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4 Reasons Former Journalists Make Great PR Professionals

Former Journalists Make Great PR Professionals
Every PR professional knows businesses often have insights to share with the public, products to announce and events to promote. And spreading those messages often includes getting stories in newspapers and on TV. But getting a journalist’s attention requires special skills and insight. Aside from the obvious — sharing interesting, compelling content — the best way to get the news media to take notice is to work with former journalists.

Today’s PR professionals understand the importance of adaptability. You have to be prepared to move from one thing to the next without any hesitation. It just so happens former journalists embrace the fast-paced nature of agency life better than most.

That’s why Candor’s staff of marketing communications professionals includes ex-reporters, content writers and editors (or, as we sometimes joke, “recovering journalists”). We’ve produced TV packages, cranked out daily newspapers and kept up with the latest online trends.

Our backgrounds benefit our clients in four significant ways.

Breaking News Won’t Break Us

Months of planning went down the tubes because of an unexpected event? A crisis hit you out of the blue? No problem for a newsie. Whatever a journalist has planned for the day can go out the window in an instant if news breaks or a hot tip comes in. Shifting gears at a moment’s notice comes naturally after that.

We Know What The Media Wants

What’s important to a company might not matter to a reporter or editor. Reporters think of providing value to the audience first. We know how to speak their language, appeal to their interest and even work out the right time of day to send the email or text which can lead to a prime-time package or front-page story. Being on a first-name basis with local reporters has helped Candor land several earned media hits for clients.

We Are Information Sponges

Journalists are generalists. They want to know everything about everything. Even after they’ve left the newsroom, they consume information insatiably. Keeping one eye on the wider world at all times helps the Candor team understand everything from trends in social media to figuring out how issues of the day affect our clients’ strategies. Being information sponges help produce the plans we provide, the way we target audiences and the tone of the content we create.

We Understand Businesses Have Budgets

Anyone who has been in a newsroom in the last couple decades has seen people make hard choices about where to invest resources. We know our clients have to make those decisions year by year, quarter by quarter and even project by project. Budgets aren’t an afterthought at Candor; they’re a key part of understanding the scope and scale of what we can do for our clients.

Journalists don’t have all the answers. But they’ll dig until find them. Candor’s team makes sure we understand brands’ needs and goals, and we do whatever it takes to get there – without breaking deadline.

You’ve Been Doing PR Since You Were 8 Years Old Without Knowing It

Chloe Cumbie, Candor blog

What did your typical day look like as an 8-year-old? You probably enjoyed snack time and recess. Play dates and sleepovers. Family road trips and awkward nightly dinners.

Eight year olds are less complex than their adult counterparts. But, without even knowing it, they are already beginning to form their sense of self and developing emotionally. They are learning more about their personalities and unique set of characteristics.

Eight year olds are grooming themselves to be PR professionals. Don’t laugh; it’s true.

Children build relationships, stand up for their friends, explain their opinions and answer problems. Sound familiar?

There’s a reason I joined the world of PR. Here are the characteristics that carried over from my childhood to my professional life.

Characteristics of a Public Relations Professional

The following characteristics have proven quite helpful in my professional career. They’ve stayed with me from an early age, and I’m still trying to develop them daily.

Curiosity

curiosity quote

One of my favorite childhood memories stems from a surprise my parents planned for my sister and me. We piled into the car and went off on an adventure, unknowing of our destination. We pulled up to a stranger’s house, went inside and met the most adorable puppy — our first family dog. I was immediately in love with her, and became incredibly curious about dogs; I wanted to know everything about them. I immediately devoured dog facts and read countless books. I even studied to become a veterinarian.

Even though my dreams of becoming a veterinarian didn’t exactly play out, my curiosity and thirst to learn has been crucial to my role today. When I get a new client, I can’t wait to learn as much as I can about their industry, competitors, what really makes them tick and more.

Curiosity leads to creativity.

Creativity

 cr

Imagine one of your daily struggles… how would a child fix it? Kids are fueled by curiosity, creativity and freedom.

