Three Qualities of the Best PR Pros

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Though Murderati focuses on the writing life, this article can apply to any PR situation or business. It’s part of an ongoing series I’ve dubbed PR 101.

Any novelist will tell you: Flashes of true creativity are few and far between. The real stuff of successful storytelling and prose comes in the daily butt-in-the-chair exercise of drafting, writing, editing, refining, editing and editing again.

The same holds true for PR. It’s hard work. At its core, public relations is about building relationships and most relationships take energy, time, consistency and effort.

While there are PR wunderkinder — the ones that make our jaws drop with their innovative techniques and staggering vigor — don’t let their zeal paralyze you. The most effective PR pros I know aren’t loud or in-your-face. They’re mostly modest, quiet, ego-less people. They spend much of their days with the nitty-gritty — licking envelopes, sending emails, searching for media outlets, calling, following up, being true to their word, showing up at events and practicing the three qualities below:

Product Empathy: In PR, you need to understand, and be able to articulate, the nugget that captures the essence of what you’re trying to "sell." Without this sensibility, your pitches and angles will be hackneyed and ineffective.

Audience Empathy:  If you can define and key-in on what motivates your audiences, what they care about, you’ll be able to better wow and move them.

You know what it feels like to be overwhelmed by information, to feel inundated with trivia, to be so busy you want to break down and cry. You know what it’s like to feel pestered by phone sales calls, direct mail campaigns, and fliers stuck in your screen doors and on your windshields.

Most other people feel the same way. If this awareness informs your PR work, you’ll win friends everywhere you pitch.

Smart Determination
When you set goals, be ready to do what it takes to attain them. If you want media hits, work with several outlets — that way you’re bound to succeed with some of them. If your angle isn’t generating enthusiasm with any of them, go back to the drawing board and rework it.

If one organization isn’t yielding the results you want, find another.

Be persistent but don’t bang your head against a wall. Don’t annoy people who reject your spiels; find others who are receptive.

And, even if your pitch is brilliant, if it’s nixed by the people you need to impress . . . Abandon it and start over.

Remember, this isn’t about your ego. It’s about reaching your goals. Practice empathy, sympathy and smart determination until they become habit. They’ll serve you well in business — and in life.

6 thoughts on “Three Qualities of the Best PR Pros

  1. JT Ellison

    Good advice, Pari!I’ve had the pleasure of working with an independent publicist, and he’s a great, down to earth, old school PR guy, which I think is more effective in the long run that the innovators. Flash is just that.

  2. pari

    You know, J.T.,I wonder about what’s happening to PR in this soundbite world. There’s this weird push to dumb down in the process of shortening and/or honing pitches and the result often seems devoid of any meaning at all.

  3. Louise Ure

    Great advice, Pari. For both the PR person and the author doing the marketing on his own. If you have know and have faith in what you’re selling, and understand your audience, that’s already more than half the battle.

  4. JT Ellison

    Pari, how modern has publishing really become? As fun and flashy as things may seem on the surface, doesn’t it seem that the industry is still really old-fashioned? They are slow to change, that’s for sure.

  5. Naomi

    Yes, when I read on various listservs about these so-called sexy pitches authors and p.r. pros are developing, it makes me want to cringe. The simple facts in the context of larger trends, unembellished without adverbs and hyperbole, with the most interesting stuff at top. Basic.

    The most important thing is figuring out who to pitch to. And if the p.r. professional has come up with decent content for media outlets in the past, she’s going to be trusted and her calls returned.

    The means of communication have changed some, but the principles have remained the same.

  6. pari

    Maybe you’re right, JT. Plus ca change, plus ca reste le meme.

    Louise, that’s why I put that little caveat at the beginning of the post. Most PR is good for any “business” situation — doesn’t matter who’s doing it.

    Naomi — yep.Your comment made me think of the query process with agents and editors as well. So much of it is brass-tacks rather than fancy schmancy.


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