As yesterday marked the new Dix & Eaton intern’s first day, it also represented the official end to my spring internship. As I had been engulfed in the culture and work of the firm for the past 5 months, D&E asked me to return, help train my replacement and impart as much knowledge and insight as I could fit into a 7.5 hour workday. After finishing my day of training, I left with a slightly hoarse voice and a realization of all I had gained throughout my time at the agency.
Media Relations While going over Ken’s first project, follow-up calls to national reporters regarding a book previously sent and the expert source who wrote it, I remembered what it was like that first day and how far I have come in my media relations skills. As Ken made his first call, starting off with a smaller pub and working right up to the main news outlets on day one, I remembered going through the same experience- the uncertainty and fear one feels when you are asked to jump head first into something completely new and hopefully land on your feet. I can confidently say I have and now feel great confidence in my ability to not only call the media, ranging from a local paper to an international publication, but also be able to speak with confidence and knowledge, while providing reporters with real, relevant news, foster placements and gather useful feedback.
Research and media list building skills While research is something we all must be familar with in school and in the workplace, is something that many people struggle with as it must be thorough, well-compiled and completed in a timely fashion. I have always thought of myself as someone with strong research skills- I am naturally inquisitive an therefore enjoy learning all that I can about the world around me- but after going over the different tools and research tasks used and required at D&E, it solidified for me the importance of these tasks and the benefit of being proficient in using and compiling strong research, especially in the public relations world. PR practitioners are expected to be experts on their clients and have deep understanding of what they are pitching and who they are pitching to. This requires a strong research background in all aspects of the the pr process and makes daily news clippings and recent coverage reports seem all the more important.
Writing Skills To be a skilled writer is a one of the greatest assets a person can have. It is also something that you can work on and improve throughout your entire life, no matter what skill level you currently are. I consider myself a strong writer, but this internship has helped me improve my abilities and better understand writing for pr and the importance of capturing the attention of your audience and making your writing clear, concise and well-edited. It is also something I plan to continue to work on everyday as everyone can always use more practice 🙂
Confidence in my abilities and my future in the world of pr Although not a tangible asset gained from my time at D&E, this may be the most valuable. D&E was a fantastic opportunity as they truly allowed me to test the waters of the pr world and see if it is a field I am well-suited for and going to thrive in and enjoy. I can safely say that my time with D&E not only strengthened my desire to pursue a career in public relations, but also has given me the confidence to know that I have the skills and the ability to succeed in this field. Confidence is something that is hard to gain, especially when beginning one’s journey into the working world at such a challenging time, but I feel confident in my place right now; I am ready for the world of pr and can’t wait to jump head first into my next endeavor.
In the March issue of PR Tactics there is an interesting article written by Rob Lynch that compares media relations to dating. Now I must admit, when I first read the title I was skeptical- I mean MR like dating? Come on. But after starting to read I realized that Rob was not insane, he was exactly right. This comparison seemed enlightening and made the world of MR that much more clear so I thought I would share some key ideas I found especially relevant.
- Most reporters want a monogamous relationship, or the exclusive. So true and yet so hard to pull off. I am not saying that I am against this idea, on the contrary I completely agree and would want an exclusive myself if I were writing the story. But from a pr perspective, how do you find that perfect reporter to have this relationship with? Do you pitch the idea to a number and may the first and best man win? Or pitch one by one and risk not getting any placement or not enough feedback to your client in a reasonable amount of time? I, in my short time in this field, do not have the answers to these questions yet, but I constantly question them and hope to eventually find the answers.
- Uninterested reporters will not respond no matter how often you contact them. I don’t even think this needs discussion, I just loved it and thought, how true.
- As the same pick up lines do not work on every person, the same pitch will probably not work for every reporter. This may be one of the very first things I learned when beginning to contact the media. That extra step of doing your research and personalizing your pitch to each RELEVANT reporter makes all the difference in the world. Another analogy I think fits well with this idea is an un-researched pitch is like getting spam in your inbox- No one reads spam so why would reporters be expected to read it either?
- Placement may provide immediate gratification, but relationships are often built over time. This point is what I am most excited about as I become a more seasoned PR professional. I love every day learning more about the people I pitch and finding stories or ideas that truly help and fit their coverage. It is frustrating to have a media list and know no one, but even in my short time at this internship I am already familiar with many reporters and can’t wait to continue our relationships in the future.
Now although I think Rob did a great job, I wanted to add a few insights myself. As a participant in the dating world there are a few things that have helped my love life and I think will help me strive in MR as well. So here is my additional list of tips for the dater or PR professional:
- You must have genuine interest in the other person. You can go through the motions of dating or PR, but if you don’t truly care about the person on the other side, 9 times out of 10 you will fail. Both in dating and PR I genuinely want to get to know the person on the other side, build a relationship and help them succeed. I believe this sincerity is apparent in my pitches and I hope is apparent in my pick up lines too 😉
- Kindness and Confidence. Confidence mixed with friendliness I think is the key combination to getting past that initial introduction phase in the dating and media world. When someone exudes confidence, it is apparent and attractive and who can turn down someone who is kind? I know I have a hard time of it and in PR I think the same is true.