As a child, I was a self-defined expert at papier-mâché. I didn’t limit the items I would glue and newspaper together, to my parents’ dismay. While (most) parents set boundaries, kids aren’t confined to as many rules as adults. Their minds wander freely to create, discover and problem-solve.

Creativity is used daily in public relations. Whether providing reputation management, crafting a news release or brainstorming with co-workers, thinking creatively is a basic requirement to a successful public relations career.

Flexibility

 flex

As all adults are aware, no matter how carefully things are planned, life is always going to throw a curveball. This is where children have the upper-hand. Instead of stressing over the thought of change, kids are more willing to adapt to new situations and circumstances.

I remember playing games with a friend who would consistently change the rules. It was almost like rule-changing was a game within our games. Instead of becoming frustrated, I had no problem adapting to the new way of doing things.

Being flexible is critical when working with brands and the media. You can’t always predict the weather, and you never know when a client might change their mind about something at the last minute. Your most detailed plan can quickly change on a dime. Flexibility is a must.

Clarity

clarity

When I was young, I was… I had a friend who was notorious for talking in circles when asking for what she wanted. She consistently would leave our teacher in a state of confusion. I always felt it was my job to clarify what she meant.  I learned early on how important it is to speak clearly to get desired results or actions.

Too often, people get upset over something they simply misunderstand. Communicating clearly is necessary in any profession, but especially in public relations. Reporters don’t have time to make sense of incoherent rants. Pitches must be tight to sell your clients in a way that’s interesting and concise.

Empathy

 empathy quote

Growing up, when I would witness a classmate embarrassing another student, I would immediately redden and feel horrible. Admittedly, my empathy levels are to the extreme, which isn’t ideal in all cases. However, it has served me well as an account executive when dealing with clients and the media.

It’s important to take the time to understand where people are coming from, what their business means to them and what struggles they’re facing. Being empathetic has also taught me to be open to opposing viewpoints, which comes in handy when working for a nonpartisan firm. Empathy lends itself to patience, good listening skills and personable traits — all of which are necessary for PR professionals.

Finessing Inherent Skills for a PR Career

While these characteristics put you on the right track to becoming a PR star, it’s important to continue to develop as a professional.

Candor employees are active in a number of organizations, like Public Relations Society of America; continue to earn accreditations, like an APR; and serve on public relations committees where they continue to learn from their peers.

Do you have a public relations need? Candor would love to hear from you!

How to Grow Personally & Professionally in 3 Simple Steps

 

February is an interesting month. It’s squeezed between the excitement of a new year and the anticipation of spring. It’s also the month my daughter turns 18.

While she is now old enough to vote, I worry she may not be ready to govern her life at college next fall. These thoughts keep me up at night, but I’m learning to embrace change because, ‘what’s the alternative?’

The same is true in business. When I birthed Candor in 2012, I never imagined my “baby” would become a fully-integrated agency. Heck, I won my first client sitting in my gym shorts and flip flops while chatting on a flip phone in my guest bedroom.

Needless to say, we’ve come a long way. Today, Candor is one of the fastest growing firms in Oklahoma. We’re housed on historic Film Row near downtown OKC — which is, perhaps ironically, one of the fastest growing districts in the city. We even have a cool building! Before being converted into an office space, Candor was the home of an old Pabst Blue Ribbon ice house.

Recently, we took a big leap of faith and added a 2,000-square-foot video production studio. The space includes a Facebook Live set in addition to a full edit suite. Video has become increasingly popular as a social media tool — and it’s not going anywhere. Here are a few things we know:

In addition to our building expansion, Candor recently had triplets. We added three new professionals to help with content creation, social media and video production. Adding new team members is always exciting, but it can create challenges with office space, onboarding and company culture.

So, what have I learned through the growing process?

  1. Control is an illusion.
    Being an entrepreneur is a lot like being a first-time mom. You want to control everything, including your well-meaning friends and family who tell you to relax and let go. But here’s a not-so-surprising secret: Business can’t grow until leaders relinquish some of their power. I’m pleased to say I’m no longer afraid to ask my colleagues to change a dirty diaper or two.
  2. Surround yourself with good people.
    Relinquishing power becomes a LOT easier if you start with this rule. At Candor, we hire folks with a can-do spirit. That may sound hokey, but it works. We simply don’t have room for entitlement. Good things happen when everyone works toward the betterment of others. Remember: You can’t spell Candor without ‘can do’! Okay, that definitely sounds hokey.
  3. Get out of your own way.
    Are you sensing a pattern? Sometimes you just have to let your family or coworkers do the heavy lifting. Whether dealing with a client deadline or a college application, real growth can’t happen if one person is always in charge.

Will someone please remind of me of this rule when my kid pulls out of the driveway for her first solo trek to college?

Lessons From Small Town USA

small town usa

Candor is located on Film Row, the up-and-coming district in OKC. But we don’t spend all of our time in hip and trendy spots. Candor represents multiple clients who have been expanding westward to rural Oklahoma. We’ve spent many hours in the land of cowboy boots and pie auctions, and we’ve learned a few things along the way.

I’m what some people call “city folk.” I am a type-A, on-the-go Millennial with my phone in one hand and coffee in the other. In rural areas, I’ve learned to slow the pace and focus on getting to know the people around me.

Asking questions and making conversation has become my favorite part of the job. Need to know about an event in Okarche? Ask the newspaper editor, and he’ll give you the history, the contact person and the best option for lunch afterward. Need to hold a meeting in Watonga? Call the Chamber of Commerce for a list of every event space and local caterer within 50 miles, photos and contact numbers included.

I’ve met reporters, principals, mayors, firefighters, landowners, rodeo coordinators and people from all walks of life.

These relationships are vital to Candor’s success, but they didn’t come through quick emails and cookie-cutter press releases. We took the time to send thank-you cards, learn about each town, ask for backstories and shake a few hands.

Relationships I’ve made through business became personal by simply taking the time to invest in others. Remembering details about an acquaintance or sending a congratulatory card hopefully makes me memorable and builds trust, which benefits both parties in the long run.

Maybe it’s time everyone takes a hint from people who live in other parts of the state or have different experiences. Not only do we benefit professionally, we grow personally and become more thoughtful and genuine neighbors.

The Horror: 7 Scary Things Clients Say to Agencies

scary things clients say

Want to give a PR pro nightmares?

In honor of Halloween, here are seven of the scariest things we hear from clients and prospects.

“The intern runs our social media.”

Although young people are often familiar with social media platforms from personal use, they usually aren’t brand experts. One inappropriate post can haunt a company’s reputation forever. Make sure there is a training process and someone experienced approving content if interns have access to social media accounts.

(And remember: A true pro will know all the tricks to delivering a high return on investment.)

“We don’t have Google Analytics.”

Google offers a free tool to track website traffic. It’s an effective way to peek behind the mask and measure the impact of advertisements, messaging and other tactics to raise brand awareness or sell a product. Analytics tools, combined with experienced interpretation, help brands determine what’s working, what’s not and how to adjust.

“We told the reporter ‘no comment.'”

Candor’s philosophy is to be honest and transparent with the media. Having nothing to say implies an organization has a skeleton in the closet. “No comment” robs an organization of the opportunity to provide context, especially on potentially damaging stories. It is better to be forthcoming and tell reporters when more information or answers will be available.

“I don’t know… could you just jazz it up a little?”

It’s part of a PR firm’s job to use its expertise to make things “pop.” But professional communicators need to fully understand the client’s goals and audience to create exceptional materials. They need partners who provide input and offer descriptive feedback; they aren’t gypsy mind readers.

“We’ll just print that in-house.”

Everyone wants to save money. But do-it-yourself printing can mean wasting staff time or sacrificing quality. Office printers don’t deliver true color, proper margins or full-bleed printing that really make a piece look professional. If you must print in-house, make sure the graphic designer is aware so she can design it accordingly.

“We want this story on the front page of the Sunday paper.”

Scaring up exceptional placement is always the goal when pitching stories. However, not every story meets the criteria for banner treatment, and reporters rarely determine where their work runs. When clients help us dig up a story that appeals to a news outlet’s audience, it increases the chances of getting on the cover.

