Tag Archive: corporate communications

What does it take to get hired at a top public relations firm? BERKMAN’s newest account executive, Kristen Murphy, has all the right answers and then some. Lucky for us, we are privy to her expert advice on transitioning into a new firm in a new town.

The relationships one forms with journalists, editors, bloggers and other influential people in the media is one the most important elements of a PR professional’s job. But cultivating personal relationships and earning the respect of those in the media takes time. So what does one do when starting over in a new city? Invite people to go out. Get to know the journalists you will be pitching and become friends with them. A friend is more apt to help you out by writing a story about your client than someone you’ve never met. Plus, it’s fun and it will help you get to know a new city. It’s also important to find out what a particular journalist considers newsworthy so that you aren’t pitching them irrelevant topics – that mistake can kill a relationship. Ultimately, the journalist/PR-professional relationship should be mutually beneficial and, if nurtured correctly, can make your job much easier.

Starting a new job means taking in an avalanche of new information, from who the clients are to where the bathroom is located. Savvy professionals know that it’s important to also take note of how a company operates and understand the culture and office dynamics. Every firm is going to operate differently and it’s important to get acclimated as soon as possible. Doing what you consider to be a good job might be entirely different than doing the job your supervisors want and expect, and accomplishing the latter is vital to your success. Figure out the work styles of your colleagues early on – it will save you time and grief trying to figure out what they want from you later on down the road.

When transitioning to a new niche of PR – say you were working with hospitality accounts and now you will be working with restaurants – it’s important to understand the differences in approach. For example, you might find that getting a media hit is less important for a restaurant than for another type of client. Press doesn’t necessarily translate into business for a restaurant, so it’s important to look at the clients objectives and adjust your approach. Of course, if a restaurant is incorporating PR into their long-term branding strategy, then getting press coverage is king. Take initiative in teaching yourself everything you can about the new industry and don’t be afraid to ask more experienced colleagues for advice. A successful PR professional will submerse themselves in the material and “become the client.“ This level of familiarity with an account is important because when pitching journalists, what you write and say must be accurate down to the last detail. Journalists are a sharp and detail-oriented bunch and they are often experts on the topics that they cover and will catch you if you falter.

And don’t forget to befriend your new company’s IT professional! They are the ones who will keep you sane when your computer freezes or if you just need help with Excel.

As the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and most companies will experience potentially damaging media coverage at some point or another. In these situations, we look to Public Relations experts like Michael Guzzo from BERKMAN to manage and maintain a brand’s image and reputation. Print editorials written by subjective, investigative reporters can be damaging to a brand’s image, but when handled properly can act as a positive tool rather than a backwards downturn.

Guzzo’s PR prescription? Be prepared, be confident, and never falter.

Although it is not always possible to avoid these situations, there are some ways to prepare your company and/or its spokespeople. First, always research the reporter who wants an interview. Find out what types of stories they write and what views they have on your topic. Having this knowledge will better prepare the interviewee for what lies ahead. Although you never want to approach an interview on the defensive, it’s helpful to prepare responses to what may be uncomfortable questions.

Regardless of how well the interview went, you rarely have control over what is written, and a potentially damaging editorial piece may be released. So, what is Guzzo’s number one rule when dealing with biased reporters? Guzzo says, “Never be reactive. Always be proactive and continuously resonate your brand’s and company’s key messages.”

Direct response to the article automatically puts your company on the defensive, as if you are admitting to wrong doing. Ideally, the article will have opened up a public debate, creating a platform to reinforce your key messages while positioning your spokespeople or executives as experts on the particular issue. While the story is new and hot, the company must consistently relay what the brand represents through the use of social media outlets, blogs, and third party endorsements.

Another important step to take is to ensure that all people associated with the brand – sales teams, customer service reps, front desk personnel, etc. – know how to effectively and professionally respond to any questions about the article. Arm these individuals with established speaking points so that they don’t falter or provide false information if and when they are approached by additional media or skeptical customers. Depending on the nature of the controversy, it might be best to direct all inquiries to a trained spokesperson. Just keep in mind that more runaround is typically misconceived as a lack in confidence.

Most people’s first reaction will be to publicly condemn the accusations made against their company. Staying the course and seeking appropriate opportunities that best position your company will have a much better public response.

Crisis management is one aspect of Public Relations that is not necessarily the most sought after, but mastering this art is crucial when in the make it or break it moments of public relations.