Digital PR—Building Relationships, Not Links

 

Link building is still deemed to be an essential SEO technique, and many organizations have jumped on this bandwagon without understating all the moving parts. To get it right, it has to rely on the pillars of trust, meaning that relationships are the glue that holds marketing efforts together.

In fact, many experts claim you should turn your priorities around and realize that the best way to acquire meaningful links is to commit to conducting good PR. The best thing about this approach is that it often does not cost you anything other than time and energy.

In the Public’s Eye

Many enterprises go to great lengths to find the backlinks their competitors are using, harnessing the power of tools like Ahrefs in the process. While this may give you a head start, one cannot hope to outmatch their competitors in the arena of building links alone. 

So, the point is not that you should stop building a healthy network of links, but that you need to rethink your strategy and aim marketing campaigns at PR.

Links can be easily replicated, and others can use an intricate series of digital tools to take the proverbial wind out of your sails. To make this scenario less probable, you can engage in crafting distinguished content and promoting it with various outreach and advertising campaigns. 

Finally, there is one type of “free content” which is hard to copy, and it is called PR. Basically, there are no tools for tracking how you obtained connections under the umbrella of PR.

Bridging the Gaps

The beauty of it is that this practice enables you to reap many benefits in their own right.  First of all, it nurtures a continuous support for your company, and helps you convert numerous people into your brand ambassadors. 

Next, as this practice establishes mutually-beneficial bridges, the volume at the top of the funnel is increased. Also, companies that stay open and responsive to customers are able to gather valuable feedback. This supplies you with deeper insights into the problems, dilemmas and cravings of your specific consumer base.

This shifts the way in which marketing campaigns work, enhancing them with new data, connections and channels. Also, the efficiency of outreach activities is taken to the next level through higher response rates. 

Still, to ensure that the aforementioned blessings are bestowed upon you, understanding the different phases of the relationship building process is crucial. Those who are not confident in finding a way through this labyrinth should contact a creative advertising agency and see if a formal partnership can help them make any headway.

Search and Deploy

It all starts with prospecting—one must invest time in finding websites, blogs and companies for establishing lasting connections. Sites that cover similar topics as you do and actively participate in your niche’s digital community are a safe bet. 

One of the best tools out there is Google Alerts— the user sets up email or RSS alerts and is notified whenever keyword-related content talking takes place. There are various settings to be customized according to the type of keyword that’s desired and the rigor of the relationship building strategy at hand.

Now, the next one may seem obvious, but Google search is still a powerful, yet often underutilized tool. With the majority of Internet users present on this digital highway, the possibilities for forging relationships are endless. 

Some of the results you may recognize as competitors, but there will also be helpful results that come your way every now and again, too. If this does not satisfy your needs, turn to solutions such as Topsy. They are used to search for conversations on Google+ and Twitter where your article could be shared and talked about without you even realizing it.

Once targets are identified, one must figure out the best way to approach them. Email correspondence is still king, but many make the mistake of automating email engagement, depriving subscribers of any sort of human touch. 

What you should opt for is a highly personalized message with a catchy subject line and content that quickly grabs a reader’s attention. You want to appear as someone who has time, as well as something valuable to offer. Always be genuine in your PR activities, and use a distinctive voice to communicate any and all messages.

Winning on More Than One Front

Many marketers are slaves of links, amassing them like some sort of online gold rush is underway, while all this time, there was yet another “gold mine” waiting to be discovered.

Building relationships (not links) is what sets solid ground for enhancing your online presence, and helps you gain an edge over the competition. Get into the art of prospecting, find the best targets and send personal, eye-catching emails. Links will come as a natural byproduct of such diligence, and you will soon realize that you have a win-win scenario working for your benefit.

 


Raul Harman is a B.Sc. in innovative entrepreneurship and has a lot to say about innovations in all aspects of digital technology and online marketing. While he's not enjoying football and great food, you can find him on Technivorz.com.

Why Your Customers Aren’t Always Right and What to Do About It

 

We are all familiar with the old cliché, “The customer is always right,” aren’t we? 

But what if they weren't? Seriously, think about that—what if a client’s choices while working with you, in this case, as a PR professional, turn out to actually hurt their business as well as your own? 

That doesn’t sound appetizing at all. 

Sometimes, as painful and awkward as it may be, it’s crucial for you to be completely honest with a client and tell him or her that the ideas and plans they’ve come up with aren’t going to work well.

Identify the Issue

Early last year, I decided to get my feet wet with some graphic design. Generally speaking, the field—though involving little writing and media maintenance—runs similarly to how a regular, run-of-the-mill PR shop would. 

Basically, I was working for a screen-printing and advertising store, designing signage for a handful of local businesses in Utah.

While there I had the opportunity to work with a variety of people from all sorts of professional backgrounds. This included college administrators, athletic trainers, maintenance workers, door-to-door salesmen and even families in need of simple signs and banners to welcome home returning relatives at the airport in Salt Lake City.

On one occasion in particular, the store had a client who owned an HVAC company. He needed a full vinyl wrap for one of his service trucks. Unbeknownst to us initially, working with this client turned out to be a long, frustrating process. 

In order to complete the job, I worked alongside the marketing guy my client had recently brought onboard to handle his marketing endeavors—just for the sake of this story, let’s call him Eric.

