Notes About Working in PR (from my talk with University of Notre Dame students in 2009)

In March 2009 I was invited to speak to a PR and Journalism class about my experiences working in PR in media relations. The lecturer is a journalist with whom I had (and still have) a good PR/Journo relationship with so I was more than happy to oblige. I stumbled across my notes the other day and thought they may provide some insight for those thinking about getting into the industry.

I’ve picked out some of the notes still relevant – please bear in mind they are from over a year ago but most of it still stands today despite the rapidly changing communication landscape.

Good Things To Do

  • Build relationship with media, get to know the journalists – what they like in terms of work and personal – e.g. Editor if Dynamic Business mag likes chilli hot chocolate
  • Tailor pitches and press releases to the person and publication you are pitching
  • Do be yourself – have personality, don’t just be a pitching robot
  • Do be honest with clients, media and yourself – if you can’t make a deadline when you say you can, tell the journalist asap so they have time to pursue another option
  • Be realistic about prioritising and working out what you can get done in the day/week/month – under promise, over deliver!
  • Proof read everything for spelling and grammar. Even emails. Get someone else to proof. Spell check is not enough.
  • Do be creative and think about all the possibilities when coming up with story angles for your client aside from main publications and newspapers. E.g. Business angles, health and wellbeing, parenting, bridal, niche and trade publications, regional papers may be interested in a local angle

Things Not To Do

  • Never get the journalist’s media outlet wrong – don’t confuse Sun-Herald with Sunday Telegraph or Vogue with Harpers Bazaar
  • Don’t follow up the same / next day and always have something else to offer such as images

Good Personal Attributes to Have in PR

  • Be determined and patient – it may take 50 pitches before you get one hit but that could be the make (or break) for your client
  • Be resilient – you will be rejected by journalists but don’t take it personally
  • Be creative – it only takes one great idea – brainstorm with your colleagues, peers, people from outside the industry, at the pub
  • Be efficient and deliver when you say you will
  • Be honest
  • Be diplomatic
  • Be prepared to work to deadlines which may mean putting in extra hours
  • Be flexible – your clients and media can changes their mind about things at the most inappropriate of times but you have to remember the client is paying you and the journalist is your way of getting results so stay calm and work with what you’ve got
  • Be professional – always start an email with Dear and don’t include kisses or smiley faces unless you would normally kiss person when you see them!
  • Be calm when you need to be such as when speaking to media and clients – you can swear and have a stress tantrum in front of friends and family but not your clients or boss
  • Look professional – be well presented and tidy in front of media and clients – they may be the CEO of their company. You can swap your heels for slippers in the office at your desk
  • Do your research and know as much as you can about your client + why and what you are pitching + the journalist and media outlet you are pitching to
  • Be yourself – there is the rumour that PRs are ruthless and will do anything for a story/angle, word ‘spin doctor’ is used…
    • Don’t do anything you don’t morally or ethically agree with because ultimately, you are the one who has to publicly deal with it
  • Be polite – don’t forget basic communication skills – please and thank you goes a long way

This is a selection from the 7 pages of hints, tips and anecdotes I prepared and I’m more than happy to chat with budding PR and Comms students about what it’s like to work in PR. It’s something I would have liked to do more of.

Twitter: @KimberleyL or Email:


The Immutable Laws of Communication (Frocomm Event 12 August)

Went to a great networking breakfast yesterday put on by Glen Frost at Frocomm, a morning focused on social media in the professional communications space. Three ‘Immutable Laws of Communication’ from John Blyth, Senior VP at Fleishman-Hillard USA, were listed as :

  1. Embrace Change
  2. Make it Personal
  3. Tell a Great Story … a True Story

The Aussie expat now heading up his company in the States discussed the importance of having dialogue with your community, Chris Anderson’s Long Tail, and avoiding “BSOS” ‘Bright Shiny Object Syndrome’ when it comes to social media. He showed some great examples of story telling in the comms space and the impact of integrating traditional with social media with video from Ikea and Porsche – a TV ad drives viewers to a website where the ad continues into ‘real time’ online and a community based on a common interest.

There was nothing incredibly new in his reasonings about being more human, telling stories to spark conversation, being authentic or being fast, bold and honest. Or in his ‘Law #4: The more things change the more they stay the same’. The parkyoung leaders have always said comms is returning to the story telling times of old. But, in realising this, I also realised that my thinking about social media in the comms space is along the same lines as the greats of my industry whom I look to as mentors and leaders in the field. Not that this insight has not been hinted at before – being lucky enough to work for parkyoung it is somewhat inherent that we all ‘get it’ when it comes to new communication.

After John’s preso he sat with two other comms professionals: Dionne from Vic Roads and Ross Monaghan from Deakin university. Dionne spoke about the ‘Dickhead‘ advertising campaign and the importance of context when it comes to content and how/where/why it is created and consumed. This campaign began with a precursor of educating staff internally about the power of social media, setting the scene for the campaign which was intended to launch through social media channels, not via traditional media where it ended up and where most controversy arose.

Ross spoke about the value of research informing communication and, as the landscape changes, we should consider ourselves “lifelong learners as professional communicators”. He suggested we look at content from academics and from universities such as Harvard – with so much information and courses are available online Ross questioned the future of universities in their physical form.

He also urged us not to forget about other forms of communication – traditional and face-to-face is still so valuable, the latter possibly even more so than ever. As we become more connected online it’s so important to cement and build real relationships in the offline world too. This is something parkyoung has long been an advocate for.


In plain English

I’ve never been one for jargon but I do enjoy putting words together in a rather poetic, story-telling way. Some would say my sentences are too long with too many words. Too many “do you really need to include that?” words. And as much as I enjoy writing a good yarn, my days of long linguistic sentences are about to change. As of…. now.

I am practicing writing in shorter sentences. This is something I need to learn to do better. I am also striving to use plainer English, to use five words instead of ten but without losing the impact. This means more clever and selective use of vocabulary. I must not use the word “that” as often as I used to.

In the bid to grow a stronger vocabulary I will read more. This will also help me achieve my 2010 goal of reading more. Coincidentally, this is my second blog for the week, another item I am closer to ticking off the list.

Reading this now: