A Good Publicist Needs To Have…

I have many stories from my 15 years as a publicist— some good and some a little ugly.

The story I want to tell you today— involves some of the lessons I have learned as a publicist and what skills I believe companies should look for when hiring an individual team member or firm.

Bottom line–a publicist needs to be able to convince and editor/ reporter/ influencer to cover a company, individual or product for FREE. This means you need someone willing to fight for the blank space left over after advertisers choose theirs.

It is not a role for a casual PR person —oh— I put a pitch out but no one likes it.

You will need someone who is hungry to get results and likes talking with editors/ reporters. They need to be willing to quickly change the pitch, constantly be reaching out to other editors and have a never give up attitude.

They might have majored in journalism/ communications. But they also could be good if they had journalism majors as friends in college, friends on the high school newspaper or just like hanging around with writers. Any kind of link to journalism or writing in their past will make it much easier for them to relate to your key editors.

Here are some other qualities to look for:

1- Someone who sees the big picture for your company and is willing to constantly comb through lots of other stories and subject lines from other similar companies or products to create stories for you. Why? Because it is the one of best way to find stories editors will have an interest in.

For example, I get over 300 emails a day from a wide range of publications. I can’t read them all, so I skim. If I get hooked, I add it to my list of potential story lines and talk with the client to see if they are interested in working on that topic.

2- It is hard work to get editors, bloggers or influencer to trust you and run a story or press release. It does not happen overnight. This is why hiring someone that says it is easy is never a good idea.

It is critical your PR person/ firm knows how to gain trust and does not lose any opportunities— because you never know when you might get another opportunity. Trust me, sometimes I have waited for 2- 3 years before an editor would cover my client–so what if they are picky and they have the right to be–they are giving me free space. 

3- You do NOT need an extraverted and good-looking PR person for your company. While good looks and being an extravert can help get attention of editors. Good looks and ability to talk will not matter if they do not reply to an editor’s request right away (remember they are on a deadline), schedule the interview and remain in touch with them. Not replying to a reporters email even for a day can mean a big lost opportunity. Sorry to say—- editors tell me this happens more than you think it should and why hiring for reliability is much more important than looks and friendliness.

4- Your public relations person needs be skilled at getting editors to stop by your booth at trade shows and scheduling interviews with your executives during the event. Why?

Photo Caption: I am at the Rapid & TCT 2018 helping promote a clients business and products.

Editors love attending trades shows because it is the cheapest and fastest way to get face-to-face with lots of companies.

But this also gives you a higher probability of getting to know some of these editors well and for them to trust you for a good story.

I attend at least 7-8 important manufacturing shows a year. During the show, I make sure my client and I meet some of editors/ reporters in attendance. I also walk around observing the packed booths to determine what the trends are. And I always try to spend as much time I can to talking with editors to find out what stories are important to their audience for that year. Then, I take this information back to my desk to create some new pieces. Your PR team should to do the same.

5- One of the most misunderstood conception companies have about press releases or pitches—they have to be perfectly written.

I am not saying a press release or story should be junk or have a bunch of errors.

But it constantly amazes me even today—there are some pieces I work with clients on for hours and hours and going back and forth, making changes for days. Yet, it doesn’t get any interest from any media outlet??????

Then a press release that was put together in a rush— gets picked up by almost everyone. Why?

Some of it is just timing, luck, full moon or something else. Other times it is just spot on —what editors needed that day, week or month. Most times it has nothing to do with being written as well as the famous journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski.

Your publicist needs to be constantly on the look out for ideas, stories, getting them over to editors/reporters and to be always working on the NEXT idea/ story/ pitch for your company.

All of this is real work and not very glamorous in any way shape or form. 

Best way to find out if a publicist is any good in your industry?

Ask some key editors in your industry for feedback.

Feel free to contact me to schedule a free 15-minute call to discuss your current public relations situation: [email protected]