To be honest, Eric seemed fairly new to the world of marketing and wasn’t all that sure of himself. Obviously, this made working with him all the more difficult. 

On top of that, Eric’s managers felt they had to have the final say in everything. 

Seriously, what was the point of creating Eric’s position if he wasn’t even allowed to do his job? I thought about this constantly as the two of us worked together.

Know When to Step In

Together, Eric and I were able to come up with some awesome ideas. 

The downside? After hours of brainstorming, most of them were later tossed out because not everyone in our client’s camp could agree on what to do.

We had passed on some great designs, many of which would not only have made their business look spectacular, but would’ve also garnered a great deal of attention as employees cruised around town in their work vehicles.

This was frustrating, and I realized I had to step in and say something. 

At this point, Eric, his manager and the founder of the company were all hovering over my desk, providing me with suggestions as to how I should bombard the vehicle with a wide variety of images and textual tidbits.

The designs we were working on for the truck slowly, and I mean slowly—by that time, we were working on our eighth concept—began to decline in quality and appeal. 

It pained me to continue working on these lackluster designs. 

I couldn’t let these graphics be installed. Simply put, I genuinely cared about the client’s future success, and in that moment, I’d felt as though I hadn’t provided them with my best work.

“These designs aren’t going to work!” I belted out, interrupting one of them as he argued about how a graphic should be both sized and placed. 

Mercy, it felt relieving to get that off of my chest …

Be Honest, but Considerate

By far, this was the hardest part of the entire process. 

Sure, I made them aware of my disagreement, but I then had to tell them why I disagreed in a calm, respectable manner. It can be hard to tell someone they’re wrong—especially when they’re wholeheartedly convinced they’re right. 

However, everyone has a job to do, and we all have certain skills that make us unique and valuable. At that point, I knew what was going to work for their truck—what would make the company as a whole stand out and look professional.

I didn’t want to disrespect them in any way, and no one in my position should really ever have to. There are strategic ways to change someone’s opinion, and I decided to try a few of them on for size.

“These designs won’t look as solid as the earlier ones we developed,” I continued. “Let’s take a look at some of the previous designs, and maybe we can combine them with the best elements from a few of your favorites.” 

They seemed to be onboard for the idea, so we did just as I’d suggested. 

In little time at all, we were able to accurately pinpoint what they liked from some of my earlier concepts. After that, we put them together in a way that would look incredible once the final design was installed on the truck.

Always Use Transparency to Your Advantage

The three guys I was working with didn’t even notice that I’d verbally opposed them. 

Why? Well, because I did so in a manner that wasn’t all that confrontational. In short, this is how a successful public relations specialist or manager must deal with difficult clients. 

My story may have been that of a graphic designer, but the lesson applies just the same to a web developer, copywriter, editor or social media marketer. All clients have certain ideas about what they believe is best for their business. 

While many are willing to listen and are extremely excited about open collaboration, others can’t remove the blinders from their eyes long enough to see what’s really needed to succeed.

This is where you come in

Be confident in your abilities as a PR professional. The best PR people are not only transparent and honest, but also methodical and intentional. As a client, it can sting a bit to learn that the idea you’ve always had in your head was, in all actuality,  not a very good one.

Strategically breaking this news to a client as respectfully as possible will ensure that they stick around for the long haul and increase their trust in you. 

Let them know you care about their business and that you hear what they want, but that you’re also dead set on doing things in the best, most efficient manner. 

Needless to say, practicing public relations in this way will create stronger relationships with the people you work with and will assist them in being more successful.

 


Rhett Ahlander studies Public Relations at Utah Valley University. He will graduate in April of this year with his bachelor’s degree and will begin a master’s program in Public Relations & Advertising this fall at DePaul University in Chicago. When Rhett isn’t studying, he enjoys writing, playing soccer and discovering awesome new eateries.

Back to School: Why PR Professionals Should Obtain a Master’s Degree

 

Most PR pros would rather take that first full-time job offer over going back to school for another couple of years. School just isn’t an enjoyable experience for many individuals. 

Honestly, at one point or another, people come to the point in their lives where reading boring text, memorizing words and phrases, writing papers, taking tests and giving presentations lose their appeal.

So, why should you go back for two or more years after receiving a bachelor’s degree? I have wondered the same thing, and am currently in a position where I am trying to decide if I need one myself. 

I want to share some important things from my own research while weighing in on the value of a master’s degree.

Job Competition

I remember when an associate degree was enough to nab a great job. Truthfully, little schooling was needed to nab a long, sustainable career—especially in PR. 

However, there are higher-level degrees available for up-and-coming PR professionals, and many employers are becoming more aware of all that these programs have to offer students.

We’re currently living in a period where a bachelor’s degree is the standard for most college students. But with the stability of the American economy in constant limbo, employers are in need of more from job seekers. 

Needless to say, considering said circumstances, a master’s degree is quickly becoming a very attractive option for companies looking to fill a variety of top-tier positions.

To be able to confidently say you’re an official master of something—especially PR, mind you—and proudly place such an accomplishment on your resumé will make you much more competitive when vying for meaningful employment after school. 

Simply put, you’ll be ahead of the game.

A Better Understanding of PR

Four-year degrees take four years for a reason. You have the opportunity to learn about numerous areas of academia and gain a basic understanding of a self-selected field. But if you want more learning, there aren’t nearly as many options.

