Six ways PR professionals can (and should) ‘think like a journalist’

As a young kid, I felt I was destined to be a journalist. I wrote family newsletters and questionable short stories. I scored the editor-in-chief spot on the high school newspaper staff and eventually made my way to the college newsroom. But my career led me elsewhere, and I’ve spent nearly a decade working on the “dark side” of the media, as some (unfortunately) say.

 

While I may not be reporting or a big-time magazine editor, working with media is one of the primary responsibilities of my job. And, the truth is that media jobs and PR jobs are far more similar than we’re led to believe. From crafting captivating story ideas and writing compelling content to interviewing sources and maintaining a strong social media presence, the core skills of a journalist translate well onto the PR side of tracks (and vice versa).

So, let’s explore how basic journalistic practices apply to public relations.

 

Here are six ways we can “think like journalists” in our day-to-day roles as PR professionals:

 

Avoid selling and start (story)telling.

Journalists are quick to dismiss stories that seem too sales-y, and rightfully so. Similarly, as PR professionals, our first goal is storytelling, not selling. Sure, we need to include facts and figures, the “5 W’s,” and so on; however, these are just the building blocks and baselines to our content.

 

As storytellers, we must paint a picture, stir emotion and change behavior through words. Include extra details that weave in the five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. How many people were at the event? What did the chef’s award-winning dish really taste like? What sights and sounds overtook the banquet hall at the convention?

 

Help the audience visualize. The best content is rich with details that will hook readers and give them more than just a compilation of facts and quotes.

 

Know what’s newsworthy.

Generally, there are five key elements to newsworthiness: timing, significance, proximity, prominence and human interest. These apply across all kinds of content, not just media stories.

 

Is there a timely element? What does the article do for your audience? Is the topic close enough (geographically or otherwise) to your readers to pique interest? Why should people care? And, how does the story appeal to the audience’s emotions?

 

If you don’t know the answer to any of those questions, you’re not ready to tell the story.

 

Understand your audience.

Who are your customers? Who are your clients? And, who are the ideal readers of the story you’re hoping to tell? Be it a media hit, customer case study, blog post or e-newsletter, you must always know your audience and why they will want to read what you have to say. Spend some time carefully defining who you want to reach and figuring out their interests and behaviors. Then, and only then, can you truly reach them.

 

Research and verify.

All good stories are based on facts, and citing data will build trust with audiences and reporters alike.

From writing a media pitch, a white paper or a thought leadership article to compiling a media list or competitive analysis, research is always the first and most important step.

 

Who are your sources? Is there a study that supports your claim? What is the reporter’s beat? Is the reporter still writing for that outlet? What articles have already been written on the topic?

 

Ask yourself question after question until you’ve exhausted your options. Then, once you’ve compiled the information you need, review it, digest it and verify it. Double-check your facts and vet your sources.

 

We can’t be lazy. Someone will always know.

 

Strategically structure your writing.

There are a lot of facts, but there is only one story. As storytellers, journalists and PR pros must guide our audiences to the story. It’s our job to sift through piles of information and find the true purpose of the story. It’s also our job to tell it.

 

The most common method of writing structure is using the pyramid model. Your most important and most interesting content belongs at the very top of the pyramid. Since we only have mere seconds before our audience moves on, it makes sense to arrange writing from most important to least important, in case the reader jumps ship halfway through.

 

In addition to the order of our writing, PR pros can take another page from a journalist’s book by always thinking about campaigns and content in a broader sense. How can we take this one step further? Does this inspire a graphic or video? How many ways can we repurpose this to create more compelling content and reach more people? The sky can be the limit.

 

Mind the details.

Details matter and not just the details of the story (refer back to “Avoid selling and start (story)telling”). Just as journalists are expected to do, PR professionals are expected to heavily proofread their work. Names, titles, punctuation, dates, capitalization, attributions, AP Style… even formatting matters. It’s our job to be precise and represent not only ourselves well, but our clients well.

