Having a good idea is one thing, getting it out there and making it visible to the public is another. That’s why the job of a public relations (PR) specialist is essential. Their mission is to represent their client—a company, institution, nonprofit organization, or other business—and set up brand-related strategies using channels such as the press, television, radio, and the internet. Specifically, PR can expand horizons wider than just “press coverage” by also proposing partnerships with other brands, professional events and trade shows, conferences, or public events in their clients’ sectors. PR specialists usually work in agencies separate from the companies they represent, which gives them a different perspective of the products they’ll be promoting and the sales angles to try. They are also responsible for creating high-quality content, including press kits, press releases, and interviews, which are adapted to the company’s entire communication media.
Mathilde Mignon, a travel and recreation specialist at the French agency RP #Digital, shares her tips for how to make an impression.
For the product or service the PR specialist is promoting to stand out, it needs to jibe with the news and be taken in innovative directions through out-of-the-ordinary partnerships, noteworthy public events, or by giving print- and online-media outlets the chance to experience it first-hand. “Each press release must have a distinct slant, be only one or two pages long, and have a catchy headline, because reporters only open 15% of the press releases they receive,” advises Mignon. “We also need to regularly find new information linked to the product or the service we’re promoting, so that we don’t run it into the ground!”
…know who or what you’re talking about
A PR specialist is usually an external partner of the client company, but still a partner. They must know everything about the company that has entrusted them with their publicity, and they must know how to respond to questions from reporters or influencers. A PR specialist must, above all, believe in the product in order to promote it with conviction. “We are trained by the project leaders and regularly meet with our clients. We always have all the information and visuals to hand in order to be ultra-ready if a reporter needs content quickly,” says Mignon.
…make sure you’re up-to-date on the news
No excuses! In order to be able to draw inspiration from the latest events, you need to be fully up to speed on what is going on. “Our clients are often surprised to hear us say that we send a great deal of press releases to reporters linking a client’s product to the news,” says Mignon. “The same product can be the basis for a dozen different press releases. Part of our role is to carry out focused monitoring of the news in their sector or to find links with public trends and recreational activities.”
“The same product can be the basis for a dozen different press releases. Part of our role is to carry out focused monitoring of the news in their sector or to find links with public trends and recreational activities”—Mathilde Mignon, PR specialist
PR specialists prepare strategies with specific goals ahead of time with their clients. Above and beyond brand recognition, their role is mostly to get a project off the ground or drum up sales. The results are quantifiable and guarantee the effectiveness of a campaign. “We can measure the impact of our work by the number of articles published on the subject,” explains Mignon, “and it’s up to us to look for these results daily. We conduct surveys with our partners to see where their new customers are coming from, and we check with webmasters on the number of hits or orders that can be linked to a press release, and so on.”
…keep your contact list up to date
Even if most PR agencies subscribe to professional applications that provide listings of all the reporters and media outlets available by sector, region, or type, all specialists want to set themselves apart through the quality of their relationship with each one. “We build our own contact lists in order to better understand the specializations, areas of expertise, or leanings of influencers and reporters,” says Mignon. “This involves reading their articles and following their career histories.”
…send out random information
This is often the biggest mistake: To reach the largest amount of people, certain PR specialists send out impersonal press releases to all of their contacts. What’s the harm, right? “Reporters and influencers are bombarded with information,” warns Mignon. “It’s better to take the time and only contact the one who would be most interested in the client’s project, and propose something a bit more personal. It makes it a collaboration!”
“It’s better to take the time and only contact the one who would be most interested in the client’s project, and propose something a bit more personal. It makes it a collaboration!”—Mathilde Mignon, PR specialist
…count on traditional media relations
Although press coverage is essential for the successful launch of a project, don’t ignore influencer marketing—that is, the world of Instagrammers, bloggers, YouTube product testers, and amateur, or even professional, brand ambassadors out there. It’s estimated that 86% of an influencer’s followers rely on their reviews to form their own opinion of a product. In addition, the classic email/telephone follow-up approach has changed over the past few years, meaning relationships with some reporters or influencers need to be reenvisioned. “Having a digital mindset is crucial!” urges Mignon. “Certain reporters want to be contacted through their professional social networks, and others don’t want to receive press releases or telephone calls anymore. It’s important to accept that certain press and PR traditions have been transformed by influencers, and their way of working needs to be taken into account.”
…forget good manners
Don’t be pushy and don’t bother a reporter or customer at an outrageous time of day. PR specialists are often their clients’ first point of contact with the rest of the world, so impressions need to be well groomed!
…be shy or too subdued
To do this job, you need to be courageous and take the initiative to chase up, innovate, and communicate quickly and efficiently. But be careful not to go overboard: Finding the balance between discretion and eloquence is the secret to being an effective PR specialist. “There is no room for loquaciousness at an agency! You need to know where your place is—your client is the star and you must learn how to take a step back when the media coverage is a success,” explains Mignon.
…become easily discouraged
This line of work is not an exact science, and sometimes the media coverage does not reach the right level of quality for the project, regardless of the PR specialist’s tenacity. But it is precisely because of their endurance, their patience, and ability to reevaluate the situation throughout the project that their work will be recognized. “Getting press coverage can sometimes require several months of work for just a few lines,” says Mignon. “But the secret to our job is to never become discouraged and always approach our relationship with the media and our clients with as much enthusiasm as we did on the first day!”
“The secret to our job is to never become discouraged and always approach our relationship with the media and our clients with as much enthusiasm as we did on the first day!”—Mathilde Mignon, PR specialist
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Photographs by WTTJ
Translated by Mary Waggoner-Moritz