New Year’s resolutions for PR pros

Learn to network, pick up the phone more, send fan mail, and become an online stalker (no kidding) should be on your list.

Be honest with yourself.

Take a long and hard look at your public relations efforts during 2012. Did you get remarkable (and measurable) results for your organization/clients? Did you grow as a professional? Did you keep up with all of the latest trends and tactics? Did you come up with new and unique ways to get your key messages out?

If you can answer with an emphatic “yes” to all of the above, then congratulations, and stop wasting your time reading this post.

If, on the other hand, you know there are things you could be doing (or doing better) to serve your organization/clients, then the following list of New Year’s resolutions may be of help:

1. Learn how to be an online stalker. The best way to connect with a reporter/blogger is to know as much as possible about them. The more you know about the writer/broadcaster, the better prepared you’ll be when you pitch them. Fortunately, the Web provides you with endless opportunities to learn about journalists’ beats, their interests, what they’re currently focusing on, and even what they value. Virtually every reporter has a Twitter handle, a Facebook account, and/or a blog. Follow them closely to get inside their heads and their hearts. Use this knowledge to pitch them in ways that will be targeted and meaningful.

2. Stay on top of trends in social and digital media. Social media platforms pop up daily. Some of them will get little or no traction, but others can become revolutionary forces. Look at the impact of Pinterest and Instagram in the past year alone. Keep ahead of the curve by doing your homework. Read Mashable, TechCrunch, SocialTimes, and mediabistro (Editor’s Note: and, too).

3. Participate more in social media. The best way to understand the power of social media is to participate (actively). There’s a reason why it’s called “social.” Use your outlets to get your voice out there and to engage reporters/bloggers in meaningful conversations. It not only gets you on their radar, it can create a favorable impression of you, your work, and your professionalism.

4. Take advantage of great tools. Thanks to some awfully smart and creative people, it is becoming much easier for reporters to find sources and for PR pros to locate the reporters they need to pitch. Two of my favorite online resources are Muck Rack (I’m a contributing blogger) and HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Muck Rack aggregates journalists’ Twitter feeds and makes it easy to search for reporters based on beats and outlets. It’s also a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what people are talking about (in real time). HARO provides three updates a day from reporters seeking sources for stories.

5. Get on the multimedia bandwagon. If you are not using video to enhance your press releases or pitches, you are making a huge mistake. You don’t have to be Stanley Kubrick or James Cameron to produce a decent video. Videos can serve as an audition for your CEO or other company spokesperson, providing a clear view of how that person would handle him/herself as a guest or an expert commentator.

6. Don’t forget that people were practicing PR effectively long before the birth of the Internet. As you can see from resolutions 1 through 5, I am a huge believer in the power of the Web to drive public relations efforts. But I also know that cold, faceless online interactions need to be supplemented by some real human interaction. In other words, don’t forget that relations are a huge element of public relations. That said…

7. Pick up the phone once in a while. Emailing has made it way too easy to reach out to reporters, but it can be a crutch that weakens your ability to really reach reporters. PR has always been a relationship-based profession. Top practitioners regularly speak with reporters on the phone, even when they weren’t pitching a story. Talking to a reporter, especially when you have a really solid pitch, will often get you far better results than just dashing off an email.

8. Meet face to face. If you really want to get on a reporter’s radar, try to meet with them. Go to events where you know they’ll be. Going back to Resolution No. 7, pick up the phone and arrange for a breakfast, a cup of coffee, or even a drink. Shoot the breeze. Ask how you can be of help. Find out how (and when) they like to be pitched.

9. Send fan mail. Reporters and bloggers (just like everyone else) have egos and love to be appreciated and even admired. Keep up with what they are writing. If you really like an article, let them know. Tweet them. Email them. Hell, why not send a written note? Flattery, when done with some subtlety, will open doors for you.

10. Network your ass off. We’re all guilty of spending too much time at the computer or with our noses buried in our iPads and smartphones. That’s why it’s so important to get off your butt and out into the world. Networking events can be a gold mine for public relations professionals. It can help you hone your presentation skills. It’s also a great way to introduce yourself to potential clients. Finally, it’s an amazing way to meet and learn from people you’d otherwise never have the opportunity to meet. Where can you find such events? Eventbrite and Meetup not only list events, but are searchable, enabling you to find the events that would best serve your needs.

Sure, some of these suggestions are obvious, but we all need to be reminded of the basics every once in a while. We get comfortable. We get lazy. We feel like old dogs resistant to new tricks. I hope these resolutions provide a reminder of just how good and just how effective we can be as PR professionals.

May your 2013 bring you new opportunities, success and most of all pride in what you do!

Jon Gelberg is the founder Gelberg Communications. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Gelberg. A version of this post first appeared on the Muck Rack Blog.

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Topics: PR

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