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Every public relations professional, whether they’re involved in corporate PR or work with a PR agency, is looking for a competitive advantage.
They want to be more efficient, more effective, more impactful … and perhaps more appreciated.
And many are looking for what used to be called a shortcut – a hack for PR success.
Well, if you do a Google search for “hacks for PR success”, you’ll get 56,700,000 results. That’s a lot of content – and reading – for our profession, which accounts for about 275,000 jobs in the U.S.
And when looking at some of the articles and blog posts found in that search, I’m reminded of something I learned through running.
What’s running got to do with PR success?
Stay with me here.
I’ve been running for 40+ years and currently train to run two half-marathons per year. In the typical year, I may run 1,500 to 2,000 miles. It’s fun, it helps keep me in shape, it helps generate ideas, and it helps alleviate stress.
And of course, like most runners who participate in races, I want to get faster.
Now, I will never win a half-marathon (unless I’m the only entrant!), but like most people, I do want to beat my personal best.
So over the years, I have read hundreds of articles and blog posts about how to get faster.
And over those same years, I’ve tried lots of different “hacks” – wearing lighter shoes, eating a special supplement, drinking the right energy drink, listening to music that has a faster beat, and more. You name it, I tried it.
And after extensive reading, exhaustive research and testing many hacks, I decided to really study what world-class runners do to get faster. That’s when I had a blinding flash of the obvious:
If you want to run faster in a race, you need to run faster when you train.
It’s that simple. And that hard.
You have to put in the work. You have to do the miles. Sure, it helps to do all the right things – eat right, rest enough, do exercises that will help prevent injuries, and vary your workouts, but overall, you need to put in the work.
There are no hacks. No shortcuts. You just have to work at it, day in and day out.
The same is true for being successful at PR.
Sure, once in a while, some PR pro gets lucky and scores a quick media hit, creates a viral video or finds a way to put their company at the top of Google search results for a few days.
But they can’t sustain that success over the long-term just on luck.
To be successful in delivering results for your company or your clients consistently over the long term, you have to put in the work.
What kind of work?
PR is a Relationship Business
For starters, building relationships. To succeed in PR long term, you need to create, grow and sustain genuine relationships with the right journalists, event organizers, influencers and bloggers covering your industry. These relationships aren’t built overnight, they take time and consistent outreach to create a trustworthy bond that can be relied upon.
And the foundation of building those relationships comes with deepening your industry and media relations expertise – making an effort to find out how certain reporters work, what conference organizers are looking for, knowing the right materials to send them, understanding what pitches NOT to bother them with and proving that you can come through with quality content time and time again.
Issues and Trends are the ‘Secret Sauce’
The second PR success factor is to get (and stay up-to-speed on the key and emerging issues and trends that impact your company, your clients or your industry in general.
Rather than focusing your pitches on your specific product or service , or even just on the breaking news headlines of the day, it’s often better to approach things in the context of the overall trends or industry “pain points” and show how your client or messaging fits..
It can take time and research to unlock all the best ways to stay abreast of industry context.
PR Pros are News Junkies
One of the best ways is our third success factor: Be a voracious consumer of news from all types of media impacting your industry.
That means keeping up on the breaking news as well as the bigger picture, analytical coverage. It also means keeping track of which journalists cover what topics and what kinds of content their readers seem to engage with most. View things from other perspectives – that of the reporters and of the end consumer.
‘Get Off Your *ss and Knock on Doors’
A fourth success factor that can help you win the PR success marathon is to get out from behind your desk. Close your laptop, put your cellphone away and meet people (once the pandemic has passed, that is).
Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly’s popular fictional detective of novel and TV fame, encourages young police officers who want to be good detectives to “get off your ass and knock on doors.”
The same is true for PR pros.
Get out of the office and into the field. Attend industry events – trade shows, webinars, conferences, etc. – to get the full scope of what’s being talked about and what kinds of things are making the most impact in terms of speaking topics, product reveals and audience engagement.
Talk with people directly. Ask questions. Gather opinions. Collect outlooks and forecasts. Ask more questions. Be curious … and feed that curiosity.
And once you have your own industry covered, look at other companies, other industries, other cultures and even popular culture for ideas, cues and connections. This willprovide you with fresh perspective and ideas for new, creative approaches.
Long story long, there are no shortcuts to PR success. It takes investing time building connections and expertise and gaining trust to win the race.
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Author: Jim Bianchi
President and founder of Bianchi PR, and a self-proclaimed “half-fast half-marathon runner,” Jim has worked in the B2B automotive and transportation space on both the corporate and agency sides for 40 years.