Public relations is rarely a profession that gets any kind of spotlight, perhaps because so much of PR focuses on giving a spotlight to others, to individuals and businesses and organizations that have important messages to share with the world.
But in this article, we’d like to change that by taking some time to talk about PR itself and give some valuable insights that will no doubt be illuminating both to the average person and to those hoping to enter the PR industry themselves.
Before we begin and introduce you to our special guest, let’s lay down a basic definition of public relations and explain what public relations work looks like today in most cases.
In a basic sense, public relations is the work of communicating key messages to a client’s target audience, and, in the case of very large companies, to the general public.
PR is about curating and maintaining a positive public image for a client.
Further, PR and advertising may share certain traits, but they’re definitely not the same thing.
The internet, and especially social media, have done a lot to transform what contemporary PR work looks like.
All successful PR agencies now recognize the incredible value and power of these online platforms, and as such, social media management has become incredibly important for PR professionals.
We’ll be getting into more specifics of the PR industry, but for now, keep in mind that much of this work comes down to strategy and communication.
Leni Weisberg, PR Expert
Publicity Assistant Leni Weisberg has a real passion for PR, and she brings a unique perspective to this work thanks to prior experience in entertainment and media.
Weisberg knows how to carefully navigate interactions with clients as well as public-facing PR interactions with large audiences.
PR, on the whole, is very much a business about people and communication, and Weisberg is an expert in these areas. This is exactly why Artvoice asked her to join us for a brief discussion where she could provide insights and pointers about working in marketing and PR.
We already mentioned the importance of social media to contemporary PR efforts, but we really can’t stress that enough.
Twenty or thirty years ago, PR materials took a relatively long time to reach their target audiences.
For example, maybe a business leader would release a book that, in the end, was meant to generate positive impressions of the individual and their business.
Even if the material itself was effective in bringing about this result, it would take a long time to produce and distribute the book, and then only very interested parties would end up buying and reading it.
In many cases, the most immediate PR that any major companies or individuals could hope for was some kind of news coverage, but of course, the companies in question would never have full control over what that coverage would look like and how it would make people feel.
Social media is faster than any of the PR options of the past. In fact, it’s so fast that it’s unlikely we’ll see anything more advanced in this area in the future.
Weisberg agrees that social media and online marketing as a whole are extremely important to modern marketing.
“Yes, I definitely think social media and online marketing have made PR more active and immediate. It’s so simple to share a photo on Facebook or send an Instagram and audiences can see the content instantly. PR professionals definitely need to take advantage of this.”
Of course, learning how to use these online tools and platforms effectively takes a great deal of study and experience, but accepting the need to master these options is the first step.
Vinegar and honey
The next tip is based on one of the most important lessons that Weisberg has learned over the course of her career.
To start, let’s hear how she described that lesson in her own words.
“The most important lesson I’ve learned is how to be personable and less robotic. I learned to be friendly with everyone whether it be clients or reporters. Once I stopped using so much vinegar in my emails, I got a lot more responses with sweet sweet honey.”
This is not to say that more traditional, professional communications with clients, media outlets, and journalists are completely outdated or ineffective, but there’s an important idea here.
Taking a more friendly and open approach as a publicist increases your chances of getting the response you want or just of getting a response at all.
Whether you end up working for a massive PR agency or a small company focused on local clients, you’re going to be contacting a lot of different people, including many journalists and media outlets, on top of any communications within your company or with your clients.
It can be very easy to slip into a routine when you’re communicating so often, whether it’s through emails, phone calls, or in-person conversations.
If you remember to treat everyone well and communicate with enthusiasm, then people are going to be much more likely to listen closely to what you’re saying and carefully consider whether they can help you out.
So we’ve talked about the ways in which public relations professionals can and should communicate with others during the course of their work, but what about frequency of communication?
For example, if you’ve worked very hard on a client’s campaign for weeks but don’t have any concrete updates to share with them, should you reach out preemptively or wait until you have worthwhile news?
Well, Weisberg feels very strongly that continuing to communicate with clients, regardless of what’s currently happening with the work, is crucial.
“It is so important to communicate with clients. If we do not communicate, they won’t know what’s going on. Even if there is not a lot going on, it is still important to check in and remind them we are doing the work.”
Even apart from showing your clients that you are dedicated to their campaign, consistent communication also sets an important precedent for this client-agency relationship.
Not only do you, as a PR professional, want to be able to reach out to clients with vital information, but you also want clients to feel completely comfortable communicating with you, especially if they have a question about the work or a problem with decisions about the campaign.
You never want a professional relationship where one or both parties feel hesitant to bring up a relevant point.
Also, even though we’ve been applying these ideas about communication to client-agency interactions, they also apply to conversations you have with your coworkers or with journalists who might be willing to do some coverage on your client.
No matter who you’re talking to, always try to be honest and consistent. This will make your work much easier in the long run.
In most professions, networking is all about getting in touch with other people who work in the same field.
For example, individuals working in the entertainment industry in some capacity are often encouraged to network with other performers, production professionals, and potentially producers as well to increase their chances of being hired for various projects and advancing their careers.
But for marketing and PR professionals, networking can be much broader and can have greater benefits as well.
Why is that? Well, it’s because PR professionals who do a lot of networking can potentially find new clients as well, not just professional contacts working in the same field.
Imagine this scenario: you just wrapped up a very successful campaign for a client who just released an independent film. The client has invited you to attend a film festival where the film will be premiering.
An old-fashioned public relations representative might only see this as an opportunity to speak with other marketing professionals or maybe distribution companies.
But with modern marketing in mind, this event could suddenly be a major opportunity to attract new clients as well.
This is because we’ve entered a time when virtually every type of professional can benefit from some kind of PR.
From small business owners to freelance artists to attorneys, positive press coverage, especially online press coverage, can be a great way to gain notoriety in an industry or just in the local community.
Since everyone can have an online presence, everyone has an opportunity to market themselves through the internet, and with the help of PR representatives, that marketing can be very effective.
This has been a brief survey of important tips for contemporary PR professionals, but really it’s just the start of the journey for those hoping to enter the industry.
If what we’ve said here has inspired you to dig deeper, we encourage you to keep learning about PR and about the methods of effective PR pros.