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PR Pros Share Their Tips for Getting Started

Pitching top publications is rarely easy – you not only need good relationships with reporters, you need a good story to tell. The same is true with landing new clients – the story you tell about your company, its strategy and its successes are critically important. The bottom line: Even PR pros who have been at both of these tasks for a long time sometimes need a little help from their friends. Here’s a guide on getting started.

We asked four PR professionals – Patricia Baronowski-Schneider, president and CEO of Pristine Advisers; Joyce Lofstrom, owner and principal at Joyce Lofstrom & Associates; Shirley Johnson, founder and owner of Stage 1 Public Relations, and Ronai Rivera, owner at Anomaly the Agency – for their advice for new public relations professionals, and who they turn to for a new perspective when they need it.

Remote PR Jobs: If you were starting out in PR today, what are the 2-3 things you wish you knew?

Lofstrom: I wish I had design skills to use for social media posts and basic website development, analytical skills for media evaluation and planning, and finally, basic business knowledge budgeting and bottom-line focus.

Rivera: I wish I would’ve understood that putting your best foot forward is all you can do and it’s important to take it all with a grain of salt. Understand that everyone may not be your target client, but there are people everywhere looking for exactly what you bring to the table. If you’re unable to find a room that’s meant for you, create one.

Johnson: I wished I had done more internships at PR agencies in public relations. I wished I had networked with people in the industry because networking is important. PR is not a science but an art. That’s why it’s important to read. Read every book there is about public relations.

Baronowski-Schneider: I wish I knew that many people/businesses do not fully understand the need/benefit of PR. I also wish I knew how to explain to people how “getting a Forbes interview doesn’t happen overnight (unless you are willing to pay a lot of money for it).”

Remote PR Jobs: Who do you turn to for advice when you need help on a client account?

Johnson: When I need help on an account, I seek out the advice of former colleagues who work in the industry. They are familiar with the pace and stress so they can counsel me, as well as provide support. Also, I connect with other professionals in various organizations, such as Solo PR Pro and PRSSA.

Lofstrom: My PR colleagues help me when I need advice on a client account. These are people I have met over the years, often through my involvement in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or different positions throughout my career. And for background, I use Google to learn more about something easily researched via the internet.

Baronowski-Schneider: Ironically, it depends on what I need help with. I do the majority of researching answers on my own – using the internet – various PR outlets – etc. to see what is the best way to solve the situation I am in.

Rivera: I typically turn to one of my dearest friends from high school; she currently works as an Insights and Analytics Analyst so I truly value her opinion from a marketing standpoint. We’ve taken a sort of similar path, professionally, and I genuinely value her insight and logic when it comes to making serious business decisions. It’s important to have honest and upfront people in your corner.

Remote PR Jobs: What do you do to get yourself unstuck when it comes to a PR campaign?

Rivera: If I ever find myself stuck when it comes to a PR campaign, I find that stepping away and taking a moment really helps. I’m able to relax my thoughts for a moment and put the bigger picture and main goal into perspective a little easier. Keeping your “cool” at a time where your mind naturally wants to run in every direction at once can make all the difference in how you get “unstuck” during a PR campaign.

Baronowski-Schneider: Take a deep breath. I do not view things as problems – but as challenges (which I love). I love being able to come through in the end and looking back and saying, “Yep, I kicked butt.”

Lofstrom: My solution to moving ahead on a PR campaign is talking and planning. I talk with the person I am working with on this effort, or perhaps other PR colleagues for input, as appropriate and necessary. A PR campaign can be overwhelming to plan and execute, so I try to take it step by step, like the guidance author Anne Lamont suggests in her book “Bird by Bird.”

Johnson: I tend to talk to my peers for advice and take a step back to reevaluate my program to see if I am missing any steps.  For example, if I am doing a media outreach program and I am not getting any placements. Then I will take a look or research more journalists who might be interested in the story and rework the pitch letter.

Remote PR Jobs: Do you test your pitches against anyone else (a team or your boss) before sending them out to journalists?

Lofstrom: Pitching is a primary component of the work I do in PR. Another set of eyes always helps me, so I share pitches with team members and/or my boss before I email or call reporters. Each pitch is personalized to the news outlet and reporter I want to contact, so review by team members is an asset I value.

Johnson: Rarely do I test my pitches. Since I started following Michael Smart PR, I have found that using his techniques, I hardly need to bounce ideas with other people.

Baronowski-Schneider: I do various tests in a way – where, for example, I may set up one email with 3-4 different subject lines, 3-4 different messages, etc. and then see which has the best result. I also seem to be on everyone’s email list for some reason so I use that as a reference as well. Which emails got my attention and why? Which pitches were unique and caught my eye, and why?

Remote PR Jobs: What advice can you give other remote PR professionals when they are starting out?

Baronowski-Schneider: Surround yourself with people more successful than you.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  Learn from the pros and listen to their stories.  It doesn’t mean to copy them, but to take a little bit of all you learn and incorporate what works best for “you”.  That will make you unique and special.

Lofstrom: I would say to anyone starting out in PR:

  • It’s ok to say you don’t know or don’t understand and ask someone to explain the topic.
  • Don’t take business criticism personally.
  • Learn and keep learning new skills.
  • Establish balance in your work schedule so that you have a personal life.
  • Get involved in a professional organization to connect with peers and learn more about PR and/or your specialty area.

Rivera: Take everything with a grain of salt and know that challenges are proof that you’re working towards something amazing. Imposter Syndrome is real but what it causes you to think about yourself isn’t; you got this.

Johnson: I would give the advice that I wished I had incorporated more in my early days of practicing public relations – read industry books and network.