The who and the why behind ‘what is a PR specialist?’
We’ve all heard of them, we’ve seen them slick talk and smooth over sticky situations; but what really is a PR specialist? While PR teams often get credit for defensively attacking some crisis for their celebrity clients, others like Russell Crowe have even given credit for the PR offensive maneuvers in helping achieve success.
Discussing celebrities in the realm of PR is merely pointing to the smallest possible sample size in answering what a PR specialist actually does. There is a reason why every multinational corporation has one and every scaling organization should have one. It all comes down to communication and not just how to do it correctly, but also how to ensure it ends up in the right ears.
What does a PR manager do?
Every CEO thinks that their company or scaleup is interesting, or at least they should. They have this cool product that is becoming more and more desirable. But why? What is so different about your product or your company that sets it apart from the current world? You’ve already had to sit in front of some VC’s and answer this question, but journalists were not flys on the wall in that room and even if they were, they require a different method of communication.
Deciding what is interesting and what is not about your company is primarily what a PR person does. CEO’s and Marketers tend to be too product and service focused, so you need an outsider’s perspective. It sounds easy enough, but it is actually a long intensive process. Scouring media sites and publications, a PR specialist aims to be an absolute uncertified specialist in the industry your scaleup resides. By the time they are finally ready to start approaching journalists, they know exactly what separates your company from the rest.
Timing is what makes a good PR person
Finding out what makes your company interesting to journalists and their readers is just the tip of the iceberg and won’t gain you any coverage by the media on its own. Timing is everything in the success and failure of a PR specialist.
Take for example the Covid crisis. If a PR person began reaching out to journalists about their clients’ cool step counting technology when the world is talking about social distancing and working from home, not only will they not get coverage, but they will probably also burn their relationships with them as well. Instead, PR teams are experts in news values and have done their research to know when the right time is that maximizes the effectiveness of the communication.
As it was discussed, a PR person helps companies communicate the right information at the right time. But even in these cases, it’s still not enough. And, it’s not because the information wasn’t interesting, it’s because they don’t know you. 71% of journalists believe that they are less trusted in the public eye, which has coincidently led to their scepticism of information that floods their inbox.
What does a PR specialist do to get maneuver past this? They build relationships with the journalists and act as more of a friend who passes along information. Because who could be deceived by a friend? However, this is always a fragile relationship. One story that really isn’t all that interesting or a peddling a story that is clearly not interesting in the moment, could result in completely ruining the relationship.
An email a journalist once opened, because the sender’s name usually offered some promising information; is now one that even in slow times may instantly get deleted or even marked for spam. So a PR specialist is constantly managing the relationship they have with journalists to ensure that they will at least be awarded a reply email when it’s time to pass along information.
As stated earlier, journalists require a particular type of communication. What a PR specialist does is they take the interesting information and build a story around it. 88% of PR executives believe that digital storytelling is the future which is not only important for reaching journalists, but also for social media strategies.
Did you just get $10 million during a round of funding? A PR person will look to build a story behind why you got that money. That way journalists can talk about your scaleup as the future in this industry.
But it goes further than just funding news and talking about what your company does. Sometimes it’s about ensuring the right communication gets out as well, both internally and externally. If you are not communicating messages to journalists, you have a little bit less involvement in what they write about.
While ultimately, a good journalist with strong values will write about what they think is correct, sometimes they can be mistaken. And a good PR specialist will catch them before this happens, telling them the correct story that way, there is no misconception about what your company does or has done. This is essential in avoiding any potential crisis that may arise in the future, but if a crisis does arise, a PR specialist is who you want on your team to minimize the impact it has on your organization.
An extension of your team
A good PR manager is all about communication, but what really does a PR specialist do? They offer an extension of your company and a link to the external world. Just like the gears of a watch are covered by a glass face and a metal casing; a PR specialist offers a tool that can open it all to reveal your company to the public; introducing your organization through a lens to the world. This lens is important, because it takes 20 years to build your reputation but only 1 minute to ruin it. With the right PR team, you can sleep easy at night knowing that your reputation is in good hands.
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