As I’m riding home from Waltham on MBTA’s 554 bus, I see the war veteran chef, the knitting shop owner, the sleep-deprived student and the tattooed caregiver. I never thought that public transportation and PR would have any overlap, but I catch myself and my PR habits wanting to uncover the story behind each of these fellow commuters. I just dove into a career in PR this summer and have quickly learned that this is exactly what PR is about – exposing the storyline and connecting disparate bits of information. My coworker Jim, found a correlation with PR and his spin class; I found similarities during my commute with MBTA. Here are a few tips for those just launching a career in PR that I have learned from my bus rides:
1. Have a Plan
The “Ready, fire, aim” strategy has proven to be a failure. Jumping on a bus, any bus, without knowing its destination, just because it comes along quickly, will probably land you in the middle of nowhere, without cell coverage. Thanks to tools like MBTA Trip Planner, any commute can be a piece of cake. Since I can remember, my dad has hammered this quote from Abraham Lincoln into my head: “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe!” The same is true for PR: before executing any PR strategy, it’s important to have a well thought out plan. Yes, adjustments are inevitable, but where would the excitement in PR be without its unpredictable nature? So, be sure to sharpen your axe before making the first cut.
2. Be Timely and Attentive
The bus stops for no man. Unless you make your intentions of getting on that bus known, the bus driver will have no problem trucking on past you. In PR, being timely and grabbing a reporter’s attention with your news pitch is the key to getting your story covered. Just as a bus waits for no passenger, no reporter is going to wait for one specific person or company to pitch them – be aggressive and creative in your pitches to grasp the reporter’s interest.
Attentiveness to deadlines is also crucial for PR success. PR is a fast-paced industry and missing an opportunity is like missing the bus…in the rain…without an umbrella. While other chances will eventually surface and another bus will finally come around, it’s a missed opportunity when you’re trying to please your client and get closer to achieving your goals -- and closer to home.
3. Be Patient
Believe me, the bus never shows up when you want it to – and, unfortunately, neither does that timely news hook for your client’s upcoming announcement. Having patience is key to successful PR. You want to break news when people are watching and timing can be everything. With exciting announcements, it’s hard not to immediately pull the trigger, but announcing something when even bigger news is happening will only leave you lost in the shuffle. Take advice from this reporter, cautioning PR folks hours before Apple’s new iPhone announcement. Once the prime opportunity arrives, you’ll be happy with the outcome. All the coverage you were shooting for will fall right in your lap, making for a happy PR pro and an even happier client.
4. Keep it Interesting
Like a boring bus ride, no one enjoys reading dull news. Finding the perfect angle may take time, but in the interim, look for ways to keep client activity lively – whether a poll, comment or new blog post, there are always opportunities available. Take this guy for example. Every train ride is an opportunity to tell his story and look where it landed him – on Boston.com with thousands of YouTube hits. Opportunities are everywhere and can come about when you least expect it. Why let them go to waste? Whether it’s an opportunity to perform for a crowd of people like DJ NiteTrain, or an opportunity for a byline in Business Insider, keep up the momentum.
5. Build Relationships
Riding the same bus day after day, you are bound to see a familiar face – especially the bus driver. The bus driver knows his regulars -- who goes downtown and who rides local -- and if you build a friendly relationship, the driver might just help you out (if say you happen to nod off and almost miss your stop). Successful PR is all about relationship building. Working with different reporters and getting to know their interests, work ethics and the actual people behind the pen will help you in the long run. Taking the time to know who you are working with, or who is getting you from point A to point B, will only be of benefit for you when looking to land great coverage.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you aren’t sure which bus to take or how to queue up a press release, your best solution is to ask. It saves an incredible amount of time asking someone for help rather than wasting 30 minutes (or $40 on a cab after getting lost – that happened) trying to figure it out on your own. Your peers and colleagues are the most valuable resources for answering your questions. And why would I turn down expert advice from my intelligent and supportive team at InkHouse?
For those beginning their careers in PR, you will find that the industry follows you everywhere – whether it is in a spin class or on the bus, keep these tips in mind as you dive in. If you’re not convinced – leave your car in the driveway and consider a new approach to your commute.