Master’s degrees provide a more in depth look into your field of choice and allow you to understand it on a more personal level. 

You are also given many real world experiences before actually stepping out into the unforgiving mix of things. For a PR person, this is key.

Additionally, a greater and deeper knowledge of PR will make you more confident and will show future employers and co-workers that you belong in the competitive, unforgiving field of PR. 

Who knows? In spite of what the naysayers might vocalize, it may also give you a winning edge or earn you a promotion or two.

So Fresh and So Clean

In reality, there is a huge need for PR-savvy people out there, and recent graduates know it. Why? Well, they’re all competing for the same jobs. 

If you have the time and resources, it wouldn’t hurt to head back to school for two more years to gain an advantage over your peers. 

They are precious years, and receiving as much education as possible will put you ahead of the herd. After all, there’s no such thing as too much education.

So what do you think? Am I correct in planning to head off to graduate school following the completion of my undergraduate degree, or is my head stuck in the proverbial clouds? Share your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.

 


Rhett Ahlander is a PR student at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. After graduating this coming April with a bachelor’s degree, he plans to pursue a master’s degree and continue learning more about PR. When Rhett isn’t studying, he enjoys writing, running and playing soccer. Follow Rhett on Twitter to keep the conversation going.

The Importance of Writing Like You Talk

 

Sounding smart while writing is a gift that few people possess. Seriously, if you can incorporate words like “cornucopia” into your writing outside the month of November, you’re bound to impress a few people. 

Well, on second thought, no you’re not. If you’re a technical writer, this skill might be seen as an asset; however, in the world of PR, nobody really cares how intelligent you are. 

Whether it’s producing web copy, sending an email pitch or even drafting a social post or two, your job is to be relatable, not to come off as one of those arrogant PR tools. 

Want to really take your PR writing to the next level? If so, focus on one key skill: writing like you talk. Seems easy enough, right? Wrong. 

In reality, few are the PR pros who can consistently do this. To the surprise of nobody, the very publicity gurus who’ve tapped into the powers of the aforementioned are also those who see staggering levels of success.

Why This Works

Regardless of the specifics of a writing project, it’s extremely important that an audience be kept in mind right from the beginning. By so doing, the likelihood of boring content coming about is greatly minimized. 

Why? Roles are reversed and you’re in a different set of shoes. Knowing what an audience wants, you’re much more inclined to properly deliver.

Think about it—how much more excited are you to read an interesting email or witty text message from a buddy than an entry in one of Harvard’s many medical journals? It’s not that the information isn’t accurate in an academic publication, it’s just that it can’t be consumed.

Save the killer vocabulary and editorial genius for the journalists you’re pitching. It’s their job to sound like a robot, not yours. The more digitally approachable you are, the less the stereotypical stench of PR annoyance will be present.

Learning to Write Like You Talk

There’s a two-part secret to this. The first part is to do the necessary research to actually know what you’re writing or pitching about. If you understand the subtle ins and outs of what you’re covering, your voice is going to make itself known without you even realizing it. 

It’s when your totally BS-ing an audience or reporter that Thesaurus.com is used in abundance. You’re trying to sound like you know what you’re talking about because you literally have no idea what you’re talking about. 

Fortunately, in the end, if you bypass doing any research, nobody will know the difference. Unfortunately, it’s because they will have stopped reading your writing and moved onto something more interesting.

Now for the second part—stop thinking. That’s right. Don’t think. The more you think, the more you question. Go back to the last time you had a conversation with your best friend or significant other. 

Didn’t have to think much before making a point, did you? Therein lies the beauty of writing like you talk. When the pitching or posting ceases to become about sales and focuses solely on developing long-lasting relationships, real PR genius can happen.

Be real. Be yourself. Write like you talk.

Let’s hear what you have to say—how do you keep your writing from coming off as overly advertorial or promotional? Jump on down to the comments section below and have your voice heard by Echelon’s loyal body of readers.

 


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.

You Don’t Need a Graduate Degree to Succeed In PR

 

Man, college can be a difficult time. Seriously, I get it. Relatively speaking, I haven’t been out of school for too long, and I remember all too well what it was like to eat unhealthily, cram for tests until the wee hours of the morning and then fall asleep in class the next day.

Needless to say, they’re not days that I miss all that much. Even more difficult was the decision that I had to make as to what I was going to do with the rest of my life. As far as I’m concerned, this is without a doubt the most daunting of collegiate endeavors. Especially, when faced with the daunting task of telling your parents you want to work in PR.

While it’s true that only 27 percent of college graduates actually work in jobs related to their respective majors, go ahead and try telling a college student that. He or she probably won’t believe you. Ya see, there’s this glamour surrounding college. It’s routinely seen as this safety blanket, ensuring meaningful employment and a long and happy life. 

This isn’t the case with PR. Moreover, in PR, it’s about writing ability, networking and—most importantly—finding joy in unending work. A degree or two won’t do the trick and ensure success. Nope, not even a master’s degree [gasp]. 

Keeping Up With Those Freaking Joneses

Many young PR professionals feel the need to go to graduate school because all of their peers are. Listen, if you’re a PR person, though your high school buddies are all planning on making a disgusting amount of money as doctors, lawyers and researchers, you aren’t—at least initially, anyway.

