Media Training

The Media Training Playbook

Every organization needs to make big decisions about their media relations approach. You must determine who within your organization will own the program and identify the conversations you want to lead. Once you’ve done this, you need to ensure your spokespeople are media trained and ready to take an interview on short notice.

Building muscle memory through media training

You wouldn’t send your sports team out to compete against their rival without practicing plays. The team has to build muscle memory and develop chemistry. Media training works exactly the same way. It builds your spokesperson’s muscle memory and familiarizes them with the process. With practice and coaching, they will know a series of plays to implement based on the type of interview.

media training is like sports

Types of interviews:

Your spokesperson may need to take an interview in the following formats:

  • Written responses via email that quote them directly in print or digital articles;
  • A phone interview or on-camera conference call that will quote the spokesperson throughout digital and print articles;
  • A podcast recording that will feature a Q&A style interview that turns into the basis for an article or is printed as submitted;
  • Broadcast interview in which the journalist will utilize an (on average) 30-second video segment of the spokesperson’s interview – sometimes these segments are live.

It’s important to note that each medium brings nuances in the way your spokesperson needs to deliver their message to be effective. Therefore, as you begin your organization’s media training journey it’s important to emphasize the differences in interview formats. The spokesperson’s technique will have to change with each.

For example, broadcast requires an additional set of skills as the spokesperson has to convey key messages via body language in addition to speaking. For broadcast, we usually like to bring in additional partners that solely focus on this medium in order to really help the spokesperson prepare for all of the nuances that broadcast demands.

Every time I advise clients on preparing for a broadcast interview, I kindly ask them to stay away from sounding and looking like Ricky Bobby on this now iconic scene from the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Take a look, and you’ll see why!

Developing a media training process for each type of interview – whether creating an internal training process or bringing in an outside professional – is key.

media training plays

Media training – how to get started

As you build a media training program or work with an agency such as ours to get your spokespeople trained, we recommend the following “plays” to build out your media training playbook:

Play #1 – Knowing why to prepare for a media interview

In coordinating with spokespeople for media interviews, it’s important to discuss the importance of training. They need to know why training matters and how it will help them in the long run. Getting your spokespeople bought in early on in the process is critical to ensuring future interview success.

Play #2 – Spokesperson Do’s and Don’ts

A critical part of media training involves walking spokespeople through things they should and should not do during the interview. For example, letting your spokesperson know which customers they can or cannot name publicly, as well as which facts and figures they can reference versus ones they cannot speak to, is key.

Everything a spokesperson tells the journalist is deemed “on the record”. If something they say isn’t fit for print, the spokesperson must explicitly get the journalist to agree that the information is strictly “off the record” before sharing. This can be very helpful to help them understand context without revealing private info publicly.

Play #3 – Different methods of answering questions

It’s important to identify different ways and tactics spokespeople can use to respond to questions. For example, at times, a journalist’s question may be long winded and a spokesperson’s natural tendency may be to go off on a tangent.

Identify these characteristics and walk the spokesperson through various ways of answering a question. The goal is to deliver quotable soundbites that stand out within the journalist’s report.

You should also practice scenarios in which the spokesperson must politely decline to answer a question if they do not have an answer for it or cannot publicly speak to it.

Play #4 – Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you’ve run through the initial plays, it’s time to put all of that muscle memory into gear and walk through several mock interviews. The spokesperson should be walked through interview exercises designed specifically for the kind of stories and reporters they’ll speak to.

As you do so, identify each reporter’s interview and reporting style and discuss what they respond to and how the spokesperson can adjust their messaging to be more effective for each journalist.

Practice makes perfect! As you start media training your spokesperson, ensure you are going over the above plays and getting them prepared to perform “on the field.”

If you need additional help, Ketner Group is available to help your spokespeople hit the ground running and achieve success! Contact us today to get started on your media training journey.

developing a media relations strategy

How to Launch a Media Relations Program: SoGal Webinar Recap

This past month, Ketner Group president Catherine Seeds and I had the pleasure of hosting a media relations strategy webinar with SoGal, a global platform for the education and empowerment of diverse entrepreneurs and investors. During this webinar, we provided attendees with key tactics and strategies to consider as they look to launch a media relations program.

