3 Ways to Get Reporters to Read Your Pitches

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3 Ways to Get Reporters to Read Your Pitches

At this point, everybody knows the score. Journalists are doing more with less and they don’t have time for copy-and-pasted press releases. You can’t expect your pitch to land if you don’t do your research and know, without a doubt, that your story not only fits the publication but the journalist as well.

“It’s understandable that you might use a similar angle for more than one media outlet, but don’t just cut and paste,” said Jennifer Poppers, principal of JMP Communications. “It’s often obvious you’re doing so and each individual should be targeted directly for their content.”

The format of the pitch should reflect your research on the journalist and publication. Read through their work. Get a feeling for what they care about and what their audience wants.

“Keep it short and sweet with an invitation to discover more and an angle that might resonate. Most importantly, make it original,” Poppers said.

Know Your Journalists

That research goes beyond just getting the topics and angles right.

“You have to know and cater to each reporter’s preferences for communication stylistically, but also just channel strategy,” said Accenture’s Global Corporate Communications Lead Stacey Jones. Do they like email? Can you text them? Or can you just give them a call? If you text a reporter a pitch but they prefer email, it’s not only creepy but also gets the format wrong. If the medium is the message and you get the former wrong, it’s unlikely a reporter will care about the latter.

Regardless of the medium or the message, it’s always possible to overload a journalist with too much information. A pitch can’t be structured like a research paper and stuffed with every data point available. Leave that for a whitepaper.

“Yes, you have to offer data, you need facts to support your pitch,” said Jones. “But more does not equal better.”

It’s a delicate balancing act but one that communicators have to master. There’s an art to respecting resource-starved journos by giving them the context they need without any filler.

Language Use and Word Choice

Part of that is language use. Poppers warns that overusing formalities will only hurt your pitch, but it’s possible to land too far on the other side of the fence too.

“There is a fine line between too formal and too casual,” she said. “Strike a tone that is informative and interesting, but don’t weigh a pitch down with formalities that you wouldn’t use in a real-life conversation.”

Time Your Asks Wisely

The other part is understanding what’s going on in the current and upcoming news cycles. If you’re pitching a retail reporter during earnings season or a style editor the morning of the Oscars, you’re doing it wrong. Poppers said that if communicators want to find a receptive ear, they’ll need to have a general awareness of the industry.

Jones recommends shooting for relatively slow days like when reporters are catching up on non-urgent matters on a Friday afternoon. Maybe try Sundays, effectively avoiding the Monday morning email deluge.

“I often start a call with ‘Is this a good time to talk?’” she said. “Getting that upfront versus the journalist answering and you just start in on what you need to get out of it.”

Respecting a reporter’s time extends to giving them plenty of space to digest your pitch.

Jones said journalists are likely to want time to consider a pitch, without the constraints of deadlines. This opens up space for communicators to fulfill a key aspect of media pitching: being a resource.

“It’s not always a one-way street,” Jones said. “You’re there to help them when they need it and that will create a relationship and it will create context and an ongoing exchange. It will help them do their job and it will enhance your credibility.”

Above all, Jones said to make sure your news is actually news.

“Nothing turns journalists off more than old news that’s being pitched as new.”

9 Things About PR They Didn’t Teach You in College

9 Things About PR They Didn’t Teach You in College

There are several things about dealing with journalists that I find new and some experienced PR pros are not aware of. As an editor and reporter prior to joining the PR business, this surprised me.

Unless your college instructors were working newspeople, the below might have eluded you.

Embargo

Just because a PR firm distributes a press release with the words “Embargoed Until” atop it doesn’t mean that a reporter will honor it. Most will, but it's always good to have someone speak to the journalist and request she agree to honor the embargo.

Scientific studies sent to specific editors are an exception. The same is true for releases saying “For Release After.” PR pros should know that once a release is distributed, when it is used is up to editors.

Off-the Record 

You can tell a media member that something is "off-the-record,” but it doesn’t mean a reporter considers it so.

Establish off-the-record ground rules upfront. Specifically, do so prior to conveying information you want kept off-the-record.