There’s no shame in not going to graduate school. Not only is it an expensive affair, but in your field of choice it just isn’t necessary. Some careers require graduate school and others don’t. Simply put, PR doesn’t demand a master’s degree.

PR Is an Ever-Changing Industry

Have you ever asked yourself why there’s no SEO major? What about one solely devoted to social media marketing? Well, the answer is really pretty simple: change. Both SEO and social media marketing strategies undergo so many changes that it’s nearly impossible for academia to keep up.

Yes, you can go to some top-tier mass communications school like Northwestern or Syracuse for a graduate degree, but what will be taught there is little more than theory of PR. To me, this seems crazy. PR isn’t rocket science. It’s sending emails and not being a jerk to people. As relationships are developed, success is bound to follow. It’s as simple as that.

Absorb Anything and Everything On the Job

Instead of choosing debt, opt for real, hands-on learning. Just because you’ve written a mock press release or two in an upper-level media writing class doesn’t mean you actually know what works out in the real world. It doesn’t mean you don’t, but it’s not a right of passage or anything. 

Look, if you’re dead set on going back to school to get a master’s of mass communication or an MBA, do yourself a favor and do base-level PR for a startup, nonprofit or, if possible, a full-blown agency. That way, once you become part of a graduate program, you’ll have concrete experiences to call upon while learning within the walls of a classroom.

Personal Experience

Fortunately, throughout the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to interview quite a few potential PR candidates. Some of them were extremely impressive, and others…well, not so much. Ultimately, at the end of each interview, a decision was made—yay or nay. 

While I certainly don’t claim to be perfect in the ways of identifying raw PR talent, I can say that I was never swayed in the slightest by an interviewee with a master’s degree. More often than not, there was almost a sense of entitlement or an upturned nose at the thought of having to start at an entry-level position—ya know, along with those who graduated in four years and immediately took the professional PR plunge.

Please know that I’m not trying to speak poorly of higher education. Perhaps there’s a even bit of jealousy buried deep within me, for all I know. Truthfully, in nearly all industries, a graduate degree is a gold. In fact, many of you are probably thinking about the many times you’ve read a job posting only to read the following: “Master’s degree preferred.” 

However, from what I’ve seen, this kind of jargon is little more than a filtration system aimed at getting rid of “fluff candidates” to make room for serious applicants. By all means, if a slight interview edge is what you’re looking for to get your foot in the door, the sacrifice is yours to make. My opinion remains the same: there are easier ways.

Clearly, some of my stronger opinions have been shared in this piece. While many of you may agree with, I openly recognize that many will not. So, with that in mind, where do you stand on the value of a graduate degree for PR professionals? Share you thoughts and feelings in the comments section below.

 


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.

5 Characteristics of the Ideal PR Professional

 

If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve heard me say it a thousand times: PR isn’t a career for the faint of heart. By no means do I have the experience of many of my peers, but even I recognize that the field isn’t for everyone.

However, just because it’s not for everyone, doesn’t mean its not for some. In fact, if being completely honest here, there’s a sliver of society that dominates the industry. Who are they? What are they like? Are you one of them? 

To find out, read each of the following five points to see if you and the magnificent field of PR have a bright future together:

1) Friendly

PR isn’t what it once was. While traditional PR practitioners were constantly engaging in face-to-face interactions, unless you’re a PR representative for a large sports franchise or booming enterprise, you’re probably primarily limited to digital interaction. 

That being said, being a friendly person can take you a long way in the profession.

2) Honest

Seems like an obvious one, right? Wrong. Innumerable are the PR pros who fail to disclose affiliate relationships when interacting with journalists or even go as far as forging results so clients will stay onboard for another contract. 

Regardless of religious affiliation, karma is very much a part of what PR people do. Simply put, what goes around comes around. Stay honest and success will find you.

3) Urgent

In my opinion, urgency is one of the most overlooked of desired attributes. Urgent people don’t run around like wild men; moreover, they’re efficient in their promptness. 

Additionally, they don’t wait to be told what to do or how to find a solution to a pressing issue. They simply act for themselves and are continuously engaged in the betterment of a client and employing agency or firm.

4) Deadline-Driven

On a resumé, it’s not uncommon to see people list “attention to detail” as one of their top skills. Likewise, a startling majority of people also claim to be “deadline-driven.” Let me set the record straight on this one—few and far between are those who live for the thrill of meeting deadlines. And yes, it’s really a thrill.

I’ve interviewed quite a few up-and-coming PR people and few of them have actually understand how important this is. Why do you think most agencies force an internship on you before offering employment? While not the sole reason, this is a huge part of it. 

5) Thick-Skinned

Not big-boned, but thick-skinned. Trust me, there’s a difference. Anyway, this is tremendously impactful, believe it or not. Whether it’s a harsh comment from a client, coworker or even your boss, no matter how talented you are, throughout the course of your career, you’re going to be blasted for your work. 

Sometimes you’ll be in the wrong and will rightfully receive what you deserve. Other times, however, you’ll think you’re in the clear and will still catch some flak. Either way, you’ve got to suck it up and keep going. People pay way too much money for PR services to have you over in the corner pouting.

Now it’s your turn—what’s been left off of my list? If you feel the need to add something to what I’ve already presented, hop on Twitter and tweet at @EchelonCopy. As always, Echelon will respond in a timely manner to keep the conversation going.

