I was just starting my 2020 list of my best pieces of PR advice when a client shared Brooke Hammerling’s insights from her TechCrunch interview.

I was so relieved to read her similar experiences and takes on PR, especially public relations in the tech and start-up sector, that I almost cried real tears of joy. Ms. Hammerling’s article is exclusive for TechCrunch subscribers, and I rarely try to work around paywalls (because I believe in paying for news) but her insights are so important to startups and modern founders that I feel the need to at least share the article and the highlights that I agree with.

For the full article sign up for Extra Crunch exclusives and view it here.

When Hammerling started her PR firm, Brew PR, the “tech media was experiencing the same barrage of disconnected and unwanted emails and phone calls from people they’d never heard of pitching them on companies or events they’d never heard of.”

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When she began, Hammerling solved that problem for her clients by taking the “time and energy to understand what individual reporters cared about, their stance on big issues and the general landscape of the industries they covered. She built relationships with reporters and promoted a culture within Brew where the media was treated as a client.” Yep, bad media relations has been around for a while!

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In 2020, sophisticated practitioners know that random spam attacks on journalists are not what gets top coverage.

Like me, Hammerling does not believe in the myth of the golden Rolodex and in her interview she was very direct in her explanations of what does and does not work in PR. Especially the fact that promises of coverage are a red flag for anyone looking to hire a PR pro or agency.

Hammerling shared several interesting stories that highlighted her commitment to having difficult conversations. Like me, or any experienced communications professional, she knows that her job is to advise and counsel her clients, not simply bow to their every desire. She noted that she has fired clients and said no to successful companies due to their outrageous demands (guaranteed cover of Forbes!) and bad habits made them a risk for her personal brand and her company’s good reputation.

I talk a lot about creating cultures of communication and having the right person working closely with the CEO to ensure that the organization is maximizing authentic brand storytelling opportunities. Hammerling and I both agree that the right team is what makes for a successful PR investment and that size does not matter. What is important in order to ensure that a company’s PR investment pays off is that the agency (or consultant) has (is) a leader who wants to take the time to understand the company, the product, and the marketplace before they engage the media.

I am always so relieved when I see great examples from the PR industry, whether it be individuals, agencies, or in-house teams. TechCrunch’s article really helped me personally to set the tone for 2020 and I know my list of must-read PR tips is spot on when I read similar insights from such smart, experienced, PR professionals.

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2020 list of 20 must-follow PR tips:

  1. The CEO of Founder is the voice of the company and needs to have a direct line to PR leadership. Do not tuck PR under marketing, where there are several layers between leadership & staff.

  2. Don’t yell at journalists, make demands, or treat them poorly in any way or you will get a bad reputation.

  3. Do not make unreasonable demands of your PR team such as guaranteed coverage to coverage quotas. You miss out on valuable listening and strategy when you simply focus on promotion.

  4. Do not ask for a professional’s advice or to have her to work or things and provide feedback or ideas for free. Hire someone and let them help you set the strategy.

  5. No one is so special or so fabulous that they can scream at staff, be unprofessional, or be unethical. Your PR firm is not there to cover up your bad lack of morals or your bad behavior.

  6. Your baby might be ugly. That will make you sad and mad. However, you should still hire people who you trust to tell you the truth.

  7. Do not lie. You will get caught. Even in an off-record conversation only say what you would want to be printed. No one owes you the story you want.

  8. Once interviewed, you do not have input on the story, the images, or even the headline.

  9. No, journalists do not write stories based on press releases alone. They never did and they never will. If you cannot invest in real conversations and real relationships (time or money) then maybe PR is not a good fit for your business right now.

  10. Journalists are generally fair, so if they are critical of your product, you need to take those comments or opinions into consideration.

  11. Media stories are not required to be positive – they can look at your product, competitors, and industry and report what they see, even if it is not what you see.

  12. Understand how PR and media relations actually work. Even if you have deep experience in business or finance, that may not equate to communications wisdom.

  13. Consider hiring a PR agency after you have a solid product and business. If you are just starting out, foster relationships with key journalists without expecting massive media coverage or that you will “go viral.”

  14. Understand the value-add of PR and be willing to pay for it because expertise does pay off. Yes, “it is an expensive investment, and it should be because you’re getting exceptional leadership and strategy around what to do with the story.”

  15. You need someone who can strategize and execute different stories to different audiences. That’s where experience comes in. You need someone with “a clear understanding of the rules of engagement. PR is not just press releases…it’s the stories in between announcements that are most important. You need to navigate that storytelling, and that happens outside of the usual press release-driven communications.”

  16. “No journalist wants to write the same story as all their peers.” Great communications professionals know how to segment and target media contacts and when to focus on just a few specific outlets or writers.

  17. Strong PR people get to know the media as professionals, not just names on an email blast. If someone is selling you a media list on steroids claiming thousands of contacts, they are not going to be niche enough to gain the respect of the media.

  18. When hiring an agency, do not expect to hear a six-month strategy during the interview process. “No one could or should come up with a meaningful plan without coming on board first.”

  19. Placement promises in PR equate to lies. Any promises of guaranteed, specific coverage mean someone is lying, inexperienced, or paying for advertising.

  20. Agencies with high staff or client turnover are a red flag. If people keep leaving, then the company is not fostering a professional environment and they are not building long term relationships with the media or their other clients.

For the full article sign up for Extra Crunch exclusives and view it here.

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