'If you don’t want it reported, don’t say it' is the advice I always give to executives before interviews or when they socialize with the media.

Recall Madeleine Westerhout, President Trump’s personal assistant, who “quit” or was fired after making comments during a dinner. The event supposedly was off-the-record.

Wheat and Chaff

Limiting high-ranking companies to the most-prestigious media and offering those lower in the pecking order to so-called lesser media is a great way to avoid building good relationships with reporters.

'Minor' outlets can save the day when major news organizations ignore your pitch. Treat the “minors” like the majors.” In addition, good reporters at major outlets read the trades to find stories. Sometimes large papers buy articles from trades. Make sure executives know this.

After-Hours Availability

Many PR firms have normal business hours. Journalists work round the clock. After pitching a good story, the best way to cement media contacts is to let journalists know where you can be reached at all hours.

Similarly, you can turn off a journalist quickly when you send a pitch on a day when you're unreachable or on vacation.

Journalists Can’t Do Without Us

Too many PR pros think content creators can’t survive without their help. It’s the opposite. There’s enough legitimate non-PR-pitched news to fill editorial holes without the help of PR pros. They can survive without us. We can’t survive without them.

Your Executive

Just because your very important executive is in town and wants media coverage doesn’t mean that reporters will jump at the opportunity of doing an interview. There are several reasons for this.

The industry your executive works in won't interest every news outlets. Your very important executive is one of many to a content creator. In addition, even if a reporter agrees to a get-to-know session, he might not find anything the executive says important enough to warrant writing a story.

Your Agency

Even if you work at a top-five agency, journalists will not be impressed when you contact them. It’s the story that matters, not the agency that provides it.

For example, during my pitching days, an important editor at a major media outlet thought I worked for an agency other than the one that employed me.

One day, she  said to me, “If you know someone at Burson-Marsteller ask them to tell (Jane Doe) that I throw out all her hand-written pitches without opening them." The editor did so because Jane failed to spell her name correctly. Clearly the editor didn't realize the bad speller also was my colleague.

“I’ll tell her. She sits a few doors away from me,” I replied. The editor was stunned. She thought I worked somewhere else.

Your Title

It might impress your mother (probably not your spouse). Still, an important-sounding title will fail to give you an in with media.

Being Helpful and Being There

Over the years, I made many media friends. They introduced me to their colleagues. They did so because I made myself available 24/7. I also was around weekends and holidays if a reporter needed information or was looking for a story on a slow news day.

I realize that doing so might interfere with one's home life. My experience shows that you will not be bothered much. And it might help your career to be media friendly.

Importantly, if I thought of a good feature story that didn’t work for my clients, I would give the idea to my reporter contacts. They always appreciated it and it worked to my benefit.

Arthur Solomon was SVP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller. He is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. arthursolomon4pr@juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.com

The 6 Must-Have Elements of a Comprehensive PR Plan

The 6 Must-Have Elements of a Comprehensive PR Plan

You’ve been asked to create a comprehensive PR plan. Maybe a three-year or five-year plan – you are either filled with excitement or anxiety – most likely, a mix of both.

The goal of a comprehensive PR plan usually falls into three buckets: a) to increase awareness for a company or organization entering new markets, b) to increase awareness for a company or organization experiencing a slow-down in market segments or c) to increase awareness of a new product or division.

Here are tips to create a comprehensive PR plan.

  • Understand the scenario. What is the needle that needs to be moved and why? Design your plan to do that. Have discussions with senior leadership, and board members where appropriate, about concerns and desires. Research your industry to see what competitors are doing with their PR. Develop a strong understanding of the climate your organization is operating in, both internal and external.

  • Establish goals.

    Determine what will be achieved after implementation of the plan. Do you wish to change behaviors or perceptions within the organization? Is the goal to gain customers? Do you desire greater brand recognition and higher sales? Try to have 3-5 goals. Remember to ensure that they are measurable along the implementation of the plan.

  • Define audiences.

    Whom are you trying to reach and what do you need to communicate? Defining key audiences and segmentation are critical to ensure your plan will be effective. In addition, it’s important to have consensus among leadership and your  board as to who these audiences are and how they are defined.

