Strategy before spectacle: The unspoken rules of PR

Watching a jet team fly in formation during an air show is exhilarating. The speed and precision with which they fly captivates the crowd, making it difficult to turn away for even a moment. To perform at this level, the team has to be well-rehearsed, highly coordinated and purposeful about every move.

They work as a team, flying in unison along prearranged flight paths yet flexible enough to adjust for changing atmospheric conditions. After all, the tiniest mistake in the air could invite disaster for both the team and its audience.

In other words, it’s a lot like working in PR.


Gaining Altitude

In public relations, it’s our job to provide the strategy and resources to make the show go off without a hitch, every time. To borrow from the analogy above, we are the mechanic, air traffic controller, meteorologist, pilot and announcer in one, collaborating to provide the best spectacle for a diverse audience. We help our clients take flight, gain altitude and maintain momentum by communicating with a variety of other media professionals to promote a compelling story about the organization, its leadership, products or services.

Public relations is about shaping the voice of a brand and creating a positive relationship between that brand and its audience. To accomplish this lofty aim, we utilize the media to create and conserve a strong relationship with the public. There are ground rules to follow that will help us stay prepared, focused and able to navigate any turbulence that comes our way. So before you take flight, make sure to develop a healthy understanding for the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the public relations air show.

[Tweet “How savvy are your #PR skills? Use these essential strategies to promote your brand story. via @MerlotMarketing”]


  • Listen. Be open to feedback, both positive and negative, about a company’s products and/or the organization as a whole. Pay attention to what consumers want and respond to emerging trends. As a PR professional, you can be the eyes and ears of the company, helping clients to identify and leverage opportunities as they happen.
  • Communicate consistently. Know the brand, its audience, and the message. Send out effective lines of communication that portray a consistent image and feel for the brand, and communicate regularly with the media to build long-term relationships.
  • Research. Knowing your audience is a big factor in your success; don’t cut corners when learning about them. Look into each individual and organization so you can act strategically on a studied understanding of past work and interests. If you’re sending a media pitch, the editor or producer will be more open to your suggestions if it’s clear that you’ve done your research.
  • Personalize the pitch. You’re building a relationship, so make sure your communication is friendly and inviting. Greet your contact by his or her first name, and remember to leave a positive, lasting impression. Keep it professional, but not too formal—and let your personality shine through!
  • Respond. Stay up-to-date on emails, phone calls and messages. The media world is a busy one, and opportunities will come and go rapidly. Keep all lines of communication open, and be ready to reply to inquiries and interest in a timely manner so nothing falls through the cracks!


  • Stalk or nag. As working individuals with deadlines and priorities of their own, your contacts may need time to get back to you; believe it or not, your emails and voicemails are probably not at the top of their to-do lists. Be persistent, but don’t overstep boundaries. A contact is more likely to ignore you if they feel they are being bombarded.
  • Argue. If a contact does not wish to use your pitch, it’s far more productive to ask for feedback rather than disputing the decision or asking them to reconsider. If you stay respectful, they may remember you in the future when an even better opportunity comes along.
  • Avoid opportunities. Each day brings new opportunities. Even if you’ve been denied in the past, don’t be afraid to reach out in the future. Maintain consistent communication, and take time to refine your pitch using the feedback you receive from past attempts. Most importantly, don’t take rejection personally.
  • Sacrifice professionalism. As a representative of your clients’ brands, there is no room for unprofessional communication. You are always on stage, and it’s your job to leave every person with a positive impression of the brands you represent. Even when you receive negative feedback, take a deep breath and avoid reacting to the negative energy.
  • Ignore suggestions. Sending a great pitch doesn’t guarantee coverage, and receiving a positive response doesn’t mean your work is done. Most importantly, be quick to collaborate when a media contact shares new ideas. Some of the best coverage develops when you work together.

Extra Fuel for the Flight

According to Source, journalists receive, on average, 50-100 press releases every week. That’s a lot of communication, and it takes time to vet each appealing opportunity. Make sure your pitches and press releases – the essential tools of the trade – are crafted for maximum effect by keeping the following statistics in mind:

  • 44% prefer to receive press releases in the morning
  • 68% just want the facts
  • 76% of journalists say they feel pressure to think about a story’s potential for sharing on social media platforms
  • 64% say they prefer that follow-up on “pitches” be done via email rather than phone
  • 74% of journalists prefer content created by their own organizations when using videos; only 3% use branded videos

Strategically Spectacular

Successful PR teams don’t sit around waiting to react to moments of crisis any more than successful jet teams participate in air shows to stay grounded. They apply intense concentration and preparation so that, at the right time, their clients’ stories take flight and wow the crowd. They strategize and calibrate all of the elements of the PR campaign to make sure the client soars during its “moment in the spotlight.”

When the ideas fly high, after all of the preparation, the results are often more spectacular than you had imagined.

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