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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7 Responses so far.

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

  2. […] good folks over at Green Buzz Agency gave me a chance to pen a guest post about the makings of an effective PR pro. The Green Buzz-ers are digital media strategists and […]

  3. Great insights.

    I have two more:

    1. I think good PR pros, and consultants, are always looking for out for their clients; for example, if they see an article that would be useful for them, or a potential opportunity, then they will always let them know.
    2. They will always be truthful and realistic with you.


  4. Mike Donnell says:

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

  5. Margie says:

    Tracey — thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! I agree about keeping an eye for your folks; that is key.

    Abbie and Mike — I hear you on the disdain for the term “flack,” but, as Abbie and I have already discussed via Twitter, it’s kinda my thing (see http://www.flackrabbit.com; #dcflacks); let me tell you why I use the term:

    For me, the name started out nearly ten years ago as a joke between me an a few State beat reporters and it stuck — I’m honored it did. Here’s why: at first, the guys would say “oh, here comes another flack,” then, “hey, you’re not half bad for a flack,” then, “you give flacks a good name,” then, “I’m going to stop calling PR people flacks because that would be calling them ‘good at their job’ since that is what you are. Maybe I’ll call them PR pros.” Again, it’s a joke.

    Building my reputation as a PR pro took years of relationship building (still does) — I’m proud I can give Flack a good name. You aren’t alone in disliking it; however, I’ve made a conscious decision to take back the name instead of wincing at the mention of it.
    .-= Margie´s last blog ..YOU are your best flack | Her Nashville Chic Geek, November =-.

  6. Miji Pearse says:

    Great read! I was happy to see that I am a “budding” good flack! I get the joke and find humor in it. Looking forward to reading more about your practices and process to becoming a PR pro.
    .-= Miji Pearse´s last blog ..QMIJI: Def a budding flack RT @GreenBuzzAgency Three Signs You’ve Found an Excellent PR Firm or Consultant | Green Buzz Agency http://bit.ly/1iIWIB =-.

  7. This is such a great blog, it is defienitly going into my favoorites.
    .-= Digital Marketing´s last blog ..Are Cookies Obsolete? =-.

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