I recently had the pleasure of contributing to a Bulldog webinar panel on the art of building relationships with the media. The speaker line-up was diverse and included a Wall Street Journal bureau chief, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and a few other flacks like me.
Each speaker’s approach to building relationships varies. Some prefer a solid email pitch to any phone conversation; others still enjoy meeting face to face. Much of the advice was standard: do your advanced reading and research, know your story, reach out at the right time and be diligent about it. The simple conclusion from all was that one good conversation does not a relationship make.
Building effective relationships with reporters is a must-have skill for PR pros. It helps us tell effective stories, secure invaluable feedback for our companies and clients and, if managed properly, yield mutually beneficial results. As crucial as they are, the relationships we build with media outlets are just one piece of the PR puzzle. Public relations is many things. It includes communicating directly with clients, peers and bosses, and each of those exchanges plays a role in a PR pro’s success or failure.
Beyond the media, here are four key relationships PR Pros should foster:
You and Your Client
A good working dynamic with your client is often the most valuable relationship a PR pro can have. Clients want to feel as though they are working with an agency contact who knows them and wants them to succeed. As a PR practitioner, we must demonstrate that we truly care about clients’ long-term success and are invested in making it happen. This comes from taking time to understand their business and its goals and objectives, offering sound counsel and demonstrating the value of your work. If you do it right, clients may even become friends or, even better, colleagues (like our very own Cathy Imus).
You and Your Team
From the time you were in preschool, you’ve been evaluated on “Does he/she play well with others?” How team members feel about their co-workers can affect how successful and productive that team is, which ultimately affects the company’s bottom line. Establish clear expectations, recognize accomplishments and demonstrate your own accountability. In doing so, you’ll recognize each other’s strengths and be your own best advocates. This holds true for teammates in your office, up the street or sitting thousands of miles away.
You and Your Manager
Your boss can have a tremendous influence over success and job satisfaction, making the office either a place you are excited to go to everyday or somewhere you dread setting foot in. At the most basic level, building a good relationship with your manager involves doing good work, being proactive and transparent, and holding yourself accountable for any infractions. Over time, this relationship will be built on mutual respect and trust. And while the relationship may change over time and with competing work demands, ongoing communication with your boss is one of the best ways to maintain that all-important connection. Never stop talking to one another. If you do, then you might have a real problem.
You and Your Family/Friends
I’m fortunate that most of my immediate family work or have worked in public relations at some point. They know what it’s like and understand that PR is not an easy career. It’s time consuming, sometimes stressful and often requires you to be “on call” during off hours. Competing demands between your work and family lives can put added pressure on your relationships with others. Maintaining open communication with family and friends is vital to achieving effective work/life integration. Often times, sharing work issues or challenges with family and friends can result in fresh ideas and other points of view you may not have considered.
Relationships sound like a lot of work, and they are. Building effective connections with the media has and always will be the backbone of a solid career in public relations. But taking time to nurture these four other types of relationships can go a long way to your success, and the success of your company, agency and clients.