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3 Signs Your Startup Has Hired the Wrong PR Person

A veteran PR pro explains how the industry is changing and offers red flags that your PR person isn't keeping up.

Everyone knows that tech advances have turned the media world upside down. What’s less often remembered is that these changes have also totally revolutionized PR.

You’re probably vaguely aware that public relations is an industry undergoing massive shifts, but as a busy business owner it’s not your job to keep track of exactly how they’re playing out and how that impacts your company’s attention and credibility-garnering strategy. It is, however, your PR professional's job to know these things intimately. So how do you know they’re keeping up without delving into all the details yourself?

Rebekah Iliff, a writer, industry veteran and chief strategy officer at tech company AirPR, recently offered some ideas on Medium. "PR is no longer just about rubbing elbows with reporters and sending out press releases on wire," she asserts before suggesting some signs to watch out for that the pro you hired isn’t exactly keeping up with the times.

1. ‘Data? I’m a word person.’

Do you need to be a great communicator to succeed in PR? Sure, nothing has changed there. But these days you can’t be numbers-phobic either. Succeeding in the tech-driven and complex world of communications these days is all about data. Make sure your PR pro is happy crunching numbers as well as writing releases. "Today’s PR pros must demonstrate an understanding of data and have a desire to embrace a more programmatic, data-focused approach to optimization and outcomes," Iliff writes.

And that doesn’t just mean counting likes and visitors. The best in the business know that it’s not only quantity of attention that needs measuring, but quality as well. "The qualitative source -; influence, sentiment, strategy, and creative content -; is just as important as the insights companies derive from quantitative data," she also asserts.

2. 'What do I think about your industry? Hmmm … *long pause*'

While your PR pro doesn’t need to be exclusively focused on your niche, she certainly needs to know about the space in detail. Keeping up with industry trends is a massive part of the job, contends Iliff, and if you’re paying for someone who seems to have only the foggiest interest in the  competitive landscape in which you operate, you’re probably not getting the biggest possible bang for your buck.

"Tracking competitor success, knowing which brands are killing it with content creation, and discovering industry trends that can influence and inform your PR strategy are ongoing tasks of the trade," she writes. "Whether it’s by participating in relevant conversations, sharing articles chock-full of news, or just having a passion for staying in the know, your PR pro must have a system for staying informed."

Having interesting, industry-specific stuff to say isn’t just key for producing quality content, it’s also important for making connections to get that content out there. No one (especially reporters) wants to spend time connecting with those that have little insight to offer. "Your PR person must know how to engage and connect in person and online. Favoriting tweets here and there won’t work. Ongoing, thoughtful dialogue around issues that are relevant to your business will," she writes.

3. 'Press releases are dead.'

"Despite the rumors, press releases are not dead -; they’re just evolving. If a PR person says that press releases are six feet under that is a giant red flag," writes Iliff. "What is dead is writing general press releases. The real focus should be on the crafting of highly concentrated and targeted releases tailored to the audience you’re writing for."

Which doesn’t mean, of course, that skill with the latest approaches to press releases is enough, of course. Content marketing is essential to any PR strategy. "From developing social media strategies and establishing fruitful syndication partnerships, to blogging in a way that boomerangs back to business objectives, your PR person needs to understand how all pieces of the content marketing web fit together," Iliff  adds.

What are your tips for separating a truly great PR pro from a middling to poor one?

 

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Last updated: Jul 28, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in Cyprus with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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