  • Choose tactics and channels.

    How will you communicate to audiences? What mix of channels will you use? To get the mix of tactics and channels right, research individual audiences through personal development to determine: a.) the most effective tactics to grab their attention, and b.) what channels they engage with most to target them where they are.

  • Determine measurement and reporting.

    As you are developing tactics and channels, think of how you will measure and how you will report these measurements and to whom. Typically, it is a combination of campaign metrics, benchmarking and surveying/focus groups. Choose the right combination that works for your organization and measures your audience engagement as effectively as possible. Don’t forget the internal – decide early how you will present results to senior leaders and how often.

  • Prepare an itemized budget for each year of the plan.

    Your last step will be to prepare an itemized budget for each year of the plan. This will help determine costs and areas for potential scale back. It may be hard to calculate a cost for every step of the implementation. Provide estimates if necessary. 

The last, and most crucial step, is to shop the plan to your organization. Present it to the CEO and board and then senior leaders. Adjust the plan as you go to reflect useful input. Be mindful of input that may create obstacles within the plan and raise that issue to senior leaders.

By building consensus, you will create a clear path ahead for the implementation phase of your plan.

Sandra Coyle is founder of Coyle Communications. Follow her @coylecomms 

Win journalists over in 4 steps

Tired of having your press releases and pitches ignored? Three former journalists share four frequently overlooked methods to turn heads and earn headlines.

Win journalists over in 4 steps

Tired of having your press releases and pitches ignored? Three former journalists share four frequently overlooked methods to turn heads and earn headlines.

Lack of news value. Useless quotes. Poor writing.

Those flaws top the common complaints journalists levy against press releases and PR pitches. The list goes on, but you can avoid journalists’ ire—and even increase your media placement—if you take several simple steps.

Here are four ways to land your next idea above the fold, rather than in the delete folder:

1. Avoid the sales pitch. “We all know the dreaded feeling,” says former journalist and current AAA spokesperson Tamra Johnson. “You pick up the phone to an unfamiliar voice with one intention—to get you to buy what they’re selling. We usually walk away from these experiences with little interest in speaking with the salesperson again.”

The solution? Try being more conversational, so you don’t come off like a salesperson.

“Avoid cheesy opening lines, and craft your message like you’re having a conversation,” Johnson says. “Provide the most important information, but don’t try to sell your idea. Instead, share with the journalist how your topic or issue will inform and benefit their audience.”

Carolyn Evert, VP of Northeast Communications at JPMorgan Chase, takes it further. “A great way to build relationships with reporters is … don’t always pitch them!” she says.

Instead, set Google alerts for journalists you want to connect with, and then tell them when they write something that intrigues you on a personal level.

“Interact with them on social media, retweet their articles,” Evert says. “That way, your name may already be familiar when you finally do have a pitch.”

2. Don’t be afraid to call. “Make a phone call is one of the best ways I’ve been able to gather intel into a journalist’s workstyle or how the newsroom works,” Evert says.

This includes leaving voicemails. “I’ve had multiple journalists over the years call me back to let me know they weren’t the correct contacts, but that I should contact their colleagues,” she says. “If you’re able to catch a journalist in a good mood, it’s 100 percent possible to strike media intel gold.”

Evert also loves phone pitching, because it’s harder for journalists to go radio silent.

“Once you have someone on the phone, they have to provide feedback on your pitch,” she says. “If they say no, the door’s open to ask for an alternative contact or what story might work for them. You also start building relationships by asking questions.”

3. Eschew the canned quotes. Press release quotes usually repeat content found elsewhere in press releases. That’s why they rarely get picked up.

“You see it all the time,” says Nick Lanyi, a media relations expert with Ragan Consulting Group. “These quotes are also usually rife with clichés.” For example:

“We’re thrilled to announce this new partnership,” CEO John Doe said. “Bringing together these two leading firms will result in tremendous synergies and make us both better.”

“That’s boring—and boring is bad, because it does nothing to encourage the reporter to arrange an interview with the CEO,” Lanyi says. “No reporter wants to produce stories filled with hackneyed quotes, so why offer them up?”

