Samantha McGarry Archive
I’ve been working in PR for over two decades and, even to this day, nothing makes me happier than when I land a great piece of media coverage for a client. To me, this joyful moment happens when three elements come together in unison: a great pitch, a solid relationship with a reporter, and the right timing.
Once upon a time, great media relationships were built over lunches, press conferences, phone calls and in-person media tours. But times have changed and so has PR. Today, while phone calls still matter a great deal, in-person meetings are rare. The good news is that we now have Twitter and it’s a huge and, I think, untapped, asset for building relationships with reporters.
I love words. I’ve always been strangely attracted to them. I studied literature and foreign languages, semantics and etymology, drama and media, fascinated by the roots, meanings, power and influence of the spoken and written word. Fast-forward a couple of decades and words are at the very core of my profession in PR. Just as it is for fellow PR and marketing executives, bloggers and journalists, words are the currency of our careers.
One of my pet peeves is laziness in writing: when people select an easy word instead of searching for a more potent, concise or elegant choice. At the same time, I’m also a fan of plain language, saying something as it really is rather than forcing words into impersonal or clumsy corporate speak. After all, we’re just humans talking to humans, right? On that point, can we all promise to try a little harder next year—please?
You may be a media maven or a social superstar, an astute strategist or a canny writer, but in the PR agency world, this means little if the client ain’t happy.
I’ve been a PR consultant as well as a client so I’ve seen both sides of the fence. I know what it’s like to operate on the outside, trying to read the tea leaves to figure out what’s going on in my client’s world. And as an in-house PR manager, I’ve also experienced the frustration of my inherited PR agency not completely being on the same page as me (I corrected that quickly).
Walking in your client’s—or your prospect’s shoes—is an essential skill for any PR practitioner. It’s not something you can learn in a book. It’s a state of mind, a commitment.
Last year’s post about 10 words to retire in 2011 spurred so much debate among us PR folks that we felt compelled to update it with a throng of words that we firmly believe need a permanent “timeout” or a creative refresh in 2012.
Fellow communicators – we are wordsmiths at our core, so consider this a call to arms!
Let’s take some lessons and inspiration from the literary world to come up with better and more descriptive words. Unexpected, creative and imaginative words – and let’s not forget muscular verbs – will help our press releases, pitches, tweets and other content cut through the morass of bland, jargon-filled marketing content. Our prose needs to get the attention it – and our clients – deserve. After all, we want to write content that people will read and share.
This Brit is shocked and disturbed by yesterday’s stories in The Guardian and Mashable about how the British favo(u)r shutting down Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry in cases of social unrest, according to a recent survey. Apparently, 70 percent of British adults would support this!
As I wrote this summer, social networks were not to blame for the London riots and I’m sad that my fellow Brits do not appear to be on the same page. Now, I’m not one to get political but, to me, social media epitomizes the very essence of free speech and democracy. Social media empowers us with a voice and a conversation. The majority respects the opportunity that social media presents; inevitably a minority will abuse it.
Recently, I caught up with a pal who teaches a writing course to students at a local college. We were discussing whether the ability to write well is innate or if it has to be learned. We agreed that the answer lies somewhere between the two – some people have the natural ability to express themselves succinctly and elegantly, others need to be taught. I’m sure that maturity plays a role too.
Still, I am regularly frustrated when I read any written communication that is flowery, overly formal, or just plain lazy. By lazy, I mean grabbing the first word that comes to mind, rather than tapping into the brain’s vast vocabulary to extract “le mot juste” to perfectly express your intent.
Like so many others, I was shocked, upset by and, yes, ashamed of, the violence and rioting that took place in my hometown of London and in other cities across the U.K. last week. The news reporting, videos, images, tweets and Facebook posts allowed me to follow each ghastly chapter in this three-night horror story that dramatically revealed the deep social unrest lurking beneath the veneer of our traditional British civility and good cheer.
But what I found equally troubling were the many newspaper, TV and online reports that purported that social networks were somehow to blame for the rioting and looting. To this I say “rubbish!”
I couldn’t really call myself a communications professional if I didn’t have an opinion to offer about Google+, the newest kid on the social network block. Like the almost 10 million others, I too have been tooling around on the site, wondering if this – Google’s third attempt at the social scene – is … well, I’m not actually sure how to describe it. Not as the “answer to all our social networking problems,” as truthfully I think millions of us are doing just fine using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. But there are so many that are enthusiastic about the new service – and so many reporters, marketers and self-professed experts that are already dissecting, promoting and even parodying it – that I felt compelled to add my two cents: