As public relations professionals, we like to lament over fake news and how it’s misguiding people. While fake news is indeed the bane of journalism, everyone in business has, at some level, fabricated something. In other words, we can hide behind the brands we represent and even our own personal brands at times with formal messaging, over-edited tweets, and, on the customer end, imaginary buyer personas like “mid-level Melissa” that take real humans out of the mix and replace them with dictionary definitions.
If we operate at a surface level in our jobs or lives, we’re just skimming the surface of those worlds. In PR specifically, this can take shape as mediocre work based on what our bosses and clients mandate. It’s a one-dimensional world defined by press releases, media lists, coverage and reporting.
And while this framework does the job, it’s not going to get you promoted, inspire customers or contribute to the evolution of your industry. It’s what we all did at the beginning of our PR careers: used press release templates to outline skeletal information, borrowed someone else’s media list, pitched, and crossed our fingers, and reported number of hits because we assumed it’s what our bosses and clients wanted to hear. We were removed from our work because we didn’t yet know how to think about it in a contextual way. At this surface level, brand voice suffers.
But if we keep our “human” hats on while we work and avoid fake PR like the plague, something else happens. We write content about the real people our brands affect, pitch emotionally evocative stories to the press, and replace messaging with meaningful conversations that touch the human heart. This is a new, multi-dimensional way of working.
“Substance-level PR” significantly increases your chances of reaching your PR goals every time. And there’s no doubt as to why. Let’s say a journalist asks you for a quote about how your industry is changing and you spew back a copywritten message that seems like it was pulled straight out of a robot. What happens next?
(a) The journalist doesn’t buy it.
(b) Your CEO is unimpressed.
(c) You end your day feeling unfulfilled.
(d) All of the above.
So how do you ensure that you’re bringing human qualities into your communications role?
1. When you or your C-suite leaders are asked to comment, give a personal perspective.
If you’re a parent and a CEO, mention that you might have a different perspective on a certain issue if you weren’t a mom of three. If you’ve witnessed demoralizing culture at a previous company, explain that context when commenting on what makes the new company you work for so different than everywhere else. Not everyone’s comfortable bringing this much of their personal life into their professional worlds, but I guarantee you’ll build stronger relationships with reporters as a result.
2. Treat journalists with the respect you would a new colleague and think about how you can best serve them.
Don’t ask journalists to do something for you without first doing something for them. Take a personal interest in what they cover, consider how you might be able to help them grow a following, and remember that all relationships are two-way streets. If you’re new to PR and have zero connections, show journalists you support them by retweeting their stories on social media (if and when those stories genuinely interest you).
3. Recognize that not every cartwheel is worth a round of applause.
Are you building a PR strategy around a new product feature because your boss asked you to? Have you thought twice about whether it’s really a news opportunity or not? I get it. To some degree, we all have to do what’s asked of us, but if you haven’t challenged your boss, a client, or colleague on at least one thing over the past seven days, it’s a signal of surface-level work.
Assert your point of view, and hold your ground in explaining that not all news is actually news worth pursuing, especially if it’s something lacking a compelling human story. Why should a customer care? Better yet, ask yourself whether a non-customer would care. Why or why not?
When we stop faking it and start opening up to real connections in PR, we tap into a gold mine of opportunities.
Published on Forbes.