Many of us in public relations are considered “people” persons, but what does that tritest of expressions really mean? To us, it simply means PR people are skilled at making and maintaining relationships. Whether mining for new business, hiring or connecting to media, it’s all about those relationships. Here are some examples of how to leverage the ones you have and cement others.
Give a journalist a “job.” If your PR team can use the skill set of a working journalist, what better way to gain insight into how media make editorial decisions than to work with an insider? But if you don’t have a position for such a person, there are other ways to give an employment opp to a journalist and make a friend for life. We often retain a writer or editor to moderate “thought leadership” panels of experts to explore a key issue relevant to a client’s business. We’ve also worked with financial writers to conduct a series of seminars designed to teach personal finance skills for a credit union client. Most recently we hired a food journalist to host the launch party of a new beer. In each case the relationship was strengthened by the collaboration and opened the doors for more opportunities down the road.
Make new friends, but keep the old. Though not all employee partings are positive, for the most part it pays to stay on good terms with employees who’ve left the fold. Former colleagues can be a great source of potential hires. They know what you’re looking for in an employee and they know the company culture. This often puts them in a great “matchmaking” position. Additional benefits of maintaining good relations with former employees? Often in PR, an agency employee transitions to an in-house job and, with that, the ability to hire a PR firm. The past positive relationship can put you in a great position, sometimes even a “lock.” A former colleague of mine made a smooth transition to print journalism years ago and has remained a great source for story pitches and interviews.
Social media mining. In today’s digital domains, we are all in relationships with people we may have never met in real life. Does it matter? We say, not at all! Online relationships are important and can have great value in your personal as well as your business life. Friend, like and share with your online world of contacts and reap the relationship benefits. My favorite tale of leveraging a purely online relationship is when a graphic artist whose work I admired sought out our team to recommend to a client of hers seeking PR counsel. The client hired us on her say-so without having met us “in person.” Although we did end up meeting and working together, I still have never met the graphic artist “IRL.”
Every event is an opportunity. There’s a memorable scene in “Working Girl,” the classic Melanie Griffith-Harrison Ford rom-com, when the couple crashes a wedding based on information gleaned from page six of The New York Post. They corner a big potential client and land a meeting in the process. Savvy PR people know that every wedding, cocktail party, and event at your child’s school is rife with possibilities. No one wants to obviously “work” a room, but if an organic opportunity presents itself, go for it!
Make all your contacts feel special. This is just common sense and etiquette. One key asset of social media is the ability to know when someone has a birthday, a work anniversary, a new job, or something similar. Take advantage of this wealth of information to send simple congratulations, or if warranted, a splashier gift like champagne or flowers. Whether it’s a company you’re courting or a reporter you’re stalking, a polite gesture in commemoration of an important milestone is going to make an impression. And isn’t that what good PR is all about, making good impressions?