Good quotes conversely provide something that no one but that speaker could provide: his or her viewpoint or emotion, expressed in an interesting way, with details that make the quote sound like something a real person would say. For example:

“I’ve wanted to work with New Partner Corp. since I first heard about the company 20 years ago,” CEO John Doe said. “Their passion to bring Armenian cooking to America is inspiring to me, because I’ve had a similar drive to feed Albanian food to the masses since I started my own business in the 1970s. I can’t wait to get started on this new partnership.”

“More reporters would want to speak with John Doe after reading the second quote,” says Lanyi. “That doesn’t mean they’ll use the quote in their story, but they will call.”

4. Omit needless words. “A journalist has an attention span of around 10 seconds,” says Evert, “so make it a good 10 seconds.”

She suggests starting with the basics of who, what and why. Avoid the temptation to include additional details.

“If you have a good story, that’s all you need to pique a reporter’s interest,” she says. “Then challenge yourself to tell your story in three sentences or less. Once a journalist is hooked, then you can share the nitty-gritty details.”

She shares this example, which she pitched to CNN:

“This unique car seat safety technology is now being introduced in another car seat brand and has the support from Indy car driver Scott Dixon. The technology that helps Scott walk away from horrific crashes (like one he had in Texas last year) is the same in the car seat he uses for his daughter, the Advance 70 Air +.

 It’s called G-Cell HX™. When combined, Air Protect®+ G-Cell HX™ offers superior full body side impact protection around the child’s body in the event of a crash.”

“Fancy writing is great if you’re working on a feature story,” Evert says, “but more often
than not a journalist wants you to just cut to the chase.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager. 

5 things new PR pros should learn

Just because you are new to the industry doesn’t mean you can’t have an immediate impact. Here’s how one new PR pro suggests you can set yourself apart.

5 things new PR pros should learn

Just because you are new to the industry doesn’t mean you can’t have an immediate impact. Here’s how one new PR pro suggests you can set yourself apart.

The transition from college student to career professional can be both intimidating and exciting. It’s a time when most professionals learn, stumble, and grow the most.

When I started as a public relations specialist at my current employer, I wanted to be the best—fast. However, personal growth takes time.

Here are five tips for jumpstarting your PR career:

1. Become a writing maestro.

Don’t underestimate the need for engaging, well-written content.

As a recent graduate, you are shaking off years of formal research papers and short blog posts. Those are great, valuable forms of writing—but now you’re going to take on countless case studies, press releases, ghost-written articles, Q&As and various other forms of content.

While no two types are the same, all high-quality PR content contains similarities. First, tell a story—and lose the jargon.

Second, practice patience. Someone once said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, how will you have time to do it over?” Take time to carefully proof your work and have someone else review it before submitting your final draft.

Finally, adjust your content to match the brand’s voice. This might be the most challenging goal, but it’s priceless once achieved. Become a sponge and absorb the brand voice veteran writers have developed for the company. Soon enough, your writing will blend in and gain readers’ trust.

The lesson : Practice writing every day. It’s a path to continuous improvement. If you can embrace this practice, you are well-positioned for a future in PR.

2. Mingle with other departments.

In the past, a PR pro may have kept to themselves and focused on securing the next big storyline in the local newspaper. Not anymore.

Today’s PR pros are expected to produce videos, maintain social media channels, write blog posts and sustain a website in addition to traditional PR duties. That’s where the rest of your team comes in.

Every department has a different structure, but working with the content writers, graphic designers, and digital media team will enhance your PR efforts. Work with your team on producing blogs for pitching or a video you’d like included in the next press release. The cross-platform possibilities are endless.

The lesson: Don’t let titles limit you. Reach out to others throughout your organization to find out who has skills that complement yours. The owned and paid media your team creates is a major resource to drastically improve earned media efforts.

3. Learn how to pitch.

Owned media and customer advocates are great, but if you are waiting for your audience or prospects to stumble upon them, you’re wasting a golden opportunity.

If you want to test the waters, start on the local level and work your way up to industry publications or national media outlets. Don’t just sit there—pitch.

The lesson: Look at your leadership team, customers and company initiatives. Each area has a story worth telling to inspire others. Try to turn those stories into free coverage.

4. Embrace technology.

Become an expert with the media tools available to you. My employer introduced me to a media management solution, which has become my go-to tool. I can track where my company and our competitors are being mentioned, identify who the influencers and journalists are in our industry, and pull together analytics reports all in one platform.

Media tools are a lifesaver for anyone in PR.

The lesson: Work smarter, not harder. Not every company will have a budget for media communication tools, but you can always advocate for them. If you fight the good fight and still can’t find room to add media solutions in your budget, explore the free tools available to you. If you’re a student and worried about your lack of communication technology experience, check out this great resource.

5. Be a contrarian.

Just because you are new to the industry doesn’t mean you are powerless. In my two short years on the job I’ve changed the way we use press releases, added new types of content to our owned media library, helped revamp our online newsroom, built close relationships with editors and so much more.

The lesson: Challenge existing norms and introduce new approaches. The PR industry is changing rapidly and so are its practices. If you see something that can be done better, speak up. You might be surprised at how willing leaders are to listen and implement your recommendations.

If you are looking for even more ways to increase PR efforts, try following groups like the PRSA or joining the conversation on Twitter at #NPPRSA or #RaganChat.

What would you add to this list, PR Daily readers?

Avery Faehling practices public relations at Skyward. He is a member of the PRSA and serves as a crusader for new ideas. You can follow him on Twitter at @SkywardPRGuy.

How PR pros see their budgets changing in 2020

How PR pros see their budgets changing in 2020

As communicators try to forecast their coming year, some are planning to increase investment in technology. Others look to hire new team members. Everyone is counting on change.

How will PR pros invest their precious budget dollars in 2020?

In a recent survey, we asked more than 300 communications pros how they were planning for the coming financial year, and almost half the respondents said their budgets would hold steady. However, if the budget was going to change, it was more likely to increase than decrease.

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Where are PR pros planning to increase their spending? Linda Rutherford, vice president and chief communications officer for Southwest, says it’s crucial for communicators to invest in new technology—however, that needn’t translate into a bigger budget.

“The last several years has brought significant investment in commtech as well as social/digital, so I believe that budgets will be status quo going into 2020,” she says. “The task for communications teams is how to fully leverage the tools and technology in which they have invested.”

Rutherford says the new spending can be offset by jettisoning activities that don’t offer enough return on investment.

“More investment in commtech,” she says. “The funds will be redistributed from other low-value activities that the teams have been shedding. The name of the game is efficiency.”

Michael Waterman, the vice president of communications for CHG Healthcare and a member of Ragan’s Communications Leadership Council, says he expects his department’s spending will rise as he brings in new team members. “We expect to increase our 2020 budgets,” he says, “primarily around new hires for key communications needs and expanded video production.”

In our survey, when we asked how PR pros would spend their money if they were given a budget increase, many indicated an interest in increasing video production capability.

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Other topics of interest included social media, additional staff and brand journalism and marketing.

“Change is constant,” says Waterman, “and we’ve recently invested in change communications experts who are helping us navigate and effectively communicate changes within and outside our organization.”

Where PR pros can cut

Some programs will be getting less investment in 2020.

“We expect to spend less on physical events (news conferences, media events, media days, etc.),” says Rutherford.

For Waterman, an attempt to manage ballooning costs might prompt his agency to reevaluate relationships with outside contractors.

“We’ve increased the way we use freelancers over the past few years to generate content for our many brands,” he says. “The freelance model works well and we’re proud of the work we develop together, but as we continue to improve and expand our in-house talent, we may have the opportunity to reduce spend on outside vendors.”

Rutherford says technology is the biggest change for Southwest’s communications budget compared with prior years.

“The obvious callout in our budget, she says, “is the investment in technology: software as solution, digital platforms, social listening and visualization tools, measurement and analytics tools, etc. Keeping communication relevant requires more investment in technology as an enabler than ever before.”

Waterman agrees that technology has transformed the traditional communications budget.

