We live in an age of “fake news.” While trust is generally higher in public relations (PR) than in its sister marketing industries, trust in every sector is lower than ever. In any business, trust is essential. Today, there’s more trust to gain, and it’s increasingly harder to gain it. In many respects, the PR world is far more challenging than it once was. Professionals are reliant on technology, and people are hesitant to believe any source. The challenges of the present day grow from appealing to audiences and expand to managing clients and handling business. Professionals must maintain the trust of the public as well as clients, and handle the stress of mountains of tasks made more complex by society’s growing disbelief. However, in my years of industry experience, I’ve learned many life lessons that could help any PR professional or business leader to manage in the current climate. Here are my seven tips on how to succeed in PR today.
1. Plow through the wall.
Every sale, story and challenge you face is another brick wall you must break through. To succeed in this industry, you can never back down and let roadblocks get in your way. Don’t let reliance on technology, opinions about the media or any other obstacle stand between you and your goal. Understand you can always share the message you want. Your attitude will make a world of difference to your staff, your connections and your clients.
2. Help others. Help yourself.
Be honest. Earned media demands it. This tip should go without saying, but it is arguably the most crucial advice any PR professional can give or receive today. It’s in your best interest to do right by the world. That applies to a range of aspects, such as social action and overall honesty. In any business, the more good you do, the more you will be recognized. Additionally, today’s PR world requires you to deliver an accurate message to the public and the press to earn their trust and maintain your credibility. These words are true for PR agencies and clients alike.
3. Make it personal.
Take the time to do research, make small talk and personally communicate to build personal relationships. While this is important in any business, public relations has a heightened requirement to be personable. You must put technology aside to connect with clients, media sources and the public. People do not trust bots and automated messages. In contrast, personal relationships are an effective way of breaking past the trust barrier.
4. Underpromise. Overdeliver.
Tell people to expect results. Then, deliver better results. If you manage expectations, you can fulfill your promises two times over. Don’t oversell your business or your clients’ business. In an already skeptical world, misrepresenting your capabilities could be the end of you. Never disappoint. However, when you go beyond what’s expected, you deliver the message to your clients and the world that you can be trusted.
5. Overwhelm the cat.
When a cat’s plate is empty, it will come tugging on people’s legs for more. If its plate is always full, it will never tug; it’s always satisfied. Overwhelm the cat with food. Give people what they need before they ask for it. Don’t wait for new issues or assignments to arise. Think ahead. Keep the plate more full than your clients can ask for. Find everyone more media opportunities than they know what to do with before they can come running to you for new ones. The more the world sees your clients, the more they will trust them. And the more you deliver to your clients, the more they will trust you.
6. Zoom in. Zoom out.
Focus on what’s important. Across all industries, leaders face a myriad of issues. When trust is scarce, those issues multiply, especially in public relations. To succeed, you must be able to recognize the subjects that matter and prioritize them. For example, sometimes delivering a message is of greater significance than the wording itself. Other times, the details are everything. For some clients, any form of publicity will be of great benefit, but others have more specific needs. In some cases, the story is in the bigger picture. In others, the value is in the minutiae. Its the role of PR professionals to recognize which is which.
7. Work hard. Rest hard.
Take time off. Like any serious business, PR can be overwhelming. It’s critically important to balance the stress with rest. If you take on too much and burn out, you won’t help yourself, your clients or your business. For me, this is the most valuable advice there is. Additionally, in these changing times, it is even more crucial that PR professionals recognize the need for recreation.
My background is in public relations, but the industry truly taught me about life. While every service is different, in certain ways, every business is the same. Organizations may vary in how the current climate affects their work, but regardless of all our differences, leaders across industries could benefit from the above advice. I hope you take these words to heart and find value in them, as I have.