Published: Apr 26, 2016
Last Updated: Aug 30, 2018

The world of PR is ever-changing. It’s all too easy to get lost in the crowd of PR professionals when you’re not keeping up with the latest best practices. But you can’t afford to succumb to that fate when it’s your job to stand out and get attention for your clients.

So how can you be a trusted advisor to your clients and get them the coverage they’ve always wanted? Well, some things never change.

A relationship still matters.

It's the only way to recover from a negative article, an unplaced story, or a misfired interview. If you already know the reporter, getting past these challenges together is easy. But if the reporter doesn't know you from the other 1,000 PR people named Michelle in the industry, then good luck trying to negotiate. They don't know you, they don't trust you, and they are highly unlikely to listen to you.

Unsure of whether you have a real relationship? Answer the questions below for guidance. If you can't answer yes to at least one of these, trust me when I say, you have no relationship.

  • Do you know anything about the reporter that isn't work-related? Does the reporter know anything about you that isn't work-related?
  • Have you ever had a conversation or interaction with the reporter that didn't involve you asking them for something?
  • Do you talk to the reporter when your company or client doesn't have any news?
  • Do you follow all of the reporter’s coverage?
  • When you read an article or post you like from the reporter, do you engage with their coverage? Do you comment on or share their coverage?

So, yes, strong relationships with reporters are still absolutely essential to doing great PR. As for the rest of it? Well, nothing in the world of PR is constant.

Stop being a slave to media and start being a trusted partner.

Agencies used to teach newbie PR pros to respect reporters, sometimes to a fault. This meant that PR pros often felt like they had to grovel and be subservient to reporters. But the best relationships are founded on mutual respect.

How do you gain respect with tech business and trade media? Know your stuff. Understand the publication. Understand the product your company or client sells. Understand the competition. Know what the major tech news is that week. Know it cold. Faking it doesn't count. That means studying is imperative. It’s critical to understand the history of technology. Knowing where we came from will help you understand where we are today and where we’re headed. It’s hard work, but it will pay off. You don't have to grovel to the reporter anymore, and when you’re informed you won’t feel like you need to. Sometimes you can even have lively debates with them.

Stop being a scheduler and note taker.

Your first boss probably taught you that it’s your job to make sure media interviews go off without a hitch. He or she probably taught you to take diligent notes during the meeting too. Those are great tips, but if all you do is arrange interviews and take notes, couldn't conceivably anyone do your job? Try taking a meaningful role in those meetings.

If your executive forgets to bring up a message point you worked so hard to prepare her for, why not prompt her during the interview to discuss it? Also, don't be afraid to ask the reporter questions during the interview. Sometimes you’ll find a natural pause while you’re switching gears or the reporter is trying to catch up on notes. Say something like, "Jeff, is this useful for you? Is it the kind of thing your readers care about?"

Be engaged in the meeting. You will feel infinitely more useful and your clients will see you as a valuable consultant that they must have by their side at every interview. The reporter will see you as someone who does more than arrange meetings and take notes. They will see you as a trusted resource–the keeper of critical information.

Speaking of holding onto and using information... Use your knowledge to be a critical thinker!

Thinking on your feet is challenging but executives and clients like to see this side of their PR pros. Sometimes agencies train people to hide their thinking skills. Let's not tell the client what we are thinking because it might confuse them or give away too much of our inside game. Trust your client in the same way they trust you. Show them that you have a brain and you like to use it.

Be transparent. Be authentic. Let people see that media strategy is always on your mind. Show them that you wake up and go to bed thinking of how to craft the perfect story with the greatest possible return. Show them that you are nimble, quick on your feet, and open to new approaches to going after great stories. Read all of the industry news coverage that you can get your hands on and let it inspire you to find new ways to make your client part of the story. Share your aspirations. If you really want to land your client a cover story, tell them that. You might be surprised how willing they are to dig in and help you with your big, audacious goal.

Yes, when you share your thought process, you open yourself up to criticism. But isn't that better than operating in a vacuum? Working as a team with your client’s executives, product managers, and marketing leaders can produce something far more valuable than what are you able to do by yourself.

Don’t forget the feedback loop.

Perhaps the single greatest missed opportunity is not providing feedback to clients after a media interview. If your client hit all the messages, tell them that. If they forgot one, tell them that too. Share your observations from the interview and based on that, how you think the story will turn out.

Be sure to call out things like low energy. Your client might not be in tune with the impression they’re giving off, so it’s your job to tell them. Whatever you do, be prepared to offer tips and solutions. For example, suggest that your client stand up and walk around a bit during the next interview to renew their focus and get re-energized.

Rocking B2B tech PR today means taking the best of the old and embracing the new. Never stop learning and growing. Share what you’ve learned with new PR pros. Listen to what they have to say about the changing landscape—you might be surprised to learn which tactics from yesterday have gone the way of the dodo.

Now go get ‘em.

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