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Words Every PR Pro Should Know (Well, According to LAF)

April 23, 2009

There are many words that every public relations professional should know. Below are four that I think you should never leave home without – preferably in a cool Johnny Bravo lunch pail.



I’ve heard many say that a PR pro is only as good as their next pitch. But how do you get there? How do you make sure that your message is being heard; that the right outlets and correct beat reporters are receiving your pitch? You prepare and plan. Media plans are an effective tool when outlining your course of action. My media plans to detail this way.

  1. Date
  2. What type of outlets I’m pitching (National Radio, Local TV, blogs, etc)
  3. How I’m doing it (Pitch, Media Alert, etc.)
  4. Angle I’m taking
  5. 3 points I can touch on if I connect with a reporter

Media plans should also include your follow-up time, and if applicable, what you plan to do after the event occurs. Being prepared to pitch a press release is important as well. You will, at best, have 30 seconds to hook a reporter. If it is filled with ‘uhms’ and stammers, the likelyhood that a reporter will continue to listen to you is pretty non-existent. You don’t sound prepared or knowledgeable, and a reporter views you as their first source and connection to a possible story. If they have a hard time with you, that will cast the first impression on your client. Even if it’s a great story, if you can’t get it out, it means nothing.


The best laid out plans need to be consistently evaluated throughout the process. You need to be able to demonstrate value by setting benchmarks and continuously measuring the impact. If it’s not working, change it. A media plan is not set in stone. A reporter hates the idea? Maybe you are pitching the wrong beat. You aren’t gaining any traction? It could be because you’re not hitting the target audience appropriately. If you continiously evaluate your success and learn from the failures, your plan will go consistently smoother and shows that you can project manage efficiently.


The two most important skills (in my opinion) for a PR pro to have are writing and research. Writing should be concise and tight, and get straight to the point. Remember the 30 second rule? You need to be able to grab a reporter’s attention in the first two sentences. I joke that PR pros have to be ADD because they are constantly switching projects or getting new ideas, and reporters are no different – I had a reporter friend that said unless they can see me sitting in front of them in a cute dress and smiling, they probably will have an image of me in their head as a robot talking/writing to them. If your writing doesn’t follow the basic principles (yes, including AP Style) you will be viewed as incompetent by the reporter. It doesn’t matter if you have the best hook in the world – if it isn’t written well and tight, you might as well forget getting a placement.


It seems to be a no brainer, but you have to exude confidence in your professional role. You are the expert. You know the client well and should be passionate about the topic. If you are nervous, a reporter will pick up on that. They will probably ask you harder questions and try to find the “juicy juice” because they think you might slip. Before you pitch a reporter, practice. Write down a few sentences, or opening lines, on your computer to refer to when you’re on the phone. Bullet some key points to hit on. Practice in front of the mirror. Pull a co-worker aside and have them fire questions at you. Send a news release to someone who has no link to the company and ask them if they would be interested in reading a story on it. This will give you the confidence that you can pitch a release and have a great story for a reporter to pick up on.

So, what words do you never leave home without?

21 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2009 1:40 pm

    Interesting concept for a post Lauren. I would include the word Deadline – Journos have them and and Comm/PR folks need to understand, accept, and adapt to them.

    Personally, i don’t want any of my media friends picturing “me sitting in front of them in a cute dress and smiling.” but that’s just me.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. April 23, 2009 1:42 pm

    Well, you are a man, so I hope not either for your sake.

    Case in point though – journalists want to be able to see your expressions and can connect with you through body language. That can be a challenge over the phone, and especially through e-mail.

  3. April 23, 2009 1:53 pm

    Nice post, Lauren. I would add Honesty.
    I realize non-PR types would laugh at the notion of PR pros valuing honesty, but it’s essential. Many times, upper management does not like the truth because it is ugly and messy. It is our job to remind them that our credibility is more important -AND- it’s even uglier and messier to get caught in a lie.
    Overall, great post. I always dig your stuff.

    • April 23, 2009 1:59 pm

      Great point, Terry. The PRSA Code of Ethics is something that every professional should take seriously and abide by. Our credibility is important – even if a client thinks we should take a different approach. Sometimes, the truth hurts, but having that level of transparency will just gain more respect.

      Thanks for the compliment and for reading!

  4. April 23, 2009 2:10 pm

    I was going to say “honesty”, but Terry beat me to it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2nd in line would be Priority. Things happen quickly and often at the same time, and you need to know how to get all of it done. But you can’t do it all at the same time, or all as well.

    Having the ability to look at all in front of you and tackle accordingly is key.