 


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.

What My Parents Think I Do All Day as a PR Professional

 

My father works in oil and natural gas. My mother is a speech pathologist. Neither of them has any idea whatsoever as to what I do for a living.

While I might not understand the subtle intricacies of either of their jobs, growing up, my friends and their parents, from time to time, would ask things like, “Lucas, what do your parents do for a living?” 

My answers probably weren’t perfect, but I could generally give people a ballpark idea as to what they did to make money.

What’s Taking Place All Too Often

Now, flip the roles of the aforementioned situation and things get a bit more complicated. Seriously, as a PR person, my parents literally have no idea what I do all day. I’m not guessing here—I’ve seen them try to tell others about this. 

Needless to say, I’m not too thrilled about hearing things like, “Oh, he’s usually just making Facebook posts and things like that.”

Doesn’t sound too important, does it? This image sums things up rather nicely, I think:

* Source: Ragan's PR Daily

* Source: Ragan's PR Daily

Even worse, I’m fairly certain my parents have actually given up any hope of ever understanding what PR is and how it’s practiced. That said, I haven’t fully give up the fight.

My Best Efforts to Set the Record Straight

The following are a few one-liners I’ve come up with over the years to help my grandparents, parents and any other old person try and understand what PR is and how I make it happen on a daily basis:

  • “I create media.”
  • “I sell story ideas, asking for no cash in return.”
  • “I build and maintain industry-specific communities online.”
  • “I make certain my clients don’t look bad.”
  • “I help journalists do their job in a timely fashion.”

And my personal favorite:

Listen, I realize that my short-hand answers aren’t doing much for my professional reputation with my parents’ friends, but they’re the best I’ve been able to come up with. 

Come to think of it, the whole, “Oh, he’s usually just making Facebook posts and things like that” thing might not be so bad after all.

Clearly, I’m doing more harm than good. For that very reason, I’d be interested in knowing what you have to say. When your parents—or friends, for that matter—ask you what you do for a living as a PR person and you’re pressed for time, how do you respond? 

Tweet your best one-liners to @EchelonCopy. We’ll make certain to retweet the best of ‘em for all of our devoted followers to see.

 


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.

A Plea to PR People: Please Pitch Like You Talk

 

I’m probably the wordiest person I know. As far as writing is concerned, this has easily been my biggest flaw. It’s not that I’m one of those grammarian types that likes to throw in fancy words every now and again, it’s just that—when writing, at least—I get going and can’t stop.

An All-too-Common Offense for PR People

Growing up, my dad always told me that I often spoke just to hear the sound of my own voice. From the looks of my writing sometimes, he wasn’t too far off.

Seriously, if you take a gander at some of the stuff I’ve written on this site, you’re bound to stumble upon a number of run-on sentences with words that make it seem like I’m trying to come off as smarter than I really am.

Seeing as how I’m not all that intelligent, this is a problem. However, I’m not alone in this dilemma. From what I’ve both seen and read as a PR person, many are the professionals just like me who can’t seem to communicate properly through written content. In large part, this most often rears its ugly head during an email pitch.

A Simple Solution In a Straightforward Industry

Yes, there are many responsibilities that an experienced PR person must manage, but few are as important as the email pitch. The biggest trick with this one? Well, if you read my lengthy introduction [I’m still wordy, it seems], you already know the answer to this one: humanistic brevity

Sounds intimidating, right? It’s not. Truthfully, that’s just a fancy way of saying, “Don’t act all hoity-toity with the journalists you’re pitching.” PR isn’t a difficult endeavor, so don’t try and make it one.

Here's a great example of making a pitch as basic, yet powerful as possible:

* Source: Hubspot

* Source: Hubspot

Get to know the journalist you’re pitching, consider his or her audience, provide only the most important of piece tidbits and move onto the next pitch. Oh, and before I forget—make certain to do all this while writing as if you were speaking to a close friend. Once again, I repeat: don’t make this harder than it has to be.

Journalists—composing, without a doubt, the most overworked and underpaid slice of the money-making world—don’t need any more BS than they already get. The more you sound like a robot, the more likely it is that one of two things will happen: A) a journalist will assume he or she has been sent a mass pitch. B) your inquiry will simply be ignored.

Don’t Overthink It

Either way, you lose in the end. Keep it simple. Keep it short. See success. Heck, who knows? Before long, you could very well have journalists publicly praising your writing instead of the other way round.

* Source: @mims

* Source: @mims

So what do you think? Obviously, there are many strategies for crafting the perfect PR pitch. This post primarily focuses on two of them. What are some others? In the comments section below, share what’s worked nicely for you in the past and why you feel things turned out so positive.



Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.

6 Career-Saving Tips for Surviving Your First Years at a PR Agency

 

Working at a PR agency is tough, even if you’ve been in PR for a good while. However, if you’re just now getting tangled up in this mess, things are bound to be all the more hectic. Fortunately, you’re no pioneer in this craft. Many have come before you and, undoubtedly, many will come after. If others can do it, so can you.

Needless to say, it’s always nice to get a bit of help along the way to numb the growing pains that innately accompany initiation into PR. If a bit of a novice or looking for some help to get through a rough patch, the following points are sure to help:

1) Earnestly Seek New Learning Opportunities

In particular, from those who tower over you in the hierarchy of your agency’s leadership ladder. What’s great about PR is that it’s rarely about how many degrees or certificates you hold; moreover, it’s about what you’ve managed to do or experiences you’ve had in the past. 

When your boss or coworker needs help with something you feel might be just outside your comfort zone, choose to become involved, as opposed to sitting on the sidelines. Participate in all that the industry has to offer. Soon enough, this sort of thing may very well form your future.

2) Decide to See the Good In Failure

Yes, this is actually a decision that you must consciously make. Believe it or not, this is easier said than done. If ever there was a career path filled with repetitive facepalms, it would be PR. At least initially, if you’re not saying something incorrect, out of turn or stupid, you’re not trying hard enough. 

Journalists will refuse to open your emails, your writing will be criticized and a boss or two might rip into you every now and again. Don’t let this get you down. It’s all part of the fun. Embrace these happenings. One day, when you’re the one doing the yelling, you just might miss them. Okay, so probably not, but it was worth a shot.

3) Stay Active On Twitter Throughout the Working Day

This might seem like an unusual one, but it’s crazy how many positive, professional interactions take place on Twitter. It’s not that you need to be going crazy with this, but show your real self. There are already far too many “thought leaders” out there with strict editorial calendars and an agenda to push on Twitter. Don’t be one of them; furthermore, don’t act like one of them. They’ll do their thing and you’ll do yours.

Ultimately, what you’re looking to get out of this whole Twitter thing is a series of strategic connections. Journalists and other influential PR people already have far too many “cookie cutters” coming after them. Instead, just be yourself. The results will surprise you.

4) Beware of Too Much Social Media

While Twitter is great, moderation is good in all things—social media included. PR is one of the few careers which, in large part, is composed of things that people do for fun after their day jobs have been wrapped up: social media, news reading, blogging, etc. Because of this, it’s extremely easy to get distracted. Even worse, PR is infamous for the amount of task juggling that takes place on a daily basis. 

So as to avoid becoming slave to an endless to-do list, simply focus on one thing at a time. Once a given task is done, move onto the next. When it’s time for social media, do social media. When it’s time to respond to email, respond to email. Be disciplined. Truthfully, your efficiency alone will take you places.

5) Build a Personal Brand Through Individual Projects

There’s always going to be some PR know-it-all who thinks that building a personal brand is a grand waste of time. Usually, this person is super vocal about how stupid all of this is. Why? Well, ironically, it’s a part of his or her personal brand. 

Give everything you’ve got to your place of employment, but make sure that you’ve got a project or two that you can call your own. It might be a website, blog, podcast or e-book, but you need to have something to keep you on your toes.

6) Develop and Maintain a Passion Outside of Work

PR is an all-consuming career. Emails never cease. Coverage is always in high demand. Cell phones are never at ease. Heck, push notifications are even rumored to have been first created within the fiery depths of hell to keep PR people in line. 

Make sure you set time aside to develop or nurture relationships with people around you. If you’ve got a special hobby or talent that makes you happy, work to improve it. There’s a time for work and there’s a time to relax. The best of the best certainly spend a great deal of time working, but they also know when it’s time to give things a rest.

If you’ve made it far enough to realize how difficult this whole PR thing is, you’re doing better than most who try to make a worthwhile job out of PR. Hang tough. With the help of a few of the aforementioned tips, you’ll soon be glad you did.

Now it’s your turn—how does this list of tips rank when compared with others that you’ve read in the past? What worked for you when you first got started as a PR pro? Help all of Echelon’s younger readers by sharing your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.

 


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.

You’ve Got Mail: Why Any PR Person Worth His or Her Salt Quickly Responds to Email

 

Don’t lie—on multiple occasions you’ve received a text message, read who it came from then subsequently placed your phone back in your pocket or purse. Even worse, sometimes, later on, you’ll run into the very person who you went out of your way to ignore. This is the pits. Seriously, it’s a pretty bad situation. 

However, if you think that’s bad, think of how it’d feel to be the guy or gal who’s on the opposite side of this interaction. Pain, heartache and an unavoidable desire to crawl into a hole and hang out for a long while is often the end result.

There’s Blood On Your Hands

Now, let’s turn this to PR. Believe it or not, this exact situation occurs all day, every day. No, I’m not referring to you shooting an email pitch to a top-tier journalist only to not even get a friendly rejection email in return. Nope, I’m talking about a different kind of culprit: it’s you.

Any time you get an email and do nothing to respond in a timely manner, you symbolically spit in the face of the sender. If you’re a PR person, you’re a professional communicator. Like, people actually pay you money for your ability to interact with other people, regardless of medium. For Pete’s sake, you work in communications—remember? It was that college major your parents told you to think long and hard about before getting into? Ring a bell?

No Excuses for Not Making Email a Priority

Heck, you’ve even got a smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop computer with enough push notifications to kill a small mammal, reminding you of your responsibility to speak with those trying to get ahold of you. As a communicator, your number one goal is to interact in a prompt, concise and efficient manner. 

I’m aware that the list of accomplishments a PR person can have associated with his or her name is a lengthy one; yet, as far as I’m concerned, the more quickly you respond to my emails, the more seriously I know you take your job as a communicator. 

