Seven Habits of Highly Effective PR Pros (Part One)

Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of public relations professionals. Some are incredibly successful in generating coverage for their organizations, clients and causes.

Others struggle.

Although many factors come into those differences, I think there are seven “secrets” that separate the successful publicity pros from the also-rans. I will cover the first three here, and the other four in my next post.

Secret #1: Successful PR pros understand how the media works.

It’s important to understand the media’s frame of reference. Here I am talking mainly about mainstream media although many comments apply to “new” media as well.

In general, reporters are dedicated people, working to develop the stories they think will interest their audience. (I’ll use the term “reporters” to cover all mainstream media personnel, including editors and producers.) They have lots of deadlines and usually work under a lot of pressure. Many multi-task, developing written and visual content for print, broadcast and online.

To accomplish all this, they have to focus. So they filter things out based on several factors, including:

  • Their outlet: They’ll select different stories depending on whether they are a news outlet or feature magazine, for example.
  • Their beat: Reporters generally cover specific areas, such as local news, healthcare or technology. If your information doesn’t fit their beat, the reporters will reject it.
  • Other stories: They want to avoid “too much of one thing,” so they work to balance good news and bad, light stories and heavy news. They need balance.
  • Other media: Sometimes they cover a story because other media are covering it.
    • Personal biases: Reporters will be attracted to various stories because of their personal interests.

Successful PR people understand this and factor it into their contacts with the media.

Secret #2: Successful PR pros do their homework.

Before contacting any reporter, make sure you really know your product or service, your company and your market.

For your product, know its features and benefits, target customer, pricing, availability and the like.

For your company, know where you “fit” in the market. Are you a leader? An upstart? Something in between?

For the market, know your competition and the market trends. You want to be seen as a resource, as someone who understands the bigger picture. If you can provide information or resources to the media, even when there’s nothing directly “in it” for you, you will earn their respect.

You also need to know the media outlet you’re approaching, and the individual reporter you’re contacting.

By media outlet, I mean your target publication, radio or TV program, blog or podcast. What types of stories does it cover? What audience is it trying to reach? How often does the publication come out or the program air? What is its tone? Rolling Stone has a very different “feel” than The Wall Street Journal.

Avoid pitching stories that do not fit the publication or program. Don’t be like the PR firm that regularly pitched cooking recipes to a technology publication (true story). That was a sure sign the “pros” didn’t know what they were doing.

You also need to know the person or people who cover your market. What history do they have with your company or industry? How do they like to be contacted?

Targeting the “right” media and the “right” person can make all the difference. It’s true: 80 percent of your publicity will come from 20 percent of the media. Determine who those people are and develop relationships with them.

Secret #3: Successful PR pros develop good stories.

Publicity is the art of ethical storytelling.

One of the trickiest parts of the media’s job is to come up with fresh, relevant story ideas. Most newspapers and magazines carry only a small amount of hard news. Broadcast uses even less. A good portion of the coverage is devoted to feature stories, ranging from overview stories (that talk about what’s happening in a given industry or area) to human interest stories.

So identify the conflict, the controversy. Show how the story fits into the bigger picture. Provide context; explain what impact your story will have on people, businesses or the community.

Tell the media a good, true story. They’ll be grateful.

In my next post, I’ll share four more “secrets” of highly effective PR pros.

Kay Paumier helps B2B companies spread the word about their products and services, making them become better known, more credible and more profitable. Her public relations and communications services include publicity, media relations, writing, company and product launches, and presentations. Kay serves as WIC’s marketing and director. Her website is

About Kay Paumier

Kay Paumier works with B2B companies that are struggling to stand out in the crowd. She spreads the word about their products and services, making them better known, more credible and more profitable. Her marketing-communications services include public relations, publicity, media relations, writing, company and product launches, and presentations. Kay serves as WIC’s marketing director. Her website is

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Visit Us
Follow Me
Women In Consulting Blog