Going Back to School: Signs Your PR or Event Team Needs a Reboot

Your team is overstretched and tired – but are your approaches tired, too?

Across the country, the signs of school being back in session are all around us. Buses are revving down suburban streets, traffic is snarling in ways we haven’t witnessed in months, and the school supply aisles at our favorite big-box retailers have been ransacked by harried parents. While students are spending these early weeks reviewing last year’s skills, you, too, may need to revisit some lessons and go back to school yourself.

Do you find that your marketing team uses the same boilerplate document time and time again when you start planning a new campaign? Are you still using industry jargon you learned at a conference 10 years ago, but haven’t attended a professional development event since then? Is your PR team still on the fence about truly embracing social and digital media?

If so, then, yes, you and your cohorts may need the equivalent of an educational booster shot, lest you end up on the remedial track before too long.

Why it matters

“Some signs of stagnancy would be relying on the same pitches or the same client message over an extended period of time,” cautions Brian Franklin, public relations manager for the New York City-based Wakeman Agency.

Every day, Franklin cultivates winning PR strategies for nonprofit organizations, small businesses, tech startups and other entities. Serving a dynamic client base, and remaining effective in an industry swirling with change at every turn, demands a proactive hunger for continual learning. This willingness to learn and adapt is crucial for communications teams in staying relevant and equipped to produce results.

“The world is moving at warp speed,” Franklin says. “Everything we do needs to be current, and we need to take into consideration changes in the landscape that affect all outreach. Regularly evaluating tactics and results, and seeing how they coincide with client goals, helps to prevent teams from becoming stagnant.”

The disruptive influence of technology

Digital communications and social media in a hyper-sharing world, wherein everyday people can become their own one-stop media shops, have forever changed the way information is documented and shared. For organizational, media relations and PR teams, this means the stakes have never been higher. They are competing for the attention of reporters, producers, consumers and other target audiences constantly.
Moreover, this has implications for what leadership and institutions need to achieve business objectives.

While senior management and the Board of Directors may know that social outreach is important, they are counting on people like you – the internal pros – to articulate it and move the needle accordingly.
“Clients expect that you know more than them when it comes to digital and social media outreach,” Franklin explains. “At the same time, I believe that digital outreach has stretched the communications teams too thin at many organizations, especially nonprofits.”

That’s why – and when – organizations make the calculated decision to partner with external experts.
“It can be overwhelming to keep up with all the latest and greatest social and digital media trends. I think it is hard to claim to be an expert at both traditional and digital outreach,” says Franklin. “We need to know our limitations and bring in colleagues, agencies and advisors who can complement our skills.”

That’s why organizations link with external experts to heighten the bar of performance and results, especially when the stakes are high. In one such instance, The Wakeman Agency partnered with client the UCLA Civil Rights Project to create an attention-raising PR strategy for its research study about integration in the nation’s public high schools.

“Prior to becoming engaged with our agency, the media coverage that the UCLA Civil Rights Project received was limited to small local publications,” Franklin shares.

The Wakeman Agency cultivated and kicked off a media strategy that, ultimately, led to coverage on a national level. This included interviews on major broadcast outlets BET, NPR and PBS, as well as front-page placement on the Huffington Post and headlines in leading newspapers, such as The New York Post, USA Today and the Washington Post.

You’re Ready for a Refresher – What Now?

Be a News Junkie. “You have to know what’s going on in the world – what the big stories are, what the trends are and how they are being reported,” Franklin says. This means not merely watching news coverage or reading stories like a layperson, but paying attention to the subtleties in how they are presented, articulated and shared.

Know Your Network. View your personal and professional networks in new ways. Thanks to social media, people are fewer degrees of separation from others than they might think. Review your LinkedIn connections and other real-life contacts, looking more constructively at the talents and experience of those within – or just outside of – your sphere of influence. Gradually develop a rapport with those strategically poised to advise or assist you.

Get Involved. Join a respected organization devoted to your industry or profession. Consider aligning yourself with local chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA), the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Membership offers benefits, like organizational magazines, member directories, educational events, intensive conferences and local gatherings, that will help keep skills current.

Join us on The Wakeman Agency Facebook page to share with us your tips and tricks of the trade for keeping your skills fresh. What do you think are the tell-tale signs of a PR team becoming stagnant over time, and how can teams take action to prevent it from happening in the first place?

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