Doreen Clark, Director of Public Relations at SmartBug Media, shares some of her secrets to generating great press coverage, coaching executives to communicate more effectively, and the intertwining of PR and Marketing.
According to Doreen, public relations is a powerful tool and that we should, “Communicate in a way that is not just beneficial for us, but also for the people we’re reaching out to.” This forms a trifecta of solid media relations that comes together when we understand and communicate:
She notes that, for media relations professionals, it’s easy to deliver the facts that journalists need. But journalists also need us to offer an opinion, because that helps them craft stories with perspective and emotion.
Doreen has trained a lot of senior executives to be better spokespeople for their organizations. When she provides media training for senior executives, some of the key lessons include:
Coaching leaders on speaking to the common person, by using language they can understand. Executives are used to speaking with other experts in their industry; they frequently use jargon and technical language that the man on the street might not understand. Shifting their focus to be able to communicate with those who are not experts in their industry takes work, but helps them be much better communicators.
Helping executives learn to speak in soundbites during interviews. Long-winded, detailed explanations allow the speaker to be precise, but they run the risk of losing control of the messages that will come through in the final news report. Making the information digestible by giving clear, but concise quotes, helps ensure their most important messages are included in the story.
In an age of social media and 24-hour news cycles, everyone connected to an organization essentially is a spokesperson. Having a strategic plan, in which everybody knows their role and what they are expected to do, is key to success in public relations. Doreen also recommends that we identify the subject matter experts in our organization, train them to be effective spokespeople, and that will lead to more opportunities to engage the media. It’s important for communication in an organization to be “by all, for all” and not just downward from managers.
When asked what she is most excited about, Doreen said that working with freelance writers has become a secret weapon. Her force-multiplier tip is to build relationships with freelance writers. It’s common for them to write for many different media outlets, both online and off. These relationships can help us get more coverage, if they are willing to share the work they do for us with their contacts in these outlets.
Looking into the future, Doreen expects that “Public relations and marketing will become even more intertwined and might become synonymous.” She sees a blurring of the lines already, with paid advertising taking the form of earned editorial coverage. She sees a future in which PR will have more pay-to-play coverage, as advertising does now. While such changes could present signification challenges for those currently working in both PR and marketing, it could have certain beneficial effects, as it will drive improvements on both sides. For example, she notes that, “PR measurement tools are getting better and will eventually be on par with marketing measurement.” “
Doreen also sees a future in which podcasts and videos that are engaging, but brief, will become more important. After all, journalists need things to write about and to share as examples within their articles.
When asked what she knows now that would have been good to know when starting her career, Doreen said, “You don’t have to be everything to everyone; hone your craft; it’s okay to specialize.”
“If you really pay attention, you can become an expert in anything.”
“Relationships are everything.”
“Stay up to date on your craft; you have to always be a learner.”
“PR is necessary, 100%.”
“PR is about elevating reputation and building credibility.”