We discussed:

  • Why businesses across verticals should consider a media relations program
  • The value of media coverage
  • The key steps to launch a media relations program

The top takeaways:

  • Do your research
  • Get to know your media targets
  • Personalize your conversation with each.

Here are some of the highlights from the webinar:

Why have a media relations program?

A media relations program can drive external awareness for your company through validated third-party sources.  Let’s say your company just landed its first round of funding or launched a new product in the market. If you do not tell your story, someone else will.

By creating a media relations program, you have the ability to tell your story to a member of the media community and reach multiple audiences beyond your own network.

What’s more, a media relations program can help bolster your company’s cache among a particular audience. Let’s say your chief data officer is well-versed in a particular technology within the healthcare industry.

You can generate media coverage by having them provide commentary for a relevant story a reporter is working on. Securing exposure for him/her as an expert on related hot button conversations positions your company as trustworthy and informed. Ultimately, it helps elevate your brand recognition and brings a sense that you can solve tough challenges.

Last but not least, a media relations program can build your company’s digital breadcrumbs. Highly relevant coverage helps you to rise through the ranks of engine search algorithms for your business’ key terms.

Tactics for building the program

As you consider creating the program, you must decide whether to run the program in-house or work with a public relations agency. Depending on what path you choose, we always advise that your company dedicate a single in-house lead. That person, often the CMO, can make sure the agency and internal stakeholders work together seamlessly.

When budget is tight or you’re just starting out, there are many easy and free tools available to help. For media opportunities, HARO and Qwoted are two platforms where reporters look for sources for stories they are working on.

As well, Twitter is an important platform to keep in mind. Identify and follow relevant reporters and engage with them regularly. Plus, they often post to Twitter when they need sources for a story. Sometimes even better, Twitter lets you avoid annoying pitches by keeping up with what they vent about.

Three best practices to launch a media relations program

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to begin. We often advise these top three best practices to get started:

  • Identify your target audience
  • Identify key conversations you want to drive
  • Do your research and build your top 20 list of media contacts and publications you would like to work with

After that, it’s time to begin your outreach and prepare for interviews!

Get to know your media targets

Many attendees emphasized the value of not just tracking journalists, but building an effective relationship with them. Really, the art of media relations is all about differentiating your company in the eyes of the journalist.

Take the time to really personalize your outreach to each of the media members you connect with. And make sure that the story you offer is relevant. We can’t overstate how much this helps you build an effective relationship in the long run.

As Catherine best put it, “nurturing those relationships will always pay off in the end!”

To learn more, download the complete webinar presentation.

People shaking hands during a business meeting

CMOs and Media Relations: A Symbiotic Relationship

It’s quite possible that chief marketing officers (CMOs) have had to answer the following question countless times; “do we need a media relations program?”  

Spoiler alert… the answer is yes!

In addition to creating thought leadership and external awareness, a media relations strategy helps feed top of the funnel marketing initiatives. As well, a robust media relations program provides the sales team with additional ammunition throughout the sales cycle.

However, CMOs and heads of marketing hold the secret ingredient to make a media relations program succeed – driving the relationship.

A symbiotic relationship

During my time as an agency-side PR professional, the best agency-client relationships and most successful media programs I’ve seen have had a CMO at the wheel.

CMOs provide a holistic awareness of what is going on throughout their organization and understand the type of information that is most helpful for their customers and prospects. As such, CMOs can serve as the ideal conduit for information to flow between internal and external audiences.

Developing a strong media relations program requires knowing how your company serves customer needs and how industry trends affect the market. There’s no better person to lead that than the CMO.

Making the connection

As you position your company for media interviews, keep in mind that the CMO can serve as a primary spokesperson for the reasons discussed above. In the past, some of my clients have flagged concerns about having the CMO take interviews.

