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PR 101: Lessons Every Marketing Professional Needs to Know This Year

August 16, 2018 | Jennifer McNaughton
Public Relations

It’s back-to-school season, so we thought we’d throw it back to the basics: PR 1101 Lessons Every Marketing Professional Needs to Know This Year. Since public relations is an ever-evolving practice, it can be beneficial for even the most seasoned marketing and communications professionals to review a few foundational PR lessons to stay fully up-to-date with the practice of PR.

Lesson #1: Keep up with the ever-evolving definition of public relations

When most people think of public relations, they think of one thing: press releases, and, maybe at one point in time, that’s all public relations was. But it’s so much more than that today. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) currently describes public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” In order to make those mutually beneficial relationships possible, public relations and marketing professionals have to go beyond simply writing press releases; public relations professionals now incorporate a variety of communications disciplines into their campaigns in order to maximize the effectiveness and precision.

Some of those disciplines include:

  • Brand journalism/content creation – i.e. writing blogs to show expertise
  • Corporate communications – i.e. maintaining all communications among company stakeholders
  • Crisis communications – i.e. transparently handling an organization’s crises
  • Events – i.e. publicity events, galas, tradeshow booths
  • Executive communications – i.e. handling all executive-level communications within a company
  • Internal communications – i.e. effectively managing all communications within an organization
  • Marketing communications – i.e. advertising, sales, promotions, branding, online promotion
  • Media relations – i.e. press releases, pitching to journalists
  • Multimedia communications – i.e. broadcast journalism, filmmaking
  • Reputation management – i.e. proactively monitoring an organization’s reputation
  • Social media – i.e. engaging with the public online to build positive relationships
  • Speechwriting – i.e. preparing speeches for executives

Each discipline can be viewed as a unique puzzle piece, and when they’re all placed together correctly, they build a well-thought-out campaign based off of holistic marketing strategies.

Lesson #2: Finding and maintaining the right relationships in the right way

Relationships with journalists

Learning how to interact appropriately with journalists is crucial because it only takes one negative interaction to uproot a potentially beneficial relationship; it’s essential that both parties take the time to really get a solid understanding of each other’s communications preferences. Here at MERGE, we know that finding and maintaining the right relationships in the right way is essential to PR success.

Years ago, it was the norm to pick up the phone, dial up the local newspaper editor and pitch him/her a story. Oh, how the times have changed! Now, the majority of media contacts do not want to be bothered by a phone call. As technology has become more prominent, email has become the preferred way to contact journalists. Not to mention that when contacting reporters, always remember to introduce yourself and the company you work for in your pitch if you don’t already have a standing relationship with the reporter. The unsuspecting PR professional who doesn’t do this is quickly labeled as a #PRFail – just search Twitter, and you’ll be sure to find plenty of examples.

To avoid a #PRFail, it’s always best to tailor your pitches to the specific reporter as much as possible. Social media has become an incredible tool to help with this: try to find journalists on Twitter and LinkedIn because, often enough, their bios will include the specific topics they write about and/or what they’re interested in. And by continuously interacting with journalists online over time – through favoriting, liking, commenting, replying, quoting, etc. – you’re slowly building a relationship with them. The journalist will begin to recognize your name, so when you eventually contact them with a pitch, your name will ring a bell with them. Building these professional relationships through online interactions are the key to effective pitching.

Building relationships with the public through social media

Social media has become a driving force in today’s marketing world due to the fact that, if used correctly, companies can easily connect and engage with the users in their target audience. Although the purpose of the various social media platforms is similar – to engage and strengthen the bond between their organization and their publics – the appropriate tone of messaging varies by platform. If you do your research, you’ll find that certain age groups may use one platform more than another, so having that background knowledge amplifies the efficiency of your marketing campaign and increases the likelihood that you’ll create stronger relationships with the users you’re reaching.

#ProTip: Your tone may vary due to the platform, but your client’s voice should remain consistent on all social platforms. Currently, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have more of a casual feel, where as on LinkedIn, the overarching tone is more professional. Keep in mind that a social platform’s user demographics are constantly changing, so it’s crucial that marketing professionals are continuously monitoring these statistics to ensure that they’re getting the most out of their social media campaigns.

Lesson #3: Never underestimate the power of research

In order to create marketing and PR campaigns, lots of research has to go into the process beforehand. When you have a new client, you must research them thoroughly – read their website, have multiple calls, etc. – to get a solid understanding of what they do and where their competitors stand. Because if you don’t understand what your client does and who their competition is, how can you market them effectively? With this comes the opportunity to expand your vocabulary by learning the jargon of your client’s industry. Since MERGE works exclusively with clients in the healthcare industry, we’ve become experts in healthcare lingo. The bottom line is – the more you know about your client before you dive into PR work, the more likely you’ll be successful in working with that account.

In the end, public relations has always – and will always be – about building mutually beneficial relationships between clients and the public; it’s just the manner of doing so that is constantly changing. Who knows how much it’ll transform in the next ten years? Regardless, we’re prepared to tackle and adapt to every methodologic and technological change that’s thrown into the PR industry in order to give our clients the best public relations campaigns possible.

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