Effective PR pros Listen, Teach, Win


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by Margie Maddux Newman

Not all public relations practitioners (a.k.a. “flacks”) are created equal. I can say that because I am one. Day after day, I see folks out there giving my craft a bad name. Fortunately, there are many great PR pros who will ethically and strategically work to advance your goals. The good flacks serve as knowledgeable, curious and creative partners.  Here are three signs you’ve found one:

Effective flacks listen: if your new firm or in-house communications director shows up on the first day with a plan already drawn up and ready to implement – you’ve got a problem.  How can someone craft your communications strategy when they’ve never asked you about your vision, strengths, opportunities, threats, audiences, and goals? If your firm/comm. director does more talking than you do, tell them to hush; or go find a new one.

Effective flacks teach: I believe online reputation management will be the cornerstone of your successful PR campaign, but the mainstreaming of social media has ushered in a lot of self-declared “gurus.” It drives me nuts. Your business plan doesn’t call for a spiritual leader; you’re seeking the support of a tech-savvy person who will make your message more effective among people, on paper, and in pixels. Your PR pro should be transparent and coach you through the process. At the end of the day, you should be a better communicator because you’ve met this person, not rendered speechless by some secret sauce.

Effective flacks want you to win: one sign your PR pro has her eye on your prize is her willingness to do whatever it takes to get you there. To be clear, I’m not talking about unethical practices; I’m talking about playing well with others.  There may come a time when you need more than just that firm/individual’s hands on deck.  You may need support from both sides of the aisle; maybe you need to hire a digital marketing specialist or Web designer – whatever it takes. If your firm is hesitant to assemble an arsenal of creative/political/technical folks to advance your cause – you can bet they’re more interested in their invoice than your victory.

Whether you use an in-house communications director or an outside consultant, take your time and invest in high-performing, ethical, goal-driven public relations professionals.  Your reputation – and bottom line – will be ever-so-grateful.

Margie Maddux Newman is an award-winning pr flack, technology columnist and social media guinea pig.  A Nashville native, she currently lives, works, blogs and talks to strangers in Washington D.C.

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  • Good thoughts, just not thrilled with the word “flack” even in when used in a good context.

    November 12, 2009 at 4:09 pm
  • Mike Donnell

    Actually “flacks” don’t do any of those things. Sorry to hear you are admitting to being one.

    November 18, 2009 at 10:44 pm

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