However, given their leadership over corporate and product messaging as well as customer needs, CMOs have proven themselves to consistently offer unique and valuable data and context during media interviews.

During every media interview, CMOs should look to create a personal relationship with each media contact. It’s no secret that reporters have to move at the speed of light to cover breaking news. They need a portfolio of sources they can tap to gather a balanced perspective of what the breaking news means for a particular community.

As CMOs connect with new media contacts this is a time to share the particular topics they can offer expertise on and available to discuss as news evolves.

After the interview, we often recommend that the CMO connect with the reporter. The best way is on social media, discussing recent stories, current industry trends or even funny discussions taking place in the Twittersphere. Just as CMOs do with customers, it’s about building a relationship with the media to stay top of mind.

A CMO’s media relations strategy during COVID-19

From a media relations perspective, today’s environment demands increased responsibility in the type of information we share externally.

CMOs need to take the personal media connections they’ve made and analyze how their company can further serve reporters’ needs in an efficient and responsible manner.

It’s about asking what kind of information is needed and useful for the reporter, as well as for their customer base. As well, CMOs also have the responsibility to work with their communications team and PR agency not only to align timing for company announcements with other marketing campaigns but to ensure the media and public will be receptive to the forthcoming announcement.

It’s critical to have all stakeholders and experts on hand to evaluate what is appropriate to announce and what should be put on temporary hold in the current climate.

We all hold a responsibility to limit misinformation and provide helpful commentary. CMOs across organizations can serve as guardians, conveying information that is helpful and informational in a time of crisis.

Strengthening the CMO-driven media relations program

As CMOs continue to get more comfortable with their media relations programs they can succeed by serving as conduits of information, fostering a personal relationship with media contacts and serving as guardians against the spread of misinformation.

Marketing and media relations go hand-in-hand, creating new paths of growth for a company and a powerful asset for brand building. The secret ingredient to making these programs work together lies with the CMO.

Person holding microphone for media interview

Media Interviews: Best Practices for Spokespeople

If your company has ramped up its public relations and marketing program, chances are, your company has been asked to take media interviews.

Whether this is the spokesperson’s first time or their 100th time to take a media interview, their ability to successfully drive the interview is critical to achieving the desired coverage.

When it comes to media interviews, each spokesperson must find their own unique style. After all, a journalist is typically reaching out to a particular spokesperson because they need a subject matter expert. Therefore, exuding confidence and knowledge during the interview process is a must.

Tips for nailing the interview

Though each spokesperson should have their own unique interview style, there are a few things you can do prior to the interview to prepare and nail the talking points.

Do your research

Just as the journalist did his/her research before reaching out, the spokesperson should do the same. Getting to know the journalist’s reporting style will help the spokesperson provide relevant points during the interview. Doing the research will also provide the spokesperson with additional fodder to create a connection with the journalist during their chat.

Keep in mind that journalists receive more than 100 emails a day and take about 3-5 interviews on a daily basis. Therefore, ensuring that you are providing a differentiated point of view and unique data points, will help the journalist explore different angles to the story they are working on.

As well, if you are currently working with a PR agency, the agency should work to gather sample questions ahead of time and provide the spokesperson with a media profile that highlights the journalist’s experience to help the spokesperson prepare.

Talk it out

Keep in mind that the interview can happen in a variety of ways; via phone, in-person, podcast recording or over live broadcast. We recommend having the spokesperson undergo a mock interview training process to identify areas of improvement and hone their unique interview style.

Keep in mind that public speaking is not everyone’s forte and therefore, practice makes perfect. Having the spokesperson run through several mock interviews that go over the nuances of all these forms will only help the spokesperson perfect their style.

For example, if the spokesperson plans to do a live broadcast interview, taping the person during the mock interview process and then reviewing the tape will help the spokesperson identify areas of improvement in clarity, tone and body language. This will help the spokesperson ace the 15-30 second segment that will eventually make it on air.

This will help avoid the scenario Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights found himself in when being interviewed live and he kept raising his hands up to his face, saying to the broadcaster, “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” With a little practice, you can avoid this problem during your spokesperson’s interview process.