“What have you done for me lately?”

If you hand out king-size Snickers bars one year for trick or treat and raisins the next, you’re going to end up with something unpleasant on your doorstep. That’s why PR pros always look for ways to deliver more to clients. We focus on providing sweet metrics – such as website traffic, media hits, video views, sales conversions, etc. – to demonstrate the value of our work. We survey consumers to understand how they feel about brands. And, especially at Candor, we try to look around the corner and suggest new ways our clients can reach their business and marketing goals.

Selling up the Chain of Command

 

Sometimes the most important sale to be made is within our own organization.

For example, we all have ambition. Some of us ambition to be recognized, others to be paid more. Some ambition to advance a cause, others to keep their job. But few achieve their ambitions in isolation. We need to persuade others we are worthy of their support. And persuasion – like it or not – is selling.

Most frequently, those in the best position to support us are in our upstream chain of command. So learning how to sell to our boss, or their boss, is critical to achieving our ambitions.

Here are a few tips fresh from the sales bullpen you may want to consider applying to your upstream communications.

  1. Sell as you go

Unfortunately, it’s often not enough simply do great work, assuming others will notice and appreciate it. Reputation is like a campfire. It needs to be regularly stoked or it will gradually turn as cold as ash. [bctt tweet=”Reputation is like a campfire. It needs to be regularly stoked.” username=”candorpr”] In communicating with upstream executives or board members, reinforce the value of your work relative to what is important to them. As sales trainers say, “Sell benefit, sell benefit, sell benefit.”

  1. Think like they think

As a dad, I had to teach my kids how to buy a gift for their mom she would appreciate, as opposed to gifts of interest to them. It’s not much different in business. Whether delivering a strategic plan, a business case, a status report, a presentation or just an idea, know what is important to the audience with whom you are communicating. Gift wrap your information in a manner they will appreciate and appreciation will be returned.

  1. Speak with candor

Don’t be a “yes” person. Executives cannot trust someone who only says what they believe another wants to hear. Instead, be straightforward, authentic and tactful in all communication.

  1. Anticipate objections

A mistake of many persuaders is the failure to anticipate objections. I have seen many great ideas shot down because the presenter was unprepared to answer an unexpected question. As a part of your communication prep, take time to anticipate objections and formulate your response to each.

  1. Understand it’s always about numbers

Don’t be fooled. The pool of funds available for any endeavor is limited. Every person in your chain of command has numbers for which they are responsible to monitor and achieve.  So don’t just report activity or progress upstream, also report results – how your activity has measurably moved the proverbial needle. Tie what you do to the numbers valued by those in charge.

Several years ago, I provided an update to my boss. The project had come in over budget, but we had exceeded client expectations. Expecting a pat on the back, I was surprised instead to be criticized for the overruns. His words were, “Excellent work in our company is expected. You still have to bring the work in on budget.” That was the last time I took upstream communication for granted.

Stoke the fire. Regularly.

 

What Raising Dogs Taught Me About PR

I’m a dog person. (Wo)man’s best friend has stolen my heart forever. I’m active in my local humane society and rescue organization as a volunteer and donor, and my family adopted two dogs into our home. I’ve learned a lot while trying to keep my furry kids happy, safe and alive. Some of those lessons apply to our clients at Candor.

1. It’s a 24/7 Job

dog with chew toyOne of the first lessons I learned as a dog parent is I have to be willing to get up in the middle of the night for emergency bathroom breaks. Every dog parent knows the sounds that wake them from a dead sleep faster than any alarm and send them racing to the door so the dog doesn’t mess up the rug again. In PR, a client crisis can happen any time, so I’m always prepared to jump into action. I monitor the 10 p.m. news and wake up thinking of new ideas for story pitches. The passion for the job carries well past 8 to 5.

2. Equal Attention

two dogs sittingMy husband and I recently adopted a second dog. I quickly learned the importance of giving each one equal attention. It is impossible to pet one dog without the other nudging impatiently. This lesson matters at Candor. We make sure each client gets our full devotion, so nobody feels left out.

