Nov 18 2010

Joanne Taylor PR: Solid public relations pros think like journalists

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George Packer, The New Yorker

I just read “George Packer’s 5 Tips for Reporting on Anything,” from Steve Myers at Poynter. George Packer is a reporter for The New Yorker—a favorite weekly read at boise-based Joanne Taylor PR. Meyers asked Packer how he enters unfamiliar territory to report on complex subjects. I couldn’t help but liken this to the approach public relations pros take when preparing to launch a new product or service.

I’ve long thought that former journalists, or those who have trained themselves to think like journalists, are the best PR people. This article helps demonstrates why. We are familiar with Packer’s methodology, and we use it when we take on a new client, company, product or service.

I listed Packer’s five tips below and added to each one a similar practice that PR pros use on a regular basis. See if you agree with my analogies. If not, or if you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Don’t go in cold
We research the companies we plan to represent, as well as its products and/or services, its business objectives and sales goals, the competitive landscape, industry landscape, industry trends, related news and anything else that is relevant.

Find a guide to show you around
We ask product managers and sales guys to give us their pitch. We ask about target markets and the messages used for each one. We look at demos of the product and/or service, and ask questions. If there’s a manufacturing or shipping facility, we ask to see it. We also ask to be introduced to the people who work there. We talk to them and ask questions. Guides give us story angles.

Go in with a guiding question
What is it about this company, product or service that sets it apart from its competitors? Is it the first? The best? Is there something different/trendy about the way the company does business or the product is made? Who are the employees? What are their stories? Any of these can serve as guiding questions. We use them all the time, and often the answers provide news hooks.

Capitalize on your outsider status
As outsiders, we see fresh what insiders have been studying for weeks or months. We’re not tainted by company politics or hierarchy, emotional idea attachment or any of the other things that can sometimes turn a good communications plan to bad. We get paid to tell company executives what we think, so we do.

Capture those fleeting thoughts
Like journalists, we carry a notebook—a practice that is good for much more than capturing fleeting thoughts.