“Today we’re using more social media and content-creation tools than ever before,” he says. “We also have a stable of excellent freelance writers who are helping us with brand journalism. And since CHG Healthcare senior leaders value communications, our internal and external teams continue to grow to meet ongoing needs.”

An exciting future

What can PR pros look forward to as they forecast their coming year? For Waterman, the increasingly available audience data offers dynamic opportunities to engage stakeholders.

“We’re excited about two areas,” he says. “The first is that we’re continuing to invest in collecting and analyzing more data to complement and strengthen the stories we’re developing and pitching to media.

“The second is that we’re heavily focused on video storytelling. We have an in-house video team, and we’re looking to triple our output and productions in 2020.”

No wonder Waterman predicts increased spending on in-house personnel. “Video storytelling works well for our brands and is a key part of our communications strategies,” he adds.

For Rutherford, newly available data is also an exciting development.

“In 2020, I’m excited about getting more in-depth with employee insights as we build out our employee experience roadmap,” she says. This move reflects what a recent Page Society report suggests is an important growth area for communicators. The report argues that communicators must develop a content/user experience, similar to the buyer’s journey already used by marketers to engage customers.

However, communicators can build journeys for all the stakeholders they want to engage, including their employees.

“We want to dial in to the moments that matter and ensure that we remove friction and pain points in the daily lives of our employees so that they can be the most productive,” says Rutherford.

Concerns to keep in mind

Not everything will be rosy for communicators in 2020. Though most departments don’t predict a decrease in their budgets and staff, there will still be challenges.

Rutherford and Southwest, who have a far-flung workforce and operating geography, have a wide range of concerns, some ripped from headlines in 2019 that don’t promise to go away anytime soon.

“I think that list is usually the same,” she says, “threats to our business, global unrest, and incivility that leads to mass violence. We are now a big enough business concern that not one mass violence event happens that we don’t find a member of the Southwest family involved or affected.”

Waterman’s concerns are a little more focused.

“Our customer’s desire to consume content of all types—articles, videos, infographics, research studies and analysis, email, and more—is challenging to match,” he says. “It requires us to be better organized and deliberate in our choices. But we like the opportunity to develop integrated content that helps us stand out. “

What about you PR pros? How do you expect your budgets and daily priorities to shift in the coming year?

By Ted Kitterman
@tedkitkat

Why and how to replace musty PR jargon with clear, precise language

Fluff, puffery and linguistic sleight of hand could be undermining your credibility—and harming your career. Watch for these weasel words and phrases that could come back to bite you.

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Why and how to replace musty PR jargon with clear, precise language

Fluff, puffery and linguistic sleight of hand could be undermining your credibility—and harming your career. Watch for these weasel words and phrases that could come back to bite you.

As language evolves, grotesque creatures can take shape.

We have PR, marketing and advertising to thank for many euphemisms that have become ubiquitous.

A few examples:

  • Used cars apparently no longer exist. Now we have “pre-owned cars” or “certified pre-owned cars.” Of course, a used car is a used car, “certified” or not.

  • It’s impossible to buy a balcony ticket in a Broadway theater—not because the show has sold out—but because “balcony” is now called the “upper mezzanine.”

  • Want to speak to your stockbroker? Ask for your “financial advisor” instead.

  • Political cable TV programs use the term “expert analyst” to describe pundits who give their opinions, even though their opinions are often decidedly un-expert.

It’s better to speak plainly.

PR deserves a dictionary of its own. Some terms and phrases used in our business might seem harmless, but even small misunderstandings (or linguistic sleights of hand) can ruin trust and erode credibility.

Especially in the situations listed below, beware of using duplicitous or misleading PR language:

  • You’re trying to make a bad client situation look better than it really is.

  • You’re stretching the truth to make a new product seem “innovative” or “game-changing” when it’s only a minor improvement or updated packaging.

  • You’re blaming a reporter who has quoted a client correctly. “Misquoted” or “misunderstood” or “took it out of context” are the usual excuses.

Of course, loose language and imprecise terminology can get a communicator into trouble in many ways. Weasel words are ubiquitous in press releases and in responses to reporters’ questions. Words and phrases such as “perhaps,” “believed to be,” “possibly,” and “our research shows” demonstrate a lack of provable facts.

Other puffery such as “best in class,” “award-winning,” “unique” or “cutting-edge” should also raise a red flag. Is the product or service you’re touting really “No.1”? By which metric? According to whom? Be careful what you claim, as it could come back to bite you.

Amid a PR crisis, it’s understandable to use “PR talk” to circumvent tough questions, but responding with fluff might make things worse.

Avoid tired tropes such as:

  • “Safety is our highest priority.”

  • “Our employees are like family.”

  • “Our attorneys have investigated the matter and found no problem.”

All these replies are non-answers and are certain to irritate reporters. Using PR jargon answers can sometimes backfire, as reporters might sense a coverup and start digging deeper into the matter. A straightforward answer often prevents additional negative reporting.

Using PR talk might seem safe, but it can do the following:

  • Create mistrust

  • Damage relationships with journalists

  • Tarnish your credibility

Does that seem worth it? Avoid boilerplate gibberish, and banish business jargon from your vocabulary. Speak—and write—directly, clearly and with precision.

A version of this post first ran on the Glean.info blog.

Setting new benchmarks for PR’s value

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Setting new benchmarks for PR’s value

The old ways of evaluating processes and protocols simply fall short in this ever-changing industry. Consider these three approaches to keep pace with evolving messaging demands.

Marketing has long been a metrics-based discipline. It’s time for PR to catch up.

The early tactics and processes previously used to measure PR campaigns, such as the use of AVEs, no longer accurately measure PR campaigns today. With 2020 on the horizon, more business leaders will question the real value of PR. As an industry, we need to advance the conversation or watch our PR budgets shrink.

Here are three ways to look at metrics and measurement:

1. Align PR goals with business goals.

Too often PR goals are created in a vacuum and are not deeply aligned with what a business really needs to accomplish. When startups come to my agency, their goal is often to “get more press.” That can be the program outcome, but that’s not where to start.

Instead, start with their annual business goals and then break those goals down quarterly. Once you have a deep understanding of the client’s quarterly business goals, develop actionable PR goals against them.

For example, if the company is focused on M&A activity in the next 12 to 18 months, focus on the messaging and positioning that will set the company apart, catching the eye of potential buyers, and then use it as a road map for communications to both internal and external stakeholders.

2. Advance your metrics.

What used to be the common, textbook tools for PR professionals to measure and justify their PR strategy just isn’t enough anymore. Go beyond measuring the number of media placements to look at metrics that align with your PR and business goals.

Was your stated business goal to sell more widgets, and your PR goal to oust the No. 1 widget seller online? Consider measuring your client’s share of voice against their competition. A resource like Signal A.I. can provide real-time insights for media monitoring and market intelligence, as well as analyze sentiment. This can help highlight any results that your company is getting, as well as measuring the value of the earned media secured.

Was your business goal to introduce a new product to the market and drive sales? PR efforts that announced the product and/or highlighted how it is being used by clients can help to drive interest and can be measured not only by coverage quality but also by direct in-bound leads. I’ve had clients attribute million-dollar deals to product-focused PR efforts.

 3. Remember that PR is not just about earned media.

The above points relate to a more traditional view of PR that is centered on earned media. As the PR industry evolves, smart agencies are shifting their offerings to include services well beyond media relations.

For instance, firms that offer integrated communications campaigns that include content marketing, social media or experiential activations can provide more advanced metrics. This allows PR firms to demonstrate value well beyond a media hit and showcase how PR efforts can drive sales leads.

Regardless of how you look at metrics, don’t look at them once, but instead develop them over time and take an agile approach. Compare results year over year, quarter over quarter, and so on. Looking at how earned media evolves can help to identify gaps and ultimately inform your overall planning and strategy. Coupling this analysis with your business goals can result in a winning formula.

By the year 2020, PR is projected to have $19.3 billion in revenue worldwide. By adopting these important strategies to understand the value of PR, business leaders can ensure their PR investment won’t go to waste. The industry is evolving; it’s time for us to evolve with it.

Tiffany Guarnaccia is the founder and CEO of Kite Hill PR and the founder of Communications Week.