How media and PR professionals can work better together

The importance of positive communication with the public and managing a good reputation go back to the dawn of history but the first real “PR specialists” emerged in the early 1900s. And since then, communications professionals and journalists have been inexorably intertwined. They’ve been intertwined because the PR industry was born out of a growing recognition of the power of the media.

One of the forefathers of modern PR was a former journalist by the name of Ivy Lee. He introduced the term “public relations” and pioneered the modern press release and in doing so laid the groundwork for what the industry of PR evolved into. For most of the 20th century, he may as well have coined it “media relations” instead of “public relations” because the media reigned supreme and journalists were the gatekeepers to mass communication with the public. Communications professionals had to earn coverage for our clients and the companies and organisations we worked for. If what we were selling to media wasn’t working, it fell at the first hurdle with a simple “no” from the journalist. Persuading the most cynical to endorse our position whether it was a new product or our side of an issue led to engagement with the public that was far more powerful than paying to place our position. It’s this heritage of earning coverage that differentiates us from others in various marketing disciplines.

Fast forward to 2017 and we’ve been empowered by advances in technology to truly become “public” relations professionals. We’re communicating with the public through more and more owned and paid channels and we’re seeing earned channels being bypassed entirely by brands, celebrities, politicians and notably by one celebrity politician.

Globally, trust in media is trust in media is in decline and here in Ireland it fell from 39% to 29% in our most recent Edelman Trust Barometer. Media is now seen as the least trusted institution in Ireland and this is bad news for PR. Although our work has diversified, the media is a core channel for PR and we must support strong journalism. The social proof provided by media is immeasurably more valuable for the vast majority of organisations than relying solely on paid and owned communications.

At the annual PRII media and industry event, “What Grinds My Gears: Perspectives from the frontline of Journalism and PR”, I was part of a panel discussion with Colette Sexton of the Sunday Business Post and Mark Paul of the Irish Times to discuss how we can work better together. Moderated by former journalist Joanne Ahern of DHR Communications, there was some great points raised by the guys and some very interesting questions and points raised from the audience.

Here are my thoughts on how media and PR professionals can work better together:

Make better connections

Whether you’re working in-house or in agency you should be making it your business to get to know the journalists that will cover your stories. When I say “get to know” I do not mean just trying to set up coffee or lunch with them to pitch them ALL your clients/company news, what I mean in the first instance is getting to know what they cover, what they’re interested in, what they’re not interested in. As an industry, we’re not allowing ourselves enough time to properly peruse the outlets and journalists we’re pitching our stories to. As a result, we’re clogging up inboxes and we have only ourselves to blame if our quality stories are rightly overlooked because of the spam we’ve sent previously. If we know the journalists better and provide them with a consistent stream of content that works for them, their editors and their readers then we’ll all benefit.

When it comes to the coffee meet, we all know the PR people who go through phases of excessive media outreach, usually tied to review time at work or a recent chastisement by the boss for lack of media contacts. They go hard and heavy and invariably go into the meeting with the journalist reeking of coverage desperation, “You must chat to client X” or “My company has a great CSR programme that your readers would love to hear about”. The coffee meet up should be to solidify a relationship not start one. It should be a two-way exchange, not a glorified, excessively long and cringe pitch.

Understand each other’s roles better

There are some journalists that assume that the only job of a PR professional is to write the press release, send the press release and then be available for the day to respond to media queries arising from said press release. Similarly, there’s PR professionals who assume the journalist sits at the desk all day, has a few stories to write and should be fine to take a call to see if they got that press release they sent earlier. The reality is different.

Taking the time to understand each other’s roles better will lead to much more mutually beneficial relationships. At its most simple level, knowing when is the optimal time to send your announcement allows the journalist time to give your story the write up it deserves. Compare that to sending it too late, the journalist wants to write about your story but doesn’t have the time or worse they’ve already gone to print.

Furthermore, as communications professionals armed with the understanding of our role and the media we work with. we need to stand up to clients and internal audiences and tell them what’s news and what’s not. Too often, communications professionals are trapped in a client/company bubble and they have a distorted version of what warrants news. Objectively looking at media and what’s covered, you will know that just because your boss wants to see his company announcement in the Sundays does not mean it deserves to be there. If you’ve built up capital with the journalists you deal with though there can be scope to get that coverage under the right circumstances.

Understand each other’s pressures better

The majority of journalists need to get their stories out fast and seamlessly. The last thing they need is silly mistakes like spelling, incorrect figures or grammar issues in the collateral provided to them from the PR person. It’s their name on that byline and if they’re using material from a PR person that’s incorrect or wrong it’s their reputation that gets the heat in the newsroom and/or from online commenters.

Similarly, PR people are juggling numerous projects, clients and issues. There’s some journalists that think a delay in response to a query to a PR person is an intentional act of subterfuge. The reality is oftentimes far more mundane. You’ll have a PR person, dealing with a client/internal boss, dealing with an internal stakeholder to provide expertise or comment approval. If any one member of this chain is otherwise engaged there’s going to be a delay in responding. Screaming at the PR person is not going to fast track the response time.

Make each other’s jobs easier

Anticipate the requirements of the other party before engaging. Clarity is key. From a PR person’s perspective, anticipating the questions that media may ask and ensuring your spokesperson is well briefed is key. Doing the basics right and ensuring you have everything you need whether it’s high res imagery or data the journalist needs before pitching.

From media’s perspective, sharing as much detail as possible that will help get the interview/request over the line and will also save you from a lot of back and forth with the PR representative who is fielding questions from internal audiences. This can be as simple as sharing expected publication date, what you need, what times work for the interview and the areas you’d like to explore.

For both parties, being upfront and honest is the key to a long and fruitful relationship.

Martyn is an account director in the corporate team of Edelman Ireland, the Irish office of the world’s largest PR company. He blogs on all things PR here and shares jobs in the industry here. You can follow Martyn on Twitter at @rosney.

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Opportunities for brands – Edelman Trust Barometer

In February 2016, we held an event in The Marker to unveil the findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2016. In front of a packed room of clients and representatives from the public and private sectors the findings were unveiled by our managing director Joe Carmody followed by a keynote speech from His Excellency Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland. The findings were then discussed in detail by  an esteemed panel of Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Ms. Dearbhail McDonald, Associate Editor and Legal Affairs Editor at the Irish Independent along with the Ambassador. Shane Coleman, Newstalk’s Political Editor did a fantastic job MCing the event.

This was my first Edelman Trust Barometer. It’s a unique piece of intellectual property that I have admired from afar over the past few years. One of the key reasons I joined Edelman is because it’s the biggest agency in the world and the Trust Barometer is a strong indicator of the genuine collaboration across the global network. For the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, research firm Edelman Berland surveyed more than 33,000 respondents across 28 countries.

Why is Trust important?

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Opportunities and implications for brands

There’s a good summary of the event and insights on TheJournal.ie here and on our own website here but I’ve outlined what I see as some of the key implications and opportunities for brands in Ireland below to increase trust.

Increasing CEO visibility: When it came to the spokespeople that were most trusted by the public CEO credibility saw the biggest increase.  Granted, the rise was from a pretty low base of 31% the jump to 43% represented the biggest jump on our list. CEOs are earning trust back after a few tough years. Edelman employs a 16 point trust-building leadership attribute audit for trust in Irish CEOs and in Ireland our CEOs were seen as underperforming under every single point. We know that Irish CEOs are performing better than the public believes so it’s all about communication.

“Real CSR”: Making a profit is not something to be ashamed of. All too often, we’re seeing organisations use CSR as a bolt on for cheap PR but it’s the organisations who build worthwhile social responsibility into their DNA that benefit the most.

More scope for controlling the message: Search engine, owned and social all saw rises in trust levels. Delving deeper into this we also saw a specific increase in trust levels for content created by brands from 40% to 60%.

Utilising employees as spokespeople: Employees are essential spokespeople. Companies that have the courage to empower employees as spokespeople can earn trust. Our research found that for a number of topics including crises and performance an employee can be seen as the most credible spokesperson.

Online influencer marketing: I’ve already touched on the jump in trust levels for content created by companies but the above chart shows the myriad of voices and their trust levels. It’s important to use the right people to engage with and amplify your content. Interestingly, content created or shared by celebrities is less trusted than that of elected officials.

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These are just some of my own thoughts from a very extensive piece of research into trust. If you would like more information on the Trust Barometer or to talk about how you can build trust levels in your organisation talk to me at martyn.rosney@edelman.com.

Some CV Advice… #JobFairy

It’s that time of year again. The theses are getting handed in and graduates are on the the job hunt. Below is a post that Mark Breen, co-founder of Cuckoo Events and all round nice guy, and I put together last year on Mark’s award winning company blog. We put the post together with some of our top tips and tricks to help people land that all important first job out of college. These are just our thoughts on the job hunt but hopefully they can be of use! 


A CV should set you apart. It is your opportunity to make an impression on a prospective new employer and illustrate, as best you can, why you should be considered for a job. We’ve put together ‘real advice’ on CVs & cover letters.

SOME CONTEXT

Martyn Rosney and I have put this blog post together. It began with my bitching on Twitter about some of the terrible first impressions people were making on me when sending me CVs and cover letters for roles. I grumbled that I may do a blog post on it and Martyn was quick to get in touch to say he’d be interested in working together on it.

Martyn runs a blog that advertises roles for people in PR and he gets a lot of CVs from people looking for advice and he also helps organisations recruit communications professionals.

I’ve been helping people with their CVs and job applications for years now and also have a lot of them cross my desk here in Cuckoo.

We also got in touch with a lot of people we know both in the ‘real world’ and through Twitter. All of these people have one thing in common – they are, in some way shape or form, involved in reviewing CVs and shortlisting people for jobs and, ultimately, hiring people. The group includes Managing Directors, CEOs, HR professionals, recruitment professionals, small business owners, new start-up owners and more.

As was to be expected, we all didn’t feel the same about everything but there was enough common ground to warrant a blog post with some advice for job-seekers from people who actually hire people.

COVER LETTER / EMAIL TIPS

  • Do not open your cover letter with ‘Dear Sir / Madam’ if you can avoid it. If you are going for a job the least you can do is find out who you are applying to. Also, it sounds stupid, but you’d be surprised at the amount of people who misspell the name of the person they are applying to.
  • Do NOT use a standard cover letter. ‘I read with interest your advertisement for the role of INSERT JOB TITLE and I believe I could be a great asset to your company in the role of INSERT JOB TITLE’ is not the best way to start a cover letter.
  • Tailor your cover letter for the specific role. Yes, it’s a bit more work than having a standard one you use for everything but, you do WANT the job don’t you? Put a little effort in so.
  • If the job ad asks for a cover letter, then you need to send a cover letter. Not sending one means you have NO shot.
  • If you’re using the body of an email as your ‘cover letter’ then treat it as being just as important as a traditional cover letter. Remember, you’ve a better chance of some of your email being read than you do of someone clicking into your CV, downloading the file, opening it and reading it. Use the email.
  • Do NOT send a mail with ‘CV attached’ and nothing else. 
  • Do NOT send the same speculative mail to a load of companies, using the CC or BCC field. Even if you BCC it, it’s going to be obvious it’s generic and not specific to the business receiving it or to a role they may have available.

CV TIPS

  • If you choose to include a picture, make sure it’s a recent one. We know of interviewers actually thinking a different person has shown up for an interview, such is the difference between how they look now and how they looked in the photo that accompanied their CV.
  • Give concrete proof & examples. Don’t talk at the person reading it. Show them what you’ve achieved. Use statistics. Outline competencies developed in previous roles. Note achievements.
  • Do not lie or embellish. You do not need to turn working in your local shop into ‘Senior Retail Supervisor’s Retail Assistant’. Say you worked in a shop and then explain what you achieved and learned there.
  • Do not write Curriculum Vitae at the top. It’s clear what it is. You don’t need to waste space with Curriculum Vitae written in size 20 font.
  • Save your CV as a PDF. When you’ve finished with your CV in Word, go to Save As and change it to save as a PDF. This looks more professional and makes it more difficult for someone to alter anything in there. It also makes sure the recruiter sees it exactly how you want them to see it. Different software can render your font choice unreadable.
  • Give the file a helpful name. Guess how many have the file name ‘CV’ or ‘My Cv’. That’s not very helpful to the person trying to keep track of them. Use a file name along the lines of ‘CV.JobRef2031.MartynRosney.pdf’.
  • Keep your CV up to date. Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, add new experience or qualifications to your CV as you gain them. You may hear about your dream job a half hour before applications close and firing in a CV that’s not current won’t do you much good.
  • Do not list ‘Social Media’ as a skill. At least, do not do this on the basis that you have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and simply can’t tear yourself away from them. That’s not a skill. If you’ve Digital Marketing qualifications and / or real experience in delivering business results using social, then, by all means include them.

GENERAL TIPS

  • Be creative. Take a risk. Do something to make yourself stand out. Most CVs look exactly the same. Trust us. People aren’t then same so why should their CVs be? Nicholas, in the picture above, did something very clever. Check out Leah Bowman’s LEGO CV and Jobless Paddy’s campaign for a job.
  • There is no excuse for spelling mistakes or bad grammar. None. Have someone else read over it for you. Fresh eyes catch things. Do not rely on spell checker to catch everything. It’s not designed to and will not catch everything.
  • Research the company. Most people don’t. Why should someone care about you if you don’t care about their company? If you do take the time ot do this then make sure it comes across in your CV, cover letter or email.
  • Use language of the employer, not the employee. Remember your audience and look to connect with them through the language you use.
  • Read the job description properly. Numerous people who fed into this blog post told of people applying for very senior roles that they would simply not be suitable for. Ambition is one thing, but make sure you know what you’re applying for.
  • Provide what was asked. If the job ad asks for 3 things and you send in 1 of those do you think you’re in with a shot at the job?
  • Take your time. Lots of employers we spoke to noted that applications received very soon after a job ad goes live don’t sit well with them. People applying that quickly probably believe they are showing how keen they are when, in reality, what it actually proves is that they (very likely) did not research the company and / or role and just fired off something generic. Take your time and give yourself the best shot at getting an interview and, ultimately, getting that job.

THE BOTTOM LINE

LOADS of people are going for the same jobs, especially in the current climate. You want to stand out from the crowd. Spend some time on your cover letter / email and CV. Do yourself justice rather than just being another applicant.

We recently advertised some work and had over 50 applications in the space of a week. I can honestly say two stood out from the outset. Just two.

We purposely left out things that caused a lot of debate among the employers / hirers we spoke to on this. Things like the perfect length of a CV, whether to include your references or say ‘references available on request’ and whether to include your Leaving Cert results and / or your date of birth are contentious and a matter of opinion. 

Including those would make this post less useful. 

We wanted this post to be as helpful as possible and, as such, have included things there was widespread consensus on.

We hope it helps some of you out.

Any thoughts or comments, pop them below. 

See more at: http://www.cuckoo.ie/blog/presentations-training/real-cv-help.html#sthash.R5aZDvQx.dpuf