Your Ultimate PR Cheat-Sheet for 2017

May 5, 2017

You're going to want to take notes.Yes, we live in the age of digital marketing, but no, PR is not dead. Public relations is one of the oldest forms of marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of date. PR has adapted for the times, and your PR strategy should change, too. Your Ultimate PR Cheat-Sheet of 2001 looks very different from today’s Ultimate PR Cheat-Sheet. Today, we’ll walk you through the key points of public relations in 2017. Your ultimate PR cheat-sheet is coming right up, so grab a pen: you’re going to want to take notes.

Related post: We’ll See These PR Trends in 2018

Your Ultimate PR Cheat-Sheet for 2017


First: Know the Difference between PR & Publicity

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they mean two very different things. Even marketers confuse them. Publicity is one aspect of public relations. Think of it as just one tool in the tool kit of PR. Understanding the characteristics of each practice can help you to better execute them.

Public Relations

Public relations is your entire vision. It is how you want your business to be viewed by the general public and how you plan to bring that vision to life. Public relations includes sending strategic messages to the targeted audiences with the intention of influencing their behavior or opinions in some way. Your corporate message, community participation, reputation, crises, marketing, image, good press and bad press are all under the umbrella of public relations. Public relations does not deal directly with the people. You are putting information out there that may or may not receive engagement. Because it has such a calculated planning process, PR materials often have an air of removal unless they have specifically been written to connect with the  reader in a personal way.

Related post: 10 Tips for Mastering Public Relations


The sole purpose of publicity is to gain or redirect attention. Imagine public relations as a year, and publicity as a day. Publicity is a small part of public relations. However, you should not discredit the importance of publicity, as it strengthens your overall PR strategy. Publicity is the effort to gain coverage in newspapers, magazines, online and on television, to name just a few outlets. Publicists foster relationships with the media on behalf of the client. In most cases, you will be given a vision by a client and be asked to execute it. However, reality does not always match expectation and it may be impossible to deliver. The media is notoriously volatile and unreliable.

We have heard the phrase “all publicity is good publicity,” and this remains true in most situations, unless a truly horrendous act has been committed. The goal of publicity is to get the name of your client out there. The average person remembers very little of what he or she reads, especially when just skimming the Sunday paper, so do not fret about one mediocre article. The hope is that the reader will be able to recall the name of your company at a future date.

Good publicity does not automatically translate to increased sales. It takes a full marketing and public relations plan to accomplish this.

Second: Understand Common PR Misconceptions

When you’re the voice of public relations sense at your company, you deal with your fair share of common public relations misconceptions. Sure, you know the top three tips for getting your pitch read by the media, but the rest of the company doesn’t know it. Instead, they’ve got a warped sense of PR and how it works.

You’ve seen it all, heard it all. How did you react? What was your response? Here’s our top common public relations misconceptions and how to handle them.

1. Unworthy News

It’s hard to beat down excitement when your colleague is just. so. happy. Your colleague is a little too close to the “news,” and doesn’t recognize that the “news” really isn’t all that newsworthy. What do you do? See if you can make the little news a part of a bigger news story about the company. If that won’t work, encourage your colleague to write a blog post or newsletter about it instead.

Related post: What is Newsworthy?

2. Rogue News

What happens when a colleague talks to the media instead of going through you? You prepare for damage control, just in case. Then, talk to the colleague. Let her know that you’re there to make sure things go smoothly. Focus on the benefits and he’ll be less likely to go rogue next time.

3. “Free” News

You know that nothing in PR is guaranteed, but your co-workers don’t know that, so they’d like you create free media. Whether it’s a press conference, focus group, media stunt, gala…it’s unlikely and usually unnecessary. Instead, come up with a different strategy (utilizing more appropriate tactics, like mindful pitching)  to present to your overzealous colleagues and sell it to them. Sell it hard.

4. Micromanaged News

Ever received unsolicited advice about how to deal with the media, what to say to a reporter, or how the article should turn out? If it happens continuously, you’ll probably need to have an open, honest conversation with the person. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be more productive in the long run.

a close up photo of a photographerThird: Learn How to Build Relationships with Local Media

Building reporter relationships is one of the most important parts to public relations. Making connections with those to whom you are pitching is integral for your pitching success. Which is all well and good to say, but an different thing entirely to do. Not to worry – the next 100 words or so should help…

Put in the Time

Getting to know your journalists is a lot like getting to know anyone else—you have to put time into it. Start off slowly, using some of the techniques we mentioned in our previous post. Tweet at them, retweet their articles. Make sure that you actually read the article, and then send an email with your comments. Show that you have an interest in what they’re writing. Do some background research into them—read what they’ve written about the past weeks, months, years. Note any trends. Note biases. Note writing styles.

Be Helpful

Be helpful. Give them good, quality content, and accompany that content with secondary content when you can. Use videos, high-resolution images, infographics. Make the message visual, and that will appeal to both your journalist and/or blogger and to her readership.

