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Professionalism and Press Events????

By: Andy Marken

In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

This past year we coordinated and managed the press activities for clients at six trade shows and four sponsored press events.  Not a lot by some measures.  Too many by others. 

What got us going on the subject was a recent newsletter from yet another press event management organization that referred to all of the recipients as PR professionals.  They pointed out the importance of relationships.  Obviously relationships  meaningful relationships  were best established by participating in their event. 

Why?

The members of the press are suckers for drinks and hors d’oeuvres and because the event serves only the best everyone attends.  That means the entire key national and regional consumer, business and trade press as well as industry analysts would be at their event.  Most certainly Technology Marketing’s roster of top 10 influentials would be there.

What better opportunity to rejuvenate your friendship with Steve Wildstrom, Walt Mossberg, Steve Manes, Pete Lewis, Rob Enderle, Roger Kay, Michael Miller, Jim Louderback and the rest.  After all, they’ve been dying to get together with you ever since the last party.

It’s sad to think that your professionalism is measured by parties rather than day-to-day activities and performance.

Press events, jointly sponsored or single firm press conferences, are useful to the press and companies.  They can help deliver company/product messages and provide the opportunity to meet new people the first time and touch base with people you don’t talk to very often. 

The problem is all to often it stops here until the next event.  There’s no follow-on research, follow-up or effort extended to determine if and how you can work with and assist the editor, reporter or analyst. 

That’s sales people going to a cocktail party or conference, collecting business cards and filling out their call report to tell management how many prospective customers they contacted that day/week. 

The event doesn’t develop the professional relationship.  It is just the first of a very long process that requires work and attention on your part. The best relationships aren’t based on how much coverage you receive but the mutual give and take, trust you earn and the responsive support you provide.


Media Ignorance

How many media outlets do you know?

How many beats do you know?

How many reporters, editors, analysts do you know?

The emphasis is on what you know.  Not on how many you can list.

Knowing means reading, watching, listening, and studying. 

Do your own personal inventory:
  • The number of newspapers/on-line sites you skim/read daily?
  • How many consumer/business/trade publications you skim/read monthly?
  • How many research organizations do you work with and industry reports do you read/study?
  • How many chat rooms/uselists do you monitor?
Being professional doesn’t mean becoming drinking buddies.  But it is good to know who covers what and their hot buttons.

When was the last time you dropped a writer and his/her boss a note congratulating them on an article you thought was good or an award or honor they had received?  Congratulated them on a family event or offered condolences when a tragedy struck?

Sound like too much work? 

It shouldn’t. 

It’s simply part of the professional relationship every executive works to develop with the people he or she works with or who have an influence on his or her job. 

When you meet media people at your next press event party, exchange business cards and make a quick set of notes on the card (after you leave) regarding the conversation.  The next time you have a phone conversation  make notes.  The next time you have an extended email conversation  make notes. 

Don’t limit yourself to business commitments but rather develop memory joggers for yourself on his/her work, personal likes/dislikes, hobbies, family, pets.  Anything that helps know them as people rather than targets for story pitches.

In no time at all you’ll have an expanding web of professional relationships. 

Some will lead to company/product articles.  Some will open doors for other opportunities.  Some will simply lead to good relationships. 

Once you’ve gotten beyond the formalities at the next press event, you’re able to talk about more than mindlessly asking the guest when he or she is going to cover your product.  You can discuss one or more of their recent articles, topics you share in common, information that is currently on their radar or topical industry happenings. 

Members of the media aren’t dartboards for you to throw ideas at.  They aren’t flypaper for idiots.


Industry, Market, Company Ignorance

It was interesting that in the newsletter we referred to earlier that the author made a point of advising PR professionals that it was always best to have a product manager with them to talk with the press.  The implication was that PR people couldn’t or shouldn’t develop enough background to address such issues as the industry, market, competition, product or applications.

How can you do your job, develop the positioning or present story concepts without a sound foundation in these areas?

Do you not understand the issues surrounding the RIAA’s position against free music downloads?  What impact the wide open web frontier can have on your firm’s products…especially if the products are “shareable” software?

What are the pros and cons of making backup copies DVD movies?  Is it a right…a privilege…a criminal act?  What about copying your product(s)? 

Have any well thought out ideas on how to filter, reduce or eliminate spam?  How does it affect your work and your relationships with the media?  How do they deal with it?

Are you using Blogs?  Do you follow them?  Are they meaningful/helpful?  Will they shape a new means of communications?

These are subjects that can involve any reporter, writer, reviewer and/or analyst.  They may or may not have a direct correlation with your proudcts but these discussions help show you are interested in them and their thoughts/ideas.  That’s how relationships are developed  inch-by-inch.

Are your markets, competition growing, shrinking, changing?  Why?  How?

What are your products’ sales channels?  What is the profile of your products’ typical customer/user?  What motivates the prospect?  How do they use the products?

Shouldn’t a public relations professional know what is going on around his/her industry, what the competition is doing, how their products stack up against the competition and what the future holds for the consumer?

Of course they should!

Public relations professionals whether they are involved in furnishings, fashion, transportation or technology need to know what is going on in the global economy, their markets, their competitive environment and their company.  Their professionalism should go well beyond their ability to stage and participate in a good press event and even a great party. 

When the last guest leaves and you’re packing up to go home, your professionalism will be measured by how effectively you deliver. 

That’s what relationships are all about…mutual trust, mutual understanding, mutual support and mutual respect.

We’ll drink to that!!!

© Copyright 2003, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications

Other Articles by Andy Marken

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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