The Key to Good PR Is Persuasion

Make no mistake. . .persuasion is an art form!

As public relations professionals, we understand the vital importance persuasion plays in almost everything we do i.e. dealing with media, influencers, opinion leaders or just about any third-party “endorsers.” It’s THE key factor in our being successful.

That said, there’s another area where we could spend more time and planning to be persuasive. That’s making sure that clients take our best advice and counsel. It’s easy to assume that we’ve been hired for that very reason. But it doesn’t always happen that way; company politics, distractions, and poor relationships can subvert even the best PR counsel. A couple of quick tips on being persuasive:

Always advise from the POV of the client’s best interests. Make the client feel you’re on the same side of the table. Don’t bring your interests or abilities into the mix; at the end of the day, you’ve been retained and are being paid to think about their needs.

Make sure you look at the big picture through their eyes, but retain your objectivity. And let them know you’re doing just that. Part of an agency’s value is the perspective we bring; chances are we’ve been down the same or similar road with other clients; we have our ears to the ground when it comes to influencer and media opinion; and we’re not as swayed by internal politics or history.

Listen first. You can only apply your expertise in meaningful ways and be perceived as a valuable resource when you’ve really heard what the client is saying. It’s much easier to be persuasive when you demonstrate that you’ve paid attention, even to the smallest detail. So, before you opine, listen and ask questions. Then listen some more.

Build a case. When pitching clients, we present and prioritize objectives. When we pitch media or any third-party endorsers, we organize our persuasive messages and key points to put our best foot forward. Do the same in persuading clients to follow your best advice and counsel.

Education or Experience: Which Matters More in PR?

Lately there’s been a minor debate about which is more valuable for a career in public relations – education or experience. The conversation could – and will – go on and on.

At first blush, it’s no contest. The advantage goes to experience. A college degree is increasingly required to enter the work force in any professional services job, but it’s not a leg up. It’s the price of entry.

Beyond the basic degree, it’s far more beneficial to gain experience in the field, at least in my book. Public relations in particular is more of an art than a science. Persuasion theory is nifty, but how do you teach media relations? Vet campaign ideas? Learn client counsel and salesmanship?  While it may be tempting to defer facing our job-challenged economy by going to grad school for a Masters degree  in communications or digital studies, chances are it will be costly. Moreover, it takes funds that can theoretically be earned…on the job.

But the education vs. experience discussion isn’t so simple. The wrong kind of work experience can do more harm than good. The flipside of the debate for an untrained person is that without the right environment, mentors, and supervisors, you can develop bad habits. The PR industry probably loses many talented people because they have the bad luck to land in boiler-room-type agencies or stultifying bureaucracies where there’s no learning or inspiration, or worse, questionable or unethical practices. For those without the judgment or means to escape, it’s far better to stay in school and learn the ropes.

Conversely, there’s a vast hole in the education of many otherwise well-prepared communications graduates, and it’s one that they can easily fill during their college years. I’m talking about business and finance. Budget management, company analysis, category research, and making a case for PR’s value to the business bottom line are essential for a good PR practitioner. Yet few enter the workforce equipped with even the skills to read a balance sheet. I know; I was one of those clueless English majors who wished I’d taken accounting, or at least a business course.
The bottom line is that neither education and experience exists in a vacuum. And each requires a proactive approach. If you’re not getting what you need in either environment, you’re shortchanging yourself, but if you take matters into your own hands, you can make up for just about any deficit and enjoy a successful career.

To Friend Or Not? Best Practices For Connecting With Clients On Social Media

These days, it seems that everyone and their grandmother is on Facebook. For PR pros, embracing social media often means connecting with clients. Team members start friending client staff, and vice versa, but are personal social media accounts really the best way to communicate? What are the risks? Whether you’re a social media super user or a silent stalking type, here are some best practices for dealing with clients on social platforms.

Build a Stronger Partnership
Accepting friend requests from clients can be good for business, because it allows them into your personal Facebook world and lets them learn more about you outside the job. This may create a better professional relationship in the end. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your every post or update can be scrutinized.

It’s Not You, It’s Me
If friending clients isn’t your thing, tell them that you separate your business and personal lives, and that you use Facebook to keep up with family and college friends, but you’d love to connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Just be sure to follow through afterwards.

Brag and Tag
Many PR pros already post their coverage to social media, but tagging your client in a status update or wall post helps spread the word to your contacts and triples the visibility. Your update will appear on your page, your client’s, and the outlet’s page. Supporting client content by tagging is also a good way to network and promote your own accomplishments, so it’s a win-win.

Be Smart
If you post your innermost thoughts and deeds on Facebook, then friending a client isn’t the right choice for you. Complaining about your hangover, or venting about your frustrations at work, your boss or an unwelcome task will make your client think you don’t enjoy your job and question your commitment.

Naturally, posting lewd or inappropriate images doesn’t portray you in a professional light. Keep in mind that everything on social media is open for public consumption, even when you think it’s not, so posting anything that’s questionable is a risk you shouldn’t take.
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