Bring Me Thinkers.

February 13, 2017

by Roger Pynn

An interesting article in Tactics, a publication of the Public Relations Society of America, makes a case for writing as the most sought-after skill in public relations.  With apologies to the author Hanna Porterfield, let me say that writing is just a bar for entry.  What I want is people with critical thinking skills … who hopefully are writers.

Of course, you have to be able to put your thoughts “on paper” in this business.  But I can teach even a fair writer to do better work in that area.  What I can’t do, I’ve found, is teach people to logically think through a problem or challenge instinctively.

Why?  I think it stems from what and how they are taught in school.  Few public relations programs I’ve seen have more than one – if even that – course addressing how to think through the challenges you’ll face as a practitioner.

Sure, it is true, that in your early days in our world you will be doing sometimes repetitive research to find out what has already been published on a topic, or to create a media list or identify thought leaders.  And you’ll be asked to write a lot less than the Great American Novel.  But if you are truly cut out for public relations, you’ll approach each of those tasks by asking one big question.

“Why?” is the question that should drive everything.  When you understand why you are doing something, why information is important, why the three paragraph release or blog post fits into an overall communication program, you’ll be on your way to bigger assignments.

We’re trying to hire an entry-level communications specialist now.  To us, entry level is someone with a couple of years of experience under their belt.  They should be looking for that second job … one that gives them the chance to write bigger things, be part of creating strategies and take their place on the front line with clients and community.

The biggest challenge for us right now is finding that person who can think … as well as write.

A Sporting Chance

September 22, 2014

by Roger Pynn

Lord knows the world of sports is having a rough time right now.  From the NFL to the NCAA, questions abound about the ability of athletes, coaches and executives to make good decisions.  Just check out the hashtag #goodellmustgo.

goodell must go

There seems to be an inability by many players to understand that violence is no answer to domestic problems.  And the brass (both professional and collegiate) seem to have a hard time making tough disciplinary decisions.

But I was pleased to see my alma mater’s Head Football Coach George O’Leary make such a solid statement when asked whether suspending the nation’s top quarterback for just the first half of a key football game constitutes tough love.  If coaches, athletic directors and university presidents don’t send the message that there is a consequence to acting badly, who will?

Public pressure like the #goodellmustgo campaign by the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet has obviously caused him to react, but will he be forgiven?  “Roger Goodell may have taken a crisis communications 101 class over the weekend, but his actions are simply too little too late,” the group’s founder had said prior to his public mea culpa and a sweeping commitment to change.

I’m often asked to speak to public relations and other associations on the issue of ethics.  This is Ethics Awareness Month for the Public Relations Society of America, and practitioners across the country are engaged in talking, tweeting, blogging and debating on relevant issues.  I’m preparing talks on ethics for two upcoming presentations, so what we see going on in athletics provides new examples of why ethical behavior is so important, and how easy it really is.

If you don’t know that slugging your fiancé or spouse is bad behavior then you’re not only not a sports role model, but a bad person.  In our business, if you don’t know that misrepresenting facts is unethical then you’re not only not a credible public relations person, but the professional equivalent of a wife beater.

When I give my talks on ethics, I hand out little blue rubberized bracelets (a la WWJD and LIVESTRONG).  In white letters they say WSID/DTRT.  I wear one every day to remind me to ask “What Should I Do?”

The answer is simple:  Do The Right Thing.

Insight from the Media … and for the Media

June 27, 2014

by Kerry Martin

At yesterday’s Central Florida Media Mashup, the annual event hosted by the Orlando chapters of the Florida Public Relations Association and the Public Relations Society of America, PR practitioners got the inside scoop straight from the source on how best to work with the media.  More than 20 journalist speakers shared their insight on what makes the best pitch, which industry trends are the most important and how to help make their jobs easier.

Their comments covered the gamut of “dos and don’ts” such as:

  • Do keep your pitches short
  • Don’t send unusable materials like tiny photos or quotes that can’t be attributed to anyone
  • Do know the audience/beat of who you’re pitching
  • Don’t waste their time by attaching your news release (paste it in the email)

With all of their tips and suggestions for how PR professionals can do a better job on engaging with the media, one recommendation stood out to me—it was an acknowledgment that journalists can’t always be the best at their job without some help.

Barbara Liston, a correspondent for Reuters, made the point in the first session that, for the most part, reporters and writers have to be generalists; they have a wide breath of knowledge but sometimes not the depth to completely understand a topic that they’re reporting.  Her challenge to the PR practitioners in the audience was to call her and her colleagues out if they’re missing the full story of an issue, and provide them the insight and background details so that they can add to it or write follow-up pieces telling the other perspective.  She gave the example of complex legislative issues with multiple sides that journalists haven’t explored because they’re not experts on the subject.


Photo Credit: 106Foto

The group’s collective suggestions on smart pitching means professional communicators have to work harder on the front end; Barbara’s insight means it’s just as important to stay in touch with reporters after the story runs.

%d bloggers like this: