Making Your Association the Go-To Resource

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Imagine there’s breaking news dominating the airwaves—and it’s regarding your industry sector. This is your moment to shine, to take to the cameras or the microphone and share your polished expertise and your messages. You are the go-to source on this subject!

Or are you? Is your phone is ringing off the hook, or is it silent?  Without adequate preparation, visible messaging, and established audience relationships, you may be ignored or simply overlooked. They may not know they should come directly to you.

Whether during a crisis or in “peace time,” it can be a challenge for association communicators to own their space as a visible, go-to resource for a variety of audiences. But it can be achieved with a strategic plan in place, and this four-pronged approach you can help in crafting or revamping your group’s communications strategies.

1. Want to own it, and grab it. Don’t wait for it.

  • A proactive, comprehensive battle plan is important to get your group or organization ahead of  the latest stories, but first, you have to know exactly who you want to be, whatit is you want to do and say and to whom you want to communicate it to.
  • Is your audience a combination of consumers, media, regulators and legislators? Where are they getting their information? Identify existing gatekeepers, including trade media and other groups.
  • Audit media coverage; social channels, congressional records and regulatory comments – wherever your organization should be – and figure out whois getting traction with your issue. Are allied organizations taking your share of voice? Are you losing it to the opposition?
  • Get your leadership and spokespeople onboard with your plan by sharing this audit, and manage expectations from the outset. Executive support goes a long way toward success.

2. Get your house in order.

  • Shore up your messaging. Strengthen your message points and anecdotes, make them compelling and make them consistent and optimized across all platforms.
  • Audit your information and your digital platforms. Is your content fresh, original, optimized and interesting? Do you provide something of unique value? And are you updating your platforms regularly and using them to guide conversations on an issue?
  • Review relationships with reporters and influencers. It is easier to engage them if you have proactively determined who they are, what they are looking for and how to be a resource to them.

 3. Take Action and Prepare to React.

  • Proactively seek opportunities by researching editorial calendars, developing pitch copy and regularly delivering to media contacts. (Without spamming them of course!) Fly-ins, “lobby days” on Capitol Hill and a “speaker’s bureau” positioning your experts also increases your visibility.
  • Be reactive and responsive to the news landscape. In breaking news, pitch your available experts for comment. Respond to stories with notes to reporters, letters to the editor and op-ed/column submissions. Follow and interact with reporters in social channels, establishing relationships and responding to their work with positivity and “added value.” Keep an eye out for relevant Help a Reporter Out or ProfNet source requests.

4. Measure and Retool.

  • Assess how your association is doing. Have your spokespeople been quoted in more media hits or been sought directly for comment or advice? Has your issue area in general received more attention, and has your group’s point of view been included?
  • Celebrate your successes. Executive leadership and the C-Suite should know that dedication to a plan has led to positive results with an opportunity for growth.
  • Fine-tune your program where it needs shoring up. You’ll continually need to retool your assets and your plan in order to stay the go-to resource.

Francie Israeli has more than a decade of PR experience.  As Senior Vice President of KellenAdams Public Affairs, a division of Kellen Communications, she is responsible for strategic development and implementation of advocacy, media and issue-driven communications campaigns on behalf of a number of association and nonprofit clients.  She also serves as chair-elect of the Americas Region Board of Directors of the WORLDCOM Public Relations Group.

 

7 Skills That You Really Need to Make It in PR

I’ve met a lot of incredibly capable PR people who are not going to get very far in the PR world. That’s because in order to become a valued professional in today’s marketplace, PR pros need much more than the talent to communicate.

Feb 13 program

Today’s successful PR pro needs the “hard” business skills to become a valued business partner and not a mere tactician. PRSA-NCC’s annual “From PR Manager to PR Leader” half-day seminar on Feb. 13 will share some of these skills that PR people need to take their career to that next level. Here are just a few.

1) Become self-aware first 
A good manager looks in the mirror first. Do you really know your management strengths and weaknesses and are you willing to do the hard work to minimize your deficiencies? Do you know your personality type and management style and are you willing to accept constructive criticism? If you are willing to work hard to improve your management skills, then those you lead will do the same.

2) Manage “up”
Do you know how to work with the C-suite folks so they value and recognize your skills and the value you bring? Do you know their priorities and how to show them that you help address them? If you are not focused on managing this all-important relationship, you won’t even get a chance to take your career to the next level.

 3) Become budget savvy
Can you develop and manage a budget for your programs, campaigns, or accounts? You don’t do the PR profession any favors if you say, “I’m a PR person, I don’t need to know math” (yes, I’ve heard it.) To be taken seriously by the C-suite (see above) you need to show that you appreciate and understand the bottom line and can provide a return on investment for your PR activities.

4) Listen up
I’m not going to win a lot of friends by saying this but a lot of us PR people forget that communication is a two-way street. We are so focused on our elevator pitch and talking points that we sometimes forget that the best way to win people over is by listening (really) to their needs first and then demonstrating how we can meet those needs. Human interaction is never about you. It’s always about them.

5) Handle conflict with style
Can you manage irate clients, contractors, colleagues and other emotionally charged people? Every manager will encounter conflict at some point. Knowing how to calmly ratchet down emotions is the difference between a star manager and one who is not.

6) Put people first
Do you know how to motivate people and enhance team dynamics? We are only as good as the people around us. If we can get our teams to cohesively work together and smooth over the inevitable rough patches, we can keep moving forward.

7) Avoid burnout
The PR business can be a 24/7 grind so you need to manage the elusive work/life balance and learn tactics for getting organized, pacing yourself and delegating to others. Otherwise, you won’t be around long enough to make it far in the PR profession.

The above is only a starting point (feel free to add your own in the comments below) but if you learn these skills you will have a decided advantage as you advance in your career. Most of us learn these skills when we’re thrown in the management pool for the first time and told to “sink or swim.” But if we prepare ourselves with these managements skills ahead of time, we will be prepared to take that plunge with confidence.

About Jeff Ghannam
A former president of PRSA-NCC, Jeff Ghannam brings more than 20 years of experience in corporate and non-profit communications and journalism. He is president of Crystal Communications & Marketing, LLC, a consultancy serving the association and nonprofit community with integrated communications and marketing services and leadership training targeted at communications staff. The “From PR Manager to PR Leader” seminar on Feb. 13 will be the third such annual seminar he has delivered for PRSA-NCC.

Jeff was previously vice president of communications and marketing for the Biotechnology Institute in Arlington, Va. Jeff’s career experience includes news reporting, editing, and PR management, all of which led him to hone his management and leadership skills. Jeff has conducted leadership training workshops for organizations that want to maximize their human resources potential so they can better achieve their strategic objectives. He cites real-life PR management-based examples and scenarios and uses an engaging and interactive format that allows participants to address their specific management and leadership challenges.