Respond to email and see success. Ignore it and, most assuredly, you’ll miss out on some great work-related opportunities. So, what are your thoughts on the matter? What’s the current state of your inbox: filled to the brim with unopened emails or completely up-to-date and organized? Hop down to the comments section to share your thoughts and feelings.

 


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.

Down and Dirty: the Nitty Gritty of Entry-Level Work at a PR Agency

 

Literally, if I had a nickel for every time I went out of my way to tell young, up-and-coming PR professionals about the insane stress levels associated with PR, I’d probably have just under a dollar. Figuratively, I’d be a millionaire. You see what I did there? I’m a riot. Anyway, it’s that kind of wittiness, in addition to a few well-timed puns, of course, that’ll keep your brain from turning to mush while working in PR. 

Sadly, in reality, what you’ve learned about PR from “Sex and the City” couldn’t be farther from the truth. Exchange the posh, glitz and glamour for a numb buttox that’s been sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day long. However, if you can manage to pull your head out of the proverbial clouds and set some realistic expectations, you’ll have a much better shot at making it in the hectic, but also rewarding, field of PR.

Prepare to Type Your Fingers Numb

This is by far one of the biggest stumbling blocks for new PR professionals. They honestly have no idea how much writing is involved in the daily activities of a PR person. Whether it’s a press release, email pitch, digital promotional, strategic social post or bit of web copy, writing—in one way or another—is going to occupy nearly all of your time while in the workplace. 

Basically, if you still haven’t managed to obsess over editorial perfection, you need to strongly reconsider whether or not a job in PR is something your going to enjoy.

Multitasking Is More of a Skill Than You Think

Remember that stress that I’d previously mentioned? Yeah, this is what’s responsible for a huge part of it. You’d think that a desk job wouldn’t come with too many workplace surprises and drama, but in PR, that’s certainly not the case. 

Someone gets fired, deadlines are missed, project funding gets cut—whatever it is, there’s always something that’s going to push responsibility from someone else’s plate onto yours. Think you’re already full? Too bad. Adapt and survive. Burst into tears and find yourself heading back home with your tail between your legs.

Some Clients Really Suck to Work With

If I’ve learned anything during my career, it’s that I should’ve taken the babysitting responsibilities my parents gave me when I was younger more seriously. It’s not that project managers or your points of contact at your accounts’ headquarters aren’t intelligent or that they aren’t capable of doing hard things, it’s just that they think they know more than they actually do. 

Seriously, hop on LinkedIn sometime and see how many people put “marketing,” “social media” or “public relations” on their list of hard skills. Now, of those people, how many of them have actually worked in any of the aforementioned fields? Truthfully, very few of them. Needless to say, you’ll work very closely with those who haven’t, but are painfully vocal about the fact that they still have a firm grasp on the way things should be running down at your shop. The short of it all? It sucks way hardcore.

Forgive the blunt nature of my comments, but they’re pretty spot on, if I may say so myself. The time is now yours. Am I making sense or completely casting an unnecessary shadow on my industry of choice? Let’s take this conversation to the comments section below.

 


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.

Entitlement: the PR Pro’s One-Way Ticket Out of the Industry

 

If being completely honest here, I love to hear the sound of my own voice. Seriously, my parents told me that enough at the dinner table when I was growing up to know it’s doctrine. I realize how prideful that sounds and how hypocritical that must seem considering the title of this post, but I’ve got to be truthful with everyone. 

Unfortunately, though a blessing in many ways, I spend 90 percent of my working days seated comfortably in front my desktop computer. It’s for that reason that I love any sort of daily activity having to do with verbal communication. One of my favorites? Conducting interviews. The face-to-face interaction is a welcomed release from the monotony of typing.

The Damning Effects of Entitlement

I don’t know if it’s just habit or what, but at the end of every interview, once I ask the interviewee sitting across the table from me if they have any questions, I always get the following: “Ideally, what are you looking for in a candidate?” 

Listen, I’m the first to admit that I’m no expert in the ways of anything and everything PR, but I sure as heck know what it takes to have everyone at an agency ticked at you real quick, especially as an incoming hire.

Let Actions Speak for Themselves

The cancer to end all cancers? Entitlement. Yup, though normally seen in Millennials, no potential PR pro is completely immune to its widespread effects. While your high college GPA, years of experience, list of impressive clients and involvement in the PRSA might mean something to some random employer, as far as those with any kind of credibility are concerned, all that really matters is your willingness to work, learn and progress.

Sure, writing capabilities, network size and previous media placements all play a role, but that goes without saying. In my opinion, Abraham Lincoln once famously said it best: “You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.” Simply put, nobody owes you anything. 

The sooner you realize that and make the most of the responsibilities given you, the more quickly you’ll be tackling the PR projects you’ve always wanted to put your name on and own. Miniature rant aside, what do you look for in PR employees? Above all else, which characteristics bring about turmoil in the workplace? As always, share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.

An Unexpected Advantage: a Career In PR Without a Related Degree

 

Remember how difficult it was to finally settle on a major when you first started school? For most college students, this decision is petrifying in that, theoretically, it determines how the entirety of the rest of their lives will be spent after graduation. Understandably, nerves tend to be present throughout the process. 

That being said, in many instances, that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, according to Jaison Abel and Richard Dietz of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as of May of 2013, only 27 percent of college graduates even had jobs related to their respective majors. Surprisingly, for many working in the field of professional public relations, the aforementioned is their reality.

