A while back I started seeing her everywhere online in PR circles. If you look at all the publications to which she contributes, you can easily see why.
Though she says writing has always been part of her career, her “first ‘real’ PR job landed me out in the Bay Area working for a tech company.” That led to a gig with an agency and eventually out on her own with a consulting business. Today she works primarily with small and medium B2B clients and some nonprofits.
She is Michelle Garrett and she’s my guest on this edition of the Off Script Q&A series.
1) What has changed the most about PR over the course of your career?
MG: The technology. Tech has the ability to make a lot of what we do in PR easier while providing insight that we didn’t always have.
2) What hasn’t changed about PR?
MG: The “relations” part is the same. Even with all the technology and social media, etc., you still need to be able to build relationships. The way we do it may have changed, but the ability to do that is still important.
And, the storytelling. Look at how huge that term has gotten over the years. But PR pros have ALWAYS been storytellers. Finding the story in what we’re given to work with is one of the things we do best.
3) Do you think PR has gotten harder or easier in the last 10 years?
MG: That’s a good question. It’s harder as far as pitching the media. With 4-5 PR pros for every journalist and shrinking newsrooms, getting your pitch seen by a reporter can be very challenging.
But, I’d say that it’s easier in that what we do in PR has really expanded, creating more opportunities for those who want to pursue a career in public relations. With crisis communications front and center (social media can blow up even a seemingly insignificant issue very quickly) and thought leadership playing such vital roles in a brand’s bottom line, it seems like PR is enjoying a bit of a renaissance.
>>>Also see: Is Media Relations Getting Harder?
4) Has digital blurred the lines between PR and marketing, or even, PR and editorial?
MG: Yes. I just saw someone on Twitter talking about how PR has become more marketing’ish and marketing has become more PR’ish – I like that quote because it really does seem to be the case.
What I see is how social media and content marketing have grown up out of PR functions. Public relations pros are well-suited to those disciplines because it’s what we’ve been doing for a long time. I was talking with Ann Handley about this – content marketers have, in a way, “stolen” that discipline from PR folks. We joked about it! But, it’s kinda true. Telling stories, creating messages, writing – it’s all in a PR pro’s repertoire.
>>> Also see: Marketing Increasingly Looks more like PR
5) What do you think clients or employers appreciate the most about PR?
MG: Well, everyone likes to see their name in the paper! I kid, but what I think is so valuable about PR is how it paves the way for sales and marketing. “I know I’ve heard of that company somewhere” – that’s what you want the prospect to be thinking when you send in the sales team. Or a potential customer sees an article and then wants to learn more, so they visit the brand’s site and start digging into content there.
6) What value does PR bring that you think generally goes under-recognized?
MG: The ability to repurpose content created through PR is so valuable. You can really get a lot of bang for the buck.
If the PR team creates content, that can be posted on your site, shared on social media and perhaps repurposed in other ways – infographics, blog posts, even press releases. If earned media is generated, that can also be shared, posted and repurposed. The mistake is when brands DON’T share and repurpose. Then it’s just a press release or a blog post or whatever. It should be amplified in some way.
Also, PR pros are so versatile. They can write, they can tell stories, they can promote the story, they can build relationships, they can think strategically about how certain decisions the brand makes will impact their business – and so on. Hire a PR pro and you get ALL that – and more.
7) Is there a question I didn’t ask, but you wish I did? (optional)
MG: For young PR pros – and really for ALL in the public relations profession – I’d like to emphasize the importance of writing. It’s one skill that many who hire PR pros say is lacking. All you need to do is read some articles online, and you’ll quickly see that the quality has declined. They are typos and mistakes in so many pieces now, even in respected publications. If we say we excel at creating content – but it’s riddled with errors – that doesn’t really add up.
8) Just for fun:
- One company you whose PR you admire is…Ikea.
- One PR tool you can’t live without is…Buffer.
- One PR person you recommend following on Twitter is…@DavePidgeonPR.
- One publication or blog you read regularly is…PR Daily
- If you weren’t doing what you do now, you’d be…I might go to law school or do something involving animals.
- If you could have an all-expenses paid free pass to a single industry marketing event it would be…the PRSA International conference.
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You can connect with Michelle on Twitter or LinkedIn. She also blogs and contributes to a range of publications including PR Daily, Meltwater and her own blog and newsletter (to which I subscribe). Her prediction for 2019 is well worth reading for PR pros — it’s number 15 on this list: 26+ Thoughtful Marketing Predictions that Could Actually Happen in 2019.
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