3. Multiple Personalities

Odin and RubyMy Lab, Odin, is a couch potato who wants nothing more than to cuddle and watch TV with me. My German shepherd, Ruby, is constantly perched, watching the back door and waiting for me to throw the ball a million times. They have completely different personalities and needs. The same holds true with our clients. Some prefer text messaging, while others need formal email communication. Working in a PR agency requires intuition about what makes people tick. My job is a lot easier once I get to know clients’ needs and personalities.

4. Rewards Matter

dog with chew toyEverything is easier when treats are involved. My dogs always listen to basic commands. But if they are learning something new or being made to do something they’d rather not, they need an incentive. When Candor is working with new clients, sometimes there is skepticism about a certain tactic or strategy. Once the client starts seeing results, the PR lightbulb goes on, like a pup who realizes what it takes to get a reward. Some of the best days are when I know a client has seen the results of what we can do and they get excited for next steps. This process allows us to build trust.

5. It’s Messy

dogs with torn up toyI gather toys. I pick up pieces of toys. Sweep up hair. Clean the nose prints off windows. As a dog parent there are a myriad of messes. As a PR pro, cleaning up takes the form of adjusting messaging that went awry or developing a brand new strategic plan to get company goals back on track. This is when the fun really starts. I get excited when a company engages our firm for a brand or website audit. It’s a lot easier to notice the gaps or areas for improvement when you are on the outside looking in.

I’m fortunate to have found two passions in life: helping clients communicate their stories, and coming home to slobbery dog kisses every day.

5 Ways to Spot Fake News

I had a good career in journalism. My experience should make me an expert at spotting fake news. But the proliferation of information on social media means it’s challenging for anyone to decipher fact from fiction.

I have seen too many Facebook posts go viral, garnering thousands of angry comments, only to discover the story was bogus or repurposed from years ago.

Once, I was shocked to read about feces floating off the Hawaii beaches where my family lives. When I shared the story with my relatives, my direct sources discounted the stories.

Unfortunately, nobody can count on having a personal connection to verify or refute everything she reads. But if general users spent more time digging a little deeper and less time recklessly reposting, online angst might not ignite into a digital wildfire so often.

Facebook has joined the fight. The world’s dominant social network now offers an “educational tool” to weed fake news from current events. The company changed its algorithm to reduce the spread of bogus articles designed to deceive people. However, there is only so much social media platforms can do to identify fabricated stories. Readers must take proactive steps.

Here are five ways to find the facts:

1. Read beyond the headline

A new study reports only four in 10 Americans read more than news headlines. But readers must do more than skim the top if they want to know what’s really going on. Reading several paragraphs — perhaps even a full story! —  will help them spot misleading or incomplete headlines. They will also learn more about where information came from, which can help determine if it’s true.

2. Verify the source

Factcheck.org is a valuable resource to filter out false information from reality. Informed readers must stay up to date on a changing media landscape. It can be easy for small groups to publish professional-looking sites with no credibility, so readers must have their guard up. When people see a site with an unfamiliar name, they must ask a few questions, starting with, “Have I ever heard of this source before?” People should also read the website’s About Us section, double check the URL and see if anyone else is reporting the news.

3. Use multiple resources

Google News added a “Fact Check” tag to identify articles reviewed by news publishers and fact-checking organizations. Chrome extensions are another resource for technology to flag fake news sites.

4. Reframe the picture

Does a photo in the story look fake or seem unlikely? Dig deeper. Upload, drag and drop an image into Google Image to find the image’s origin. Many fake news stories, especially after disasters, take images from movies or previous events and pass them off as current.

5. Don’t take information at face value

Sometimes the news posted online is not new. The information presented is often misrepresented and outdated. Snopes.com has been a reliable reference exposing misinformation and myths for decades. Research the rumors, check the publication date and carefully inspect the domain name to shun out the satires.

Keeping It Real on Social Media

Did you see the story recently about coffee shops shutting down Wi-Fi to force people to interact? What about the memes of people glued to their mobiles in front of great works of art? Have you heard high-school dances are going extinct because teens would rather just Snapchat each other?

Everyone bemoans what mobile technology has done to personal interactions. But who would really give up their devices? Our pocket computers provide many advantages – including deepening our connections with loved ones – and someone without a digital connection would miss out on too much of the modern world.

The desire for connection creates challenges and opportunities for brands. When brands try to reach an audience, they must compete with millions of other companies, celebrities, friends and loved ones, cute animals, mainstream news sources and verbose politicians.

To break through, successful organizations need to find ways to make emotional connections with the audience, rather than just providing information.

One great way to make sure content – especially on social media – feels authentic is to imagine speaking to a real person. When I worked in internal communications, a conference speaker reminded people not to write for a generic group such as “fellow employees.” She suggested picturing someone specific, like Carol in accounting, or John from IT. Writing as if I were sending an email to a coworker helped me keep things simple and clear.

Brands must also remember what the audience wants. People who have already taken the time to like a Twitter account or follow on Facebook have demonstrated an interest in a product or service. They want information about upcoming events and new offerings. But to build trust and loyalty, users must sense a real person on the other side of the screen with real emotions – and perhaps a sense of humor. Nobody wants to read dry, corporate copy; so don’t write it.

Listening truly sets people apart on social media. Traditional media relied on “we say, they listen” communication; the technology required it. Too many organizations act as if things still work that way. They Tweet or post on Facebook without a plan for the next step. Anything interesting online draws shares, likes, comments and reviews. We recommend group organizations designate a person, process and culture for responding quickly and consistently. It’s the key to being seen as more than self-promotional.

Candor doesn’t believe any of this is easy. Making every follower feel as if they’re the center of attention may be the greatest communication challenge we have. But when organizations set authentic connections as the goal, they take a huge leap toward generating a loyal, passionate audience.

3 Ways to Ditch the Press Conference

Candor recently helped a client open a new location. They wanted to generate buzz and excitement.

In the past, we would have suggested blowing up some balloons, ordering a backdrop and a podium. Then, we would hope the press showed up for our news conference (maybe we’d even let them know there would be cookies).

Now, we have much better ways to share big developments.

1) Own the Content – We didn’t wait for reporters to spread the news. Instead, we turned carefully crafted talking points and Q&A materials into blogs, news releases, etc. and posted them to the company’s website.

Along with those tactics, brands can share content on social media channels. Send a digital newsletter.

Basically, we took control of spreading the message, rather than waiting to see if TV stations and newspapers would do the job.

Brand bonus: Allocate a budget for social media advertising to amplify the message to your target audience.

2) Go Live – We also grabbed a mobile phone and broadcast the grand opening live. Hundreds of people watched in real-time, and the video ultimately reached thousands of people. We also interviewed the client on-site and posted the mobile video later in the day.

Facebook and Instagram have launched incredibly successful live video functions. These broadcasts are unedited, authentic and in the moment – which is exactly how most people prefer their content. This tactic also accommodates understaffed newsrooms. Reporters under tight deadlines may be more likely to watch the announcement on their computer rather than traveling to the event.

Brand bonus: Have a staff member play reporter. He or she can pose questions to leadership, give a tour of a new facility or demonstrate the newest product.

3) Tweet About It – In addition to the client’s other channels, we posted to Twitter throughout the day regarding the announcement and grand opening activities. Many reporters use Twitter as a resource to gather information and story ideas, and we generated additional coverage with a few posts and photos.

We issued a press statement in 140-character chunks. Today’s news consumer has a shorter attention span, and many get their news while scrolling through feeds in their spare moments. This change is scary, but it represents the future of our society and presents new opportunities for engaged brands to take control of the narrative.

Brand bonus: Include short videos or creative infographics online to increase interest and social media engagement.

Ultimately, we were successful with our client’s celebration because we didn’t focus on doing things the way they used to be done.

There are many innovative tactics companies can use to share information and announcements with the public instead of relying on traditional media. With new ways to create content, brands must take advantage of digital media channels and rethink their old communication plans to reach audiences and goals.