My Personal Experience

I am one of those people. If you’ve taken any time to read up on my past, then you already know that my degree selections were anything but normal. Yup, that’s right—as a young, wide-eyed freshman at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, I declared myself a Latin American Studies major during my second semester. Later on, I’d also add a degree in Spanish to my repertoire. 

While the move was originally intended as a way for me to diversify myself as a future law school applicant, once graduation came and my career path had changed, I felt completely confident with the various skill sets my pair of degrees had given me. As I entered the world of professional PR and won promotions over those who’d made a degree in communications a worthwhile pursuit, I quickly began to realize that a formal degree in a related field was anything but necessary.

The Core Skills Necessary to Succeed In PR

Let’s be real with each other right from the get-go: PR isn’t brain surgery. Seriously, if you can write a 15-page dissertation on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” you sure as heck can pen a press release when the need arises. So what’s to be earned from the undergraduate experience for up-and-coming PR people? Simply put, they’ll need the ability to communicate both succinctly and effectively, multitask, adhere to strict deadlines, remain organized and write like there’s no tomorrow.

In order to learn just that, it’s by no means required that a formal degree in communications be obtained. In reality, you might actually be better off pursuing a different major to make it in the competitive world of PR. Think I’m crazy? Well, here’s what I’m seeing:

1) Completely Blind to Communicative Jargon 

At one point or another, some unknown person in some unknown location once famously said to an unknown listener, “Dude, ignorance is bliss.” While generally being used in situations having little to do with PR, there’s a great deal of application found within the old adage for our current topic of discussion. 

Take for example, the topic of buzzwords. What’s always been crazy to me is how passionately nearly all PR people abhor them during light conversation, yet are readily willing to use them whenever it’s time to compose a press release. Writing like a real human is another one, especially during an email pitch. 

Admittedly, I owe my passionate hatred of robotic pitching to the infamous Ed Zitron, who first pointed out to me how commonplace the disgusting practice both was and currently is. Trust me, if I could claim the idea as my own, I would’ve done so long ago. 

What am I getting at with all of this? English, History, Political Science and Linguistics majors are so naive—perhaps the wrong word, but you get what I’m driving home here—as to what PR has to spit at them, that corners are rarely cut. 

This devotion to learning the ins and outs of our industry often leads to well-crafted pitches with a focus on the recipient, devoted social media engagement and content that’s actually been thoroughly researched prior to production. Students of the humanities, liberal arts and international studies (cough cough) are generally excellent candidates for making this sort of thing happen right out of the gate.

2) The Determination to Work One’s Way to the Top

I’m the first to admit that, while confident in my abilities as a PR professional, there’s plenty that I’ve yet to have learned about the industry. Though still true, this sort of humility was never more present in my mind and heart than it was when I landed my first PR-driven internship while nearing graduation back in college. 

I’d discovered the internship a few months before applying and, in order to properly compete with those who’d opted for a more traditional education for making it in PR, started building a professional portfolio through on-campus publications at BYU and part-time social media work. 

Fortunately, the strategy worked and I was accepted to begin working with a talented team of about ten interns. Honestly, as the only one with a peculiar educational makeup, I felt I couldn’t work hard enough to prove my worth to the ad agency where I was interning. 

Listen, as a Millennial, I don’t need to hear any more about the entitlement that those of my generation supposedly feel, but mercy—if ever evidence was needed of the aforestated, my intern group could’ve provided enough data to fill an entire textbook. Needless to say, content quotas were seen as extreme and deadlines viewed as too firm. With complaints flying every which way, soon, my peers were dropping like flies. 

Now, with that in mind, in no way shape or form am I ignorant enough to think that all communications students figuratively bathe in arrogance each night before going to bed. What I do know, however, is that successful PR people have a certain grit about them which comes from an ability to work harder than their peers. Without a degree in PR or a related field, the desire to conquer all is ever present.

3) Versatility With an Array of Clients and Situations

More than just about anything else, this is by far the strongest of arguing points for those who support the hiring of non-PR students fresh out of school. Yes, specialization at the agency or firm level is wonderful for bringing in clients, but in large part, most PR entities are dealing with a wide variety of clients from a host of different industries. 

Because of this, apart from a love of anything and everything editorial, creativity is held at a premium for recruiting teams looking to bring onboard the brightest of PR minds. It’s not that communications students aren’t able to think outside of the proverbial box, it’s just that they’ve all been trained to analyze situations in the exact same way. 

If an agency is looking for similar results, they’ll bring in more communications students; conversely, if growth is an earnest pursuit, people with different mindsets will be brought onboard to bring about real change. From pitching and social media marketing to client relations and crisis management, rest assured, there are countless individuals who are very much capable of dominating PR—even if they’ve never enrolled in Media Writing 101.

Before signing off, I want make it abundantly clear that those with an academic background in communications have, if I’m being completely honest here, a real advantage out in the ever-competitive PR job market. As much as I’d like to admit it, at least initially, they’ve got a better idea of what’s going on and what’s to be expected of them. 

At the end of the day, however, with the right attitude and willingness to learn, there’s little difference between what “Peter PR” and an underwater basket weaver can do. Truthfully, some might even go as far as saying that the latter would be better equipped for a PR gig. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I subscribe to this mentality.

 


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.