 

Journalism and storytelling are as old as mankind, and the basics of both are the same for us PR pros no matter the objective or the audience. By honing some journalism skills, you can craft stories and PR campaigns that resonate with the right people.

 

Can we help tell your story? Contact Lauryn Gray at lauryn@dittoepr.com to explore what Dittoe PR could do for you.

How to Navigate A PR Crisis In Six Simple Steps

Bad reviews. An executive scandal. International data breach. A product malfunction. These are all examples of a PR crisis that many businesses have had to overcome, and they won’t be the last.

 

In today’s age of social media and innovation, the likelihood of a business facing a PR crisis continues to soar. While no one expects you to be perfect, how you respond can either give you a much-needed image boost or significantly damage your brand, alienating your customer base.

 

When a crisis does arise, use these helpful tips to navigate through the storm:

 

Appoint a response team.

Every business should already have a response team in place before a crisis hits to help ensure the right people are speaking on behalf of the company. This allows the organization to respond faster and speak with one voice, which can be difficult to achieve when multiple people are speaking on the company’s behalf.

 

The response team should be small and include the CEO, the company’s top PR executives and legal counsel. If the company’s PR executive does not have sufficient crisis communication expertise, consider retaining an agency with that specialty.

 

In addition, when a PR crisis occurs, each member of the response team should understand their role and responsibilities to help avoid confusion as well as any cross-over of duties.

 

Brief your team.

Once the strategy has been determined, relay the protocol to all persons who could be approached to speak on the company’s behalf. This means informing all employees, stakeholders, board members, etc., of who is to be speaking with the media and how they can direct any inquiries.

 

Craft your message.

Once the facts about the incident have been gathered, the team should agree on how to frame the response. When it comes to the response, think about the most transparent way to address the situation and what your company has done or will do about it – without placing external blame. In the response, be honest and open with your audience.

 

Once the message is crafted, it needs to be delivered in a timely manner. The sooner you apologize and admit the mistake, the sooner the public will forgive you. A prime example of a crisis being resolved correctly is how Starbucks handled their recent scandal by apologizing in a public statement, taking responsibility for the occurrence and making it clear that it won’t happen again.

 

Identify and address the affected parties.

Once the message has been crafted, identify the people who should know about the situation. This may include employees, stakeholders, business partners, customers and media. Audiences who need to be informed will depend on the context of the situation, but regardless of who’s receiving the message, you should make sure it is sent out in a timely manner.

 

Monitor the situation.

Assessing the brand’s image is especially important following a PR crisis, so keep an eye on inbound and outbound communications to address follow-up questions or concerns.

 

It’s also important to also track what people are saying about a company online. One way to do this is by establishing a monitoring system that quickly uncovers negative trends before they become a bigger problem and migrate to the media.

 

Dittoe PR uses TrendKite to track and monitor media coverage for clients, which allows us to look at the company’s media coverage, share of voice, sentiment, social media amplification, competitors’ coverage and more.

 

Review and learn from the situation.

Once the crisis is over, conduct a post-action review to determine how well your staff and management handled the situation. During the review, discuss what you could have done differently and what changes are necessary to prevent a similar situation.

 

What not to do.

When you come face-to-face with a PR crisis, stay away from these tactics:

 

  • Lashing out: Even if a media outlet or opposing party has said something false about your company, it is never a good idea to respond negatively or blame the complaint for the situation.

 

  • Offering no comment: Not having answers to potential questions is the worst thing you can do during a crisis. If you don’t have enough information to give a solid response, say so and assure that you will issue a statement when you have more details.

 

  • Responding too quickly: Handling a PR crisis is all about timing, so don’t give an answer prematurely before you know all the facts. This may cause you to contradict previous statements later could further damage your reputation.

 

 

  • Dwelling on the situation: A period of bad press is often just a hiccup on your path to success, so don’t let it completely distract you from continuing daily business responsibilities.

 

  • Avoid assembling a plan: Almost all crises can be avoidable with the right planning. Don’t wait until the last minute to assemble a thorough crisis communications plan.