Now of course you will still receive exceptions to these rules and like in dating, not every relationship is meant to last, but I think this analogy is a great one to keep in mind. My parting tip? Draw understanding from the one you know better to help you out in the other, equally important, part of your life as well.
At the start of my internship in the wonderful world of pr, one of the first things I learned about was billing time. Essentially, time is broken into .25 increments and you must record each day who and what you are working on in order to bill clients. Although initially annoying, I have learned to love the idea of billing time because it forces you to be responsible for every moment of your day and to use your time wisely. Now of course there is never enough time in the day (especially in the pr world) so I thought an appropriate topic for my second intern insight would be… time management.
At Dix & Eaton, interns are treated as employees. Therefore I do not sit around and make coffee all day, but rather I am treated as an Assistant Account Executiveand have real, billable work for a number of clients. I learned very quickly that I will always be busy and need to prioritze and therefore I learned some pretty good tips and have gotten some great advice to help manage my time. Here a few of my favorite pieces of advice:
Triage your work. In pr, there are always stories to be pitched, media lists to create, follow-up calls to be made- the list goes on. The trick I have found to organizing what to do when is to organize by urgency and immediate importance. An event for a client in a week that has no press coverage of course must be completed ASAP, while the media list for outreach you are just beginning can probably wait. It is not always that simple to gauge the importance of projects compared to one another, but you can always ask the advice of your collegues and when someone says something is urgent, by asking more questions you can find out how truly “urgent” it really is.
Block off time in your schedule. Is there something on your to-do list that you never seem to be able to check off? A colleague of mine suggested that for times such as this a good option is to block off time in your calendar dedicated solely to whichever task it is that you are hoping to accomplish. By scheduling time into your calendar people won’t think you are free and you will have a better chance at avoiding interruptions. It will also help you mentally plan to complete that task when you see it planned into your schedule. Along those same lines, in order to not forget something you can plan a reminder into your schedule as well. I have found this especially helpful for completing follow-up calls when pitching numerous clients. When you see on your calendar that you must contact Joe Smith at 3 p.m., you will be much less likely to forget to make the call.
Finally, when overwhelmed…simply take a break. In a world where every 15 minutes matters, it can be hard to justify taking a break to relax and refocus. But that mental rest is probably just what you need to re-assess and be more productive when you are feeling like your work is controlling you. Trying to work through it rarely works and means you are probably less focused and completing work that is not up to your best standards. My favorite way to take a break is a Starbucks run (since there is one conveniently located in the lobby of my building), but even a walk around the office can do wonders for your sanity.
Of course, there are many more tips to managing you time, but these are a few that I have found especially helpful and think can add sanity and productivity to anyone’s job/life.
This week marked the beginning of my second month at my internship. After four weeks in I finally feel less like the new girl and more like a pr professional who has a perspective and view on the field, no matter if it is still a small one 🙂 That being said I thought it would be beneficial to myself, other new pr professionals and people looking to get into the field to hear my thoughts- me being a bright, fresh new face to the profession. That being said, I decided my first topic would be…. media pitches.
Since the start of my internship much of my time has been devoted to pitching the media. Not only has this task taken over a good portion of my time sheets, but has also proven to be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of my internship thus far. I have not only pitched one story, but numerous over a variety of topic areas and therefore, although still very new at this staple pr task, I have already come up with some hints/tips for myself as well as anyone pitching the media. I’m sure more will come as my internship and life continues but for now here it goes:
- Know the topic you are pitching, WELL. One of the reasons I was initially drawn to PR was because of the wide range of subjects and assignments you are exposed to due to the nature of the field. Once starting this internship I was not disappointed. I have already worked on such wide ranging subjects as art, hr, finance, public utilities, just to name a few. One of the very first things I learned when contacting the media though is, know your shit. It does not matter that you may have 20 different clients in 20 different sectors because at that moment you are the pr expert on *subject a* and you better be sure to know what you are talking about and be able to answer questions if you are asked, or else how are you going to be taken seriously by anyone let alone a reporter?
- Know your reporter, or try your hardest to. One of the major frustrations I have had thus far is being new and not familiar AT ALL with the reporters I am expected to pitch to. Sure I know the reporters I previously followed in my personal time, but I quickly learned there is a whole world of journalism to navigate and it takes finesse to master. I did not realize the importance of this tip until I began pitching for myself and realized that if I don’t know my reporter and his/her interests or beat I could end up wasting both of our time. It is near impossible to pitch a story to someone who is not interested or does not cover that topic no matter how persuasive you are. Therefore Lexis Nexis, Google News, and online pub searches are quickly becoming my best friends.
- Be persistent. This is by far the main thing I have learned about media pitching over the past month. Media pitching is hard. Media pitching is time consuming. Media pitching is a lot backtracking. But with persistence, you can succeed. Now of course by persistence I do not mean annoyance, but I do mean making sure you and your story are visible, you are doing the appropriate follow-up, and you are not giving up especially with a story that is great and a pub or reporter it is perfect for. Of course you might not always succeed, but you could.
So I realize that was only three tips, but I didn’t want this post to take up my whole page and plus hey, I’m still new and there is plenty of time for insight in the future. But for the start of week #5 that is my first intern insight, and be sure there will be more to come 🙂