On My Soapbox: A Press Release Is Not PR

So many people think they know what public relations is and what it is not. They think that a person who can write a press release is a PR professional. Add a little bit of smooth talking with that and they believe they have found the golden ticket to superstar success. WRONG!

Be a Rebel

Today was second Sunday - the Sunday my kids have to usher at church.  We got up, got dressed and got ready for church.  Went through the before the sermon rituals and then it happened - Minister Potts delivered a message from Daniel 3:13-30 that had me jotting notes for THIS blog.  This confirmed for me that the name I'd chosen for the new blog posts - b'lesson - was right on time.

It has been more than a year since I blogged. I am recommiting myself to blogging weekly today.  Each week your business will get PR insipration, insight and advice on navigating today's world from a PR perspective - aka a b'lesson.  These b'lessons (b lessons) come to you compliments of studio b public relations.

Today's b'lesson is inspired by the minister's charge to be a rebel.

The lesson: Don't color inside the lines...be a maverick.  We've had this conversation before; so, I won't have it again. Read, reflect and let's talk about it.


What PR People Get Paid For

Colleen Collick, a fellow public relations professional, understands the role of public relations.  She states it on her company's website - "People don't pay me to be shy."

So, why do they pay public relations practitioners?

  1. To be advisors.  Too often public relations practitioners' roles are relegated to that of a publicist or media relations specialist.  Practitioners must demonstrate their value outside of this role.
  2. To be educators. Many people don't understand the role of public relations.  It is important for us to educate clients, employers, and the general public role of public relations.
  3. To make it happen. At the end of the day it is about results. 

This is what clients are paying us for.

This Is Why I'm Hot

My first job out of college was as a stringer reporter for Charlotte, NC's African-American newspaper.  While working for the paper I started working as the volunteer coordinator for a local non-profit organization in Charlotte.  A couple of years later I was employed by the local government.  A major part of my job with the local government was promoting recycling participation.  While working for the local government I expanded my freelance writing gig to writing for the African-American magazine in the market.  I have met a lot of people during my career, which is good and bad.  It is good because it has allowed me to meet community and civic leaders in Charlotte.  At first I felt that knowing them was enough, but soon I realized- knowing them and having them know me were two different things.

During a conversation with one of these key leaders I mentioned that I that had recently received my Accreditation in public relations.  The person's response was, "I didn't know you did that too."  I was crushed. Public relations is my profession.  I realized at that moment that I had an identity crisis.  Though I knew a lot of people, they did not know me by my profession.  They knew me by the organization I worked for, but not the work I did for the organization.  I wanted people to know me by my profession and passion - public relations. I wanted them to describe me as. "Brandi, the competent public relations professional." Two years ago, after becoming frustrated with my identity crisis, I decided it was time to take action.  To combat this problem I decided to create a personal branding plan. 

My first step in creating the plan was setting  a goal.  Next I determined who I wanted to communicate with.  After that I started developing strategies and tactics.  Here's the plan

The plan helped me show my audience why I am hot and has helped separate me from other professionals in this market!

The lesson.  You need a personal brand...even if you don't have an identity problem.  Personal brands help you showcase your special skills.  This can help set you apart when applying for a position or competing for that promotion...or freelance gig.

What is personal branding?   Just as companies use brands to differentiate their company and products from their competitors, you must differentiate yourself from others in your profession.  A personal brand helps you do that.  Your personal brand is the thing that separates you from the rest.  It is your it factor.

Your personal brand should:

  • Be classic
  • Be timeless
  • Be associated with some emotion

Develop your personal branding plan by:

  • Establishing a goal
  • Identifying your it factor
  • Getting your it factor in front of your target audience

Why are you hot?  Create a personal branding plan using the information here.  If you want to know more about personal branding, attend my workshop titled "It's All About Me" at the National Forum for Black Public Administrators conference in Phoenix, AZ on April 21.  Once you had developed your plan, share it by posting it here to let everyone know why you are hot!

Lessons from the Schoolhouse

Today's The Charlotte Observer featured a story on recruiting good teachers.  The article, Teachers who stick to the rules may not stay, has lessons for not only school administrators, but for employers looking to hire public relations professionals and for the professionals themselves.

According to University of Wisconsin Professor Martin Haberman, employers should seek teachers that are realistic about the challenges and creative in addressing the problems.  The best teachers don't allow the rules to keep them from reaching the ultimate goal, and the don't shrink when the bosses come calling.  Employers looking for the best PR talent should pay attention.

The best public relations professionals don't  just do as they are told, they provide strategic counsel.  They set realistic expectations for their clients and find creative solutions to problems.  They are able to quickly move in a new direction and think fast on their feet when things don't go as planned and in crisis situations. Public relations is more than publicity and should be treated as a part of your strategic business plan.  Your public relations professional should be at the table when decisions are made; they should help guide the organization.  Allow them to provide you with strategic counsel that goes against the grain. You will be glad you did.

The lesson (for PR professionals).  Be a maverick; don't follow the leader.  Don't simply follow an action plan given to you by your clients.  Don't be afraid to change your client's mind about what they need and give them more than they expect. After all that is what they are paying you for - strategic counsel.