During the interview

It’s go time! As your spokesperson speaks to the journalist remind them that everything they say to them should be deemed “on the record.” Key tips to keep in mind include:

  • Provide soundbites. Remember that the journalist may only use a portion of the interview in their story. Therefore, ensure that your comments quickly relay the key messages you want to be published.
  • Provide unique data points, numbers and statistics that you can reference publicly.
  • Be energetic, honest, transparent and yourself.
  • Do not answer a question you do not know. It’s ok to not know the answer to every question.
  • Do not comment on speculation.
  • Do not name any customers that you cannot reference publicly.

After the interview

As the term states, media relations is about building a relationship with each media contact. Therefore, ensure your spokesperson connects with the journalist to thank them for the interview. Additionally, connecting with the journalist via Twitter and LinkedIn will not only help the spokesperson keep the relationship going with the journalist, but will also help to keep a pulse on their ongoing coverage.

As we’ve mentioned before, practice makes perfect! If you have an upcoming media interview, now is the time to start preparing. Utilize the above helpful tips to get started, but don’t be afraid to call in the pros once your program really takes off!

analysis-of-market

The Data Formula: How Unique Data Drives Top-Tier Coverage

Clients often ask me, “How can we achieve top-tier coverage in publications like CNBC or The Wall Street Journal?” While there are a variety of ways to achieve this goal, one of the best ways to drive top-tier coverage is by collecting and sharing data.

However, you must remember that not all data is created equal. Let’s take a look at the factors you should consider to provide reporters relevant and useful stats worthy of top-tier placement.

Type of Data

By definition, data means “facts and statistics that are collected together for reference or analysis.” As you look to land interviews with top media contacts like Bloomberg or Business Insider, remember your data should serve as a reference or validation point for the reporter. For example, if the reporter’s beat focuses on how AI is influencing the workplace, you should point to key trends within that subject, adding further context to that particular topic.

A good example in this instance could be results from a survey of employees from various organizations and verticals about their opinions on AI. Whatever the subject, ensure your data is robust enough to answer key questions on current trends. As well, always avoid any promotional or self-serving message. Think of the data that you are providing as the greatest asset you have to highlight your expertise within the particular subject you are validating.

Know Your Audience

Now that you’ve identified the type of data, it’s time to ‘get to talking!’ What I mean by this is that you must do your due diligence and speak with each reporter you are looking to work with and identify the relevant data. For example, if you are working with a reporter who has extensively covered holiday sales outcomes in previous years, reach out to them prior to the start of holiday sales this year. Your goal should be to come away with a full understanding of what the reporter will be focusing on during each season and how your data can add third-party validation to their reports.

Timing is Everything

As you plan to send each journalist the stats you’ve collected, remember that timing is everything. For example, let’s say you own a financial services company that helps consumers file their taxes by the Tax Day deadline. The best practice here is to begin compiling relevant data about six-to-four weeks out from the deadline in order to showcase major trends that will emerge during Tax Day. As well, having the ability to provide key stats to reporters in real-time will also help you win at the coverage game.

Learn From Data Success Stories

Let’s take a look at a top example of a company who has owned the data success game recently, Adobe. If you can recall 2018’s Cyber Week sales coverage, chances are you saw the name Adobe everywhere you looked. Adobe achieved this by providing key statistics on popular trends, such as online conversions and voice assisted shopping to top reporters. It also shared this data in both real-time and as a recap, earning recognition in Fortune, Reuters and many other tier-one publications.

The Data Formula

So, remember, if top-tier coverage is a top-tier goal for you, the best way to get it is by following the data formula. It’s all about providing authentic value and unbiased third-party analysis to help a reporter write a compelling story. The process starts early as you identify the type of data you can provide and make initial connections with your journalist base. This preparation makes execution easy, and once you know which audience and data findings are a match, you’ll just need to hit ‘send’ when the time is right.

planning a strategy

Three Best Practices to Create a Meaningful Media Relations Strategy

One of the first questions we ask clients is “what does media relations success look like to you?”

As you may expect, the answers vary throughout – and with good reason. When it comes to media relations goals, not all strategies are created equal. Why? It’s because clients across the board have different goals, which makes each media strategy highly unique. As we work with clients on their media strategies, we use the following key points to get the planning started:

Media Relations Question #1: Identify Your Target Audience

Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, identifying your target audience should be the first step. Who do you want to connect with? The publications you go after will vary depending on if your desired audience is the C-suite, baby boomers or Gen Z. While top-tier publications such as WSJ, CNBC and USA Today should be a top goal, it’s important to not discount the trade publications.

Trade publications reach a particular audience that may be interested in learning more about your niche or product. As such, it’s important to identify the exact audience you wish to reach in order to move the needle for your business.

Media Relations Question #2: Identify Your Key Conversation

The next question we ask clients is to identify the conversations they would like to own, be a part of and even stay away from. In the world of media relations, thought leadership is key. Companies can drive thought leadership by offering compelling insights that journalists cannot attain anywhere else.

As a best practice, we ask our clients to be highly targeted within their thought leadership approach. As American philosopher Nicholas M. Butler best put it, “an expert is one who knows more and more about less and less.” By identifying their key conversations, clients can highlight their expertise and garner the type of media coverage that will drive positive exposure.

Media Relations Question #3: Identify Your Top Publications & Media Contacts

The final step is to narrow down the journalists and publications your company will build a relationship with. As the term ‘media relations’ infers, thought leaders should build genuine relationships with key media contacts that cover their space.

Receiving an average of 300 media pitches per day, journalists have limited capacity to sift through every email and pitch. As a best practice, we recommend working with our clients to build a list of the top 20 journalists that they will build a relationship with beyond just a single pitch. For example, going beyond the pitch means that our clients will work to actively follow their columns, connect with them on social and whenever possible, meet with them in-person to discuss different industry trends. The more a journalist knows about a company and its thought leaders, the likelier they are to reach out next time they need a source.

Working Toward Meaningful Coverage

Cracking the media relations world can be a tough task without the proper knowledge and direction. However, by working to answer the first initial questions, companies can set the foundation for a strong media relations strategy that drives meaningful coverage. Learn how to drive meaningful coverage for your business by asking these three questions about your media relations strategy.

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Shoptalk 2019: Consumers Lead the Retail Evolution

At Shoptalk 2019, Shoptalk founder, Anil Aggarwal, asked, “what will retail look like ten years from now?” It’s an interesting question. The retail industry is changing at an unprecedented pace, thanks to consumers’ changing expectations. And retailers are answering the call with new initiatives that will have a lasting impact on retail.

It’s important to explore the depths of which consumer behaviors are changing retail. For example, Facebook’s VP of Ads & Business Platform, Mark Rabkin, stated that consumers are proving how quickly they can get into new models of consumption. Meaning, consumers who normally adopt new trends every six months are now adopting new trends on a monthly basis. This new adoption model has quickly driven retailers to experiment with new customer experience concepts. Below are a few interesting ones seen and heard from the Shoptalk floor.

Macy’s Pursues Mobile and In-Store Experience

Jill Ramsey, Macy’s Chief Product and Digital Revenue Officer, and Rachel Shechtman, Brand Experience Officer, discussed retail’s next chapter. Taking a look at Macy’s most-loved traditions like its Thanksgiving Day Parade and holiday display windows, Ramsey and Shechtman identified key areas to make the Macy’s shopping experience iconic with digital and in-store components. Ramsey highlighted how Macy’s mobile app is now the retailer’s year-round display window, bringing shoppers aesthetic and curated shopping experiences that drive inspiration.

Macy’s also created a new initiative, Macy’s Style Crew, driven by store associates. The retailer tapped into its employee base to identify micro-influencers who can showcase their fashion and style. This initiative showcases Macy’s products beyond the retailer’s four walls and drives inspiration. Within the store, Shechtman discussed her work with Macy’s to create curated in-store experiences that facilitate shopping for consumers.

Startups Merge Digital and Physical

Discussions also highlighted how digital pure players are finding a home in brick and mortars. For example, both Madison Reed and GlamSquad, who traditionally offered their services offline, have teamed up with established retailers and opened their own locations to create full-circle shopping experiences. For example, GlamSquad who brings mobile beauty services to consumers’ homes, opened beauty kiosks at CVS. Meanwhile, Madison Reed opened Color Bars in select locations around the country. Both of these digital pure players agree their digital presence is key, but their newfound physical presence taps new audiences. While their digital presence put them on the map, their physical component takes their shopping experience to the next level.

Rent the Runway and Crate and Barrel Offer Services

Crate and Barrel discussed rethinking the in-store experience to deliver customer experiences that live up to the expectations of today. Crate and Barrel’s CEO, Neela Montgomery, discussed different partnerships with companies like Zola, a wedding planning and registry company, to facilitate the shopping experience.

As well, Rent the Runway’s COO Maureen Sullivan discussed how the company gives shoppers the ability to shift from ownership to access with the ability to utilize Rent the Runway year-round.

Retail Ten Years From Now

So, what will retail look like ten years from now? The truth is no one can answer that question just yet. However, as consumers continue to run the show and retailers answer the call, it appears retail will become more service oriented than ever. The new age of retail will also continue to focus on delivering fun experiences that drive inspiration and continue incentivizing consumers to shop. It will also blend the lines of physical and digital, creating unique experiences upon every iteration.

Social Media Week Austin Delivers Key Business Insights

Social Media Week Austin brought together social media experts, digital power players and brands last week. Gathering at the UT campus, featured speakers from Bumble to Whole Foods Market spoke about their experiences using social media. In total, more than 100 speakers shared ideas and actionable insights with an audience of 800 industry peers. As well, our very own client, Laura Musa of Adlucent, provided key insights for making social performance soar.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Stories.” Designed to empower professionals with a deeper understanding of social media strategies for business, this theme explored the role of social media in spreading awareness, news and stories across platforms.

The Critical Role of Social Media

Social media is under more of a magnifying glass than it’s ever been before. As usage becomes more widespread, more regulations have kicked into high gear. For example, Facebook underwent scrutiny for certain practices uncovered within its data collection strategies. Platforms like Instagram also had to implement regulations for influencers announcing paid partnerships.

These new regulations improve the safety and accuracy of social media advertising and digital marketing. And as consumers discover new products on social platforms, they also look for transparency in the ads they see.

Austin Isn’t the Only City With Social Media on its Mind

With this thought in mind, this year’s Social Media Week Austin brought together the best in the business. Given Social Media Week takes place in over 28 cities, the Austin conference provided attendees with a global scope of everything going on in the world of social media.

Find the full list of cities hosting their own social media weeks here.

The Rapid Response Formula – Insight, Data, Speed

As Talladega Night’s Ricky Bobby avidly proclaims in a pronounced southern accent, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” While this quote cracks me up, it rings quite true in a rapid response scenario. If you’re not among the first to provide a comment after news breaks, chances are, you’ll get lost in the noise. However, speed is not the only component of a successful rapid response formula. To garner media mentions, your rapid response should be prompt, include unique insights and highlight pertinent data.

While this is easier said than done, PR professionals can follow a few tips and tricks to ensure speed when sending out a rapid response.

Tip One: Monitor the News

Effectiveness in the rapid response world means keeping an eye on breaking news. This step requires you to think like a journalist. As a best practice, we recommend looking at your top 15 media contacts and analyzing what topics they regularly cover. For example, if they cover retail and technology, do they cover breaking news from retail giants like Amazon and Walmart? If so, the best way to offer timely and relevant rapid responses is to go straight to the source.

For example, publicly traded companies issue press releases and hold quarterly earnings calls, which journalists usually attend to get the scoop. Therefore, by making the time to read the press releases and attend these calls, your company can stay ahead of the curve on breaking news and deliver a speedy and timely response.

Tip Two: Figure Out Your Unique Position

Once you gain understanding of the breaking news, it’s time to figure out what to say. You may have to decipher whether media contacts need an analytical point of view, a forward-looking prediction, or an explanatory statement that discusses what this breaking news means. Remember that your rapid response should add value to the journalist’s story. Once you figure out your position, it’s time to bring in data insights to back up your statement. The more unique the data, the better, as it will help both journalists and readers understand your company’s point of view and help establish you as an expert source.

Tip Three: Craft Your Response

Now that you have all your components, it’s time to craft your rapid response! We typically recommend sending journalists a paragraph or two that can easily serve as a quote. Within these paragraphs, focus on what is important and unique. Rather than summarizing the breaking news, acknowledge it and provide your statement with key data insights.

When it comes to the perfect rapid response formula, remember to think speed, insight and data. As you start to think like a journalist, you’ll understand what the media needs for their next breaking news story.

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PRSA ICON 2018: It’s All About Relevant and Data-Driven Content

Last week, the Ketner Group team attended the PRSA 2018 International Conference, better known to the public relations community as PRSA ICON, in our own backyard here in Austin, Texas. If you are not familiar with the conference, it’s designed specifically to help the communications community enhance our personal and professional network through career development and connecting with other PR practitioners.

Needless to say, the KG team definitely networked, and we DEFINITELY returned to the office with new ideas and methods for bettering our professional craft. We heard inspiring keynotes from Do Something’s CEO Aria Finger and digital marketing pioneer Ann Handley. The PRSA ICON breakout sessions we attended were all about perfecting your messages in clear yet relevant ways, and also explored new sectors of the communications industry. Here are just a few tidbits of the best practices we learned at PRSA ICON this year:

Lesson One: Communicating should ALWAYS be about your audience

Although as communication professionals we may think we are clearly delivering our messages, that may not always be the case. As we learned at the conference, we currently live in the age where content is king, but that can lead to a vicious cycle of “churning and burning” an immense amount of content, losing sight of one key component: your target audience. For example, think of a scenario where someone is just talking at you, instead of trying to understand what experiences or topics may be relevant to you based on your experiences and former knowledge – chances are, mid-lecture your mind will start drifting away to more relevant thoughts.

Therefore, your audience should always be at the forefront of the message. Key questions like ‘what is my audience’s point of reference?’ and ‘why would this be relevant to them?’ and ‘what does my audience need?’ should always lead your messaging strategy. After all, if you lose your audience, who is going to read your content?

Lesson Two: We are all, or should strive to be, data analysts

We live in a digital age where every search and click is tracked. And while we in the PR world are notorious for disliking math and preferring words over figures, it’s time to join the data revolution. At PRSA ICON, we discussed the need for PR professionals to dive into the world of data to create an even bigger need and sense of interest for each and every story, while continuing to make our pitches and strategies not only timely but also informed and relevant. As IBM’s Brandi Boatner explained during her workshop, while the world of data is intimidating, the key here is to start one step at a time. She recommended starting with Google Trends and then identifying data sets that are relevant to your communications strategy. As Boatner explained, when you dive into the world of data, you should not try to analyze a large amount of data all at once, as both you and your audience will be overwhelmed: “A good storyteller masters things that are unseen and with AI and data analytics, you can create a communications strategy that quickly identifies and gets ahead of trends.”

Lesson Three: Social media influencers are now a staple in public relations

As industry conversations continue to heat up on the effectiveness of social media influencers, the fact is, social influencers are now and will continue to be a staple in the world of communications. (Ketner Group recently profiled one such influencer in a recent blog!) What’s more, social media influencers can help companies effectively grow organic audiences and customers they would not have had before. As we learned at PRSA ICON, leveraging social media influencers for your communication efforts is a matter of conducting diligent research to identify the right influencers that will create a new level of authentic communication between you and your target audience.

As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” And in public relations and communications as a whole, there is something new to learn every day! We look forward to implementing the lessons learned at this year’s conference into our communications craft as we continue to be life-long learners in this industry.