Progress to In-Person Interactions

Once your journalist knows of you, you can try deepening your interaction with him or her. Buy her coffee and ask to chat. Get to know each other person to person and let your personality shine through. If that means cracking corny jokes, go for it. He’ll be more likely to engage with you if he can tell you’re not just spouting company mission statements and values.

And Repeat.

Continue to do more of the same—retweet their tweets, comment on their posts, and talk in person. Perhaps you’ll show up at his office for a quick catch-up. Maybe you’ll all go out for drinks after work. Devote time to getting to know her as a person and as a journalist, separately.

With honest, helpful, human interaction, you’ll form relationships with journalists, bloggers, TV personalities and radio DJs alike which will yield many a media mention for you.

Fourth: Follow this Advice for Getting Your Pitches Read

Everyone knows that getting your pitch read by the media is much easier said than done. You can spend all the time in the world crafting your release to utter perfection, but that counts for nothing if you don’t have a tried and true method for making sure your pitch isn’t met by a black hole on the other side of the PR/Media divide. Luckily, I’ve got a method, and the more I practice it, the better it gets. The same will be true for you, so read these top three tips for getting your pitch read by the media and get at it!

1. Personalize it.

I know, believe me. I know. Personalizing every email that goes out is much more work and way more time-consuming than coming up with your basic pitch and just changing the name each time. You will be much more likely to get a response if you take the time to start up a brief but sincere conversation (more on that “brief” aspect later). What made you pitch them anyway? Tell them what work of theirs you’ve recently read and why it fits with your current pitch. Actually, that leads me into my second point…

Milwaukee Public Relations2. Pitch the right person.

Take the time to research who you should be pitching. And then (this may seem obvious) pitch that person. No one else. Don’t blanket pitch an entire organization, because sending to more people doesn’t ensure that you’re getting your pitch read by the media. Research who would be the best to receive your pitch and focus on making that pitch really good. Dig into the person a little. What does he write? How often does she do reviews? Can you figure out personality from tone of voice? Use the information you’ve uncovered to make your pitch tailored to him or her.

Don’t hesitate to tell them that you’ve read their work, either. It shows that you’re putting in a little grunt work on your end.

3. Be brief.

Even though Steps 1 and 2 make for a more time-consuming approach to pitching, your pitch itself shouldn’t be very long at all. It doesn’t matter how witty and friendly you are; if it’s too long, your email will be deleted. Spit out what you want to say right at the beginning so that they know what the email is for. Some of my best, most successful pitches have been one or two liners. If it takes you more than one or two lines to convey the relevance of your pitch, fine. But don’t make your pitch one sentence longer than it needs to be.

Sure, you can keep using your same old tactics – they’re not hurting anyone. But why not give yourself the best chance for success? These tips for getting your pitch read by the media will put you well on your way…

Fifth: Learn how to do PR in Your City. Here’s a Quick Guide to PR in Milwaukee

Each city, town, community, village, etc. come with its own set of anomalies when it comes to the way things are done. The same anomalies apply in Public Relations – each community is different from the next. While there are certainly similarities between PR tactics in various cities, there’s usually a specific brand of PR in each place. In case you haven’t had a chance to figure out public relations in Milwaukee (or are just looking to compare your tips to ours), read on. We’re based in Milwaukee, and Milwaukee PR is what we know best. Here’s some of the insider tips we’ve learned throughout the years.

1. It’s not all about Beer and Cheese

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that public relations in Milwaukee means incorporating beer and cheese whenever possible (and then some). Milwaukee’s got a unique culture, and, sure, beer and cheese is a part of it. A part. There’s a fitness part, a creative part, a foodie part, a sports part, an organic part. Learn all the parts, and then learn how to use them to your best advantage.

2. Beer and Cheese doesn’t hurt, though

Okay, okay, beer is a big deal here in Brew City. Even if your pitches don’t fit into the beer and cheese-sphere, it’s good to note that many journalists and reporters enjoy a good happy hour. And, when in Rome…er, Milwaukee. Don’t be afraid to join in! Milwaukee is a hard-working, results-driven town, but she also likes to kick up her heels – and generally with a cold one in her hand. Insider Tip: The brewery tours here are great.

3.  Get involved in volunteerism

A lot of Milwaukee is involved in volunteerism outside of their 9 to 5. Usually, that volunteerism stems from a passion. Get involved in whatever you’re passionate about. Make friends! As usual, public relations in Milwaukee is all about who you know…but it sure is easier and more natural to meet people when you’re doing something you both love. Once you know who you know, work those connections, baby!

4. More on working those connections…

Here in Milwaukee, we’re genuine. Authenticity counts for a lot here, and you’ll get a lot further if you’re authentic, too. What this means is…don’t schmooze for the sake of schmoozing. Schmooze because you’re genuinely interested in what your media contacts are about.

Related post: We’ll See These PR Trends in 2018

RedMoxy Communications is an agency in Delafield, Wisconsin. Public Relations is a challenging but rewarding service that we love providing for our clients. Interested in learning more about what public relations at RedMoxy can do for your company? First, learn more about PR at RedMoxy here. Then, click here or contact us at [email protected]