only as good as your new business pipeline. Those with a talent for closing the degrees of separation and converting them to opportunities will always do well.

The proselytizer. It’s hard to succeed in media relations without drinking the client Kool-Aid, at least a little bit. Those who genuinely believe in the brand promise, the product benefit, or the technology breakthrough, and who are natural evangelists, will come out on top in the publicity game.

The perseverer. Let’s face it, this business is rife with rejection, — from prospective employers, journalists and bloggers, and potential clients. At the end of the day, a talent for handling rebuffs and a dose of sheer guts can go a long way.

Tuesday Tips: Picture-Perfect Photo Ops

by guest blogger Sodelba Alfaro

How many times have you coordinated a photo op for a client only to end up with unusable images? Poorly lit, out of focus, or, the PR pro’s worst nightmare, photos that don’t include your client or their event signage! Below are some tips to ensure none of that happens when you’re in charge of the photography.

Focus your photographer
Establish a relationship with a professional photographer and provide meticulous instructions for each client photo shoot. Of course, it’s advisable to be onsite for oversight as well. Press credentials ensure your photographer gets in.

Prepare a “shot” list
With your client, determine the story you are trying to tell with the photos, the audience, the media etc. List the poses and pictures you need and go over the list with the photographer and other key attendees at the event.

Light well
The word photography derives its meaning from the Greek words to “draw light” and for a photographer, lighting is everything. If your event is outside, you will be blessed with Natural sunlight but many events take place indoors. When coordinating an indoors photo op, make sure to pick a room with high ceilings and plenty of space for the most favorable lighting.

Does everyone have their permission slips?
Bring the necessary forms with you when coordinating a photo op to prevent shooting delays or worse, the inability to use some of the photos you’ve painstakingly obtained! Release forms provide for participants to give their permission to appear in photos.

And, action!
Even with great lighting, photos can be boring without direction. Make sure you coordinate action shots which illustrate guests “doing” and not just standing around. If there is a speaker, make sure the photographer shoots him/her addressing the crowd. With a question and answer session, make sure the photographer shoots guests addressing the speaker. Action shots make media notice so make sure your photographer knows to make these shots.

Use a camera phone in a pinch
Did you end up at event without a professional photographer? Don’t worry, use your iPhone or Android device to shoot some photos. Make sure to clean your lens, steady your hands, and increase the resolution for a perfect phone shot.

Brand your visuals
A good PR photo op becomes a photo flop if the client’s brand is nowhere in sight. When coordinating photo ops, maximize your client’s exposure with shots of visible branding — step and repeats, banners, and even staffers in branded garb are good examples of visual branding.
What are your tips for a great photo op?

Will The AirPR Model Fix The PR Business?

Muckrack CEO Greg Galant’s piece,”Why Public Relations Gets No Respect” hit a nerve in our industry.

Though the post drew some indignant responses from the PR community, it was a thoughtful and relatively optimistic assessment of PR’s value, thanks to digital measurement tools, the prevalence of social media, and PR’s increased scaleability due to more distributed levers of influence across the web.

But one aspect of the business that remains outdated, and that impacts everything else about the client-agency relationship, is the agency search process. It’s directly related to PR’s poor reputation in my view. Which is why, when I first read about AirPR, a new company that’s been described as a “Match.com” for startups needing PR, I was intrigued. Armed with $1 million in seed funding from big-name VCs and angel investors, AirPR aims to prevent new businesses from spending up to $40,000 with large PR firms who push the work down to juniors by pairing them with qualified consultants or boutique firms who charge much gentler fees.

Now I don’t know many startups who begin with a PR firm at $40,000 a month (and if you do, please have them call me), but AirPR is right about one thing. The client-agency matching methodology is pretty broken. The best thing you can say about the RFP process is that it’s a frustrating, archaic, time suck for both parties. Agencies complain bitterly about the creative commitment, staff expense, and hidden (and not-so-hidden) biases in the process, while clients often don’t get what they need. Expensive search consultants or intern-led Web searches aren’t much better.

AirPR proposes to make a better marriage through “proprietary vetting and matchmaking algorithms,” according to TechCrunch. That’s way too vague and gimmicky-sounding to be conclusive, but it stands to reason that technology can streamline the process. The other “matchmaking” aspect to our business that’s incredibly inefficient, of course, is media pitching and story placement. For that, services like HARO and ProfNet, who aim to hook up buyers and sellers, have become indispensable. No, they haven’t eliminated random, sloppy, and spammy pitches, but the system provides a mutually beneficial service, and it basically works.

So, will AirPR save PR’s reputation? Disrupt the business? Remake it? Probably not. It’s unlikely to affect the traditional client PR search model, simply because large PR firms, the most common recipients of RFPs and large shootout-style searches, aren’t the least bit interested in fees at $10,000 a month or lower. But for consultants and boutique firms, as well as their typical clients, it makes sense.

As has often been discussed and blogged in our industry, PR for startups is different. These businesses have unique needs and goals, and for most, PR is a critical tool. When it fails, it’s even more injurious for both client and agency.

The AirPR writeups also hint at something else. Its clients will evaluate service providers with the goal of creating a community committed to high quality standards, although we don’t know much about how that will happen. Presumably the criteria will go beyond deliverables like press releases and even publicity, to focus on more strategic offerings and business outcomes.

Count me in. Not because the AirPR model is a surefire disruptor, but because I’m tired of the agency-bashing that results from poorly articulated goals, unrealistic client expectations, and mismatched expertise. If the marketplace works, it will be because it makes both parties in the relationship more accountable. Clients must better define PR and business goals. Agencies need to delivering instead of spending time chasing new clients.

It’s time for a new search model. It will be interesting to see where this goes.