This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.
It takes more than tactics and knowledge to succeed in public relations. Your career needs more than the ability to land clients in feature coverage in top media outlets. You also have to be a skilled salesperson, able to convince others that your communication strategy is the right way to go.
Think about it:
What good are your pitches if client doesn’t sign off on them so you can send them?
Your brilliant strategies won’t be worth anything if you don’t have “a seat at the table” and the ability to pitch your ideas to management and get them on board.
In other words, your role as a trusted strategic partner will be a bust if you can’t get your client or boss interested in what you have to say.
How do you do that?
Communicate regularly – As Jenny Schmitt tweeted in a recent chat about bringing team members together, “calendars…so simple, so often overlooked.” Do you have a regular, standing meeting to discuss PR updates and ideas? If not, get one on the calendar stat!
Don’t be afraid to mix it up – Call, email, text to get through to your contacts when you need to. Most of us find a preferred method for communicating and stick with that…unless you’re not getting the response you need. Tailor the communication method to the message – really important ideas that are more complex may be best explained in person or over the phone, while straight-forward status updates can be left to email.
Think before you speak – Before you jump into that great idea, think for a minute about what your counsel will sound like on the other end. Put yourself in the recipient’s position and consider how they’re likely to react to what you plan to say.
Ask questions – Open the door whenever possible to discussions that can reveal interesting background stories and help you learn more about the company, your client, their co-workers, their hobbies and interests outside of work. You never know when this information can inform a PR strategy!
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes – You know what it’s like to do your job, but how does your boss perceive your work? What does your manager or client need most from you? What do they do with the updates and status reports you send? If you don’t know the answers to these questions – ask!
Make sure you’re starting on the same page – Do your contacts understand PR? if so, what does PR mean for them? Who did they work with in the past and how has that shaped their understanding of what PR is and what it can do? What type of return do they expect from their PR investment?
Build a relationship – Take the time to get to know your client or boss and make an effort to develop a relationship that goes beyond that of a client and vendor. This could mean sharing personal information (but not too personal) or it could simply mean getting to know their schedules and their assistants better so that you can get in touch faster and easier when you need to.
Set expectations – Everyone knows that getting buy-in on goals, measurement and timeframes is a PR “must,” but sometimes we get busy, people come and go, and priorities shift. Re-setting can be as easy as checking in again.
Offer counsel – You were hired for your experience and with the expectation that you’d apply that experience to your current job. Offer your perspective and illustrate it with examples of situations (your own or famous case studies) to make your point or underscore your recommendations.
Listen – Chances are you’ll work with non-communications professionals at some point in your career. If they’re not good at communicating their needs, you’ll have to listen for cues. Repeat what you hear, draw out deliverables and discuss them.
Be clear when budgets are concerned – It may feel awkward to bring up the question of budget, but it’s much worse to have to talk about surprises when dollars are concerned.
Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.