  5. April 23, 2009 2:16 pm

    Nice Work, Lauren! Some good rules of thumb you’ve included here. In addition to what Richie and Terry suggest, I would add HUMILITY. The importance of this word incorporates some characteristics that every PR PRO should have:
    * collaboration – when you’re humble, you’re open to hearing out everyone’s ideas – regardless of what their ‘title’ may be
    * teamwork – you recognize that the best work gets accomplished when you have people helping each other out…all moving towards one common goal
    * sense of humor – you don’t take yourself too seriously and realize that you are NOT finding the cure for world famine. Yes, you are doing something important; but you’re keeping it all in perspective.

    And more than that, you’re actually a person that people (on the client side and agency side) WANT to work with.

    • April 23, 2009 2:19 pm

      Narciso – WOW! What great points. You’re right on the nose with everything you just said. Who wants to work with a PR pro who is arrogant, thinks their client makes the sun rise and fall and that they are always placement worthy? If you are humble and put yourself on the same level, you will gain respect and a reputation for getting things done, as well as being easy to work with.

      Thanks for reading and the truly great comment.

  6. April 23, 2009 2:17 pm

    You’re such a smart cookie, Jen. So many of us bite off more than we can chew – and don’t prioritize. Therefore, we can’t really ‘make it happen’ or do our job well.

    Time management is key in this field, but you also have to learn to list out your priorities.

  7. April 23, 2009 2:19 pm

    Respect. It’s important we respect deadlines, as Richie said. It’s also important to respect the work journalists do and make sure our pitch is relevant. And, respect their time while we have them … simply ask if they have the time to talk, have all of your information in one place, provide materials requested and don’t be a bother when following up.

    • April 23, 2009 2:23 pm

      Jenna – Great point. Sometimes, we become so excited with what we are pitching that we forget journalists work just as hard, if not harder than we do. Asking a simple “Are you on deadline?” goes a long way, and it is appalling that many pros do not ask this. We can show respect through research, making sure they are the correct contact and knowing if they blog, topics they write, etc.

      Thanks for reading!

  8. April 23, 2009 2:26 pm

    I would add “resilience” to the list. Not every pitch or project is going to go perfectly and you’ll definitely encounter some bumps. It’s important to remember to stand up, dust yourself off, and try again…adapting from what you learned. It can be easy to get discouraged after something doesn’t work out, but bounce back and know that you’ll eventually succeed!

  9. April 23, 2009 2:27 pm

    Great points so far! Wish my comm professors in college had impressed a few of these things on me!

    I’d add “flexibility.” Inevitably, no matter how much I research, prepare and schedule, something doesn’t go to plan. I think being able to roll with the punches is a vital part of my job.

    As a quick example, one of my coworkers’ clients was slated to do an interview with a WSJ writer before the client went on vacation in Europe for two weeks – and the day of the interview, the WSJ building was evacuated due to an anthrax scare (as you can imagine, the interview had to be rescheduled). Kind of extreme, but I think learning to adapt to changes (especially last-minute ones) is crucial for PR pros.

  10. April 23, 2009 2:30 pm

    Agree with you Terry. Honesty (no matter how messy) is vital to your success and developing long term relationships with bloggers, journalists and executives.

    I look at it as if I’m establishing my “street cred”. Lame…but it works for me.

  11. April 23, 2009 2:34 pm

    Amy – You are so right. It is extremely easy to get discouraged if you hit a bump, and over-analyze what went wrong. However, if you move forward, you will not only learn from it, but probably not make the same mistake again.

    Alexis – Exactly. So many of us are control freaks and need to realize it won’t go exactly according to plan. You have to be able to be flexible and re-evaluate as needed. Thanks for reading!

    Stuart – Exactly. ‘Street Cred’ is important in this industry and will help combat the negative stereotype that PR pros face.

  12. April 23, 2009 2:59 pm

    Lauren – This is a great blog post! I also enjoyed reading all of the comments. Everything that was mentioned on this blog is spot on. You’ve inspired me to talk about some of these characteristics in one of my upcoming m-perspective vlogs. Thanks to everyone who contributed. Great content.

  13. Allan Schoenberg permalink
    April 23, 2009 7:23 pm

    I would add “accountability”. You could tie your thoughts on preparation and evaluation together for this word, but we have to think like business managers and be accountable for our efforts and results (or lack thereof). In addition, being accountable makes us more reliable and helps us to build relationships with other parts of the business.

  14. jasonvistaprint permalink
    April 23, 2009 7:43 pm


    If you’re not flexible, willing to change on the fly and work around obstacles to still achieve the goal at hand, you have no chance in PR. Too many times you hit roadblocks, and either you find a way to get around them, or you fail. For most of us, failure isn’t an option. There’s always another solution, you just have to be flexible (and creative) enough to find it!

  15. April 23, 2009 7:55 pm

    Allan – Great point on accountability. I think we can tie that into transparency as well – be open about your efforts, what has worked/what didn’t, and what you can do to change it if it failed.

    Jay – I love your reasoning behind flexibility. A plan isn’t always going to work, and we have to be able to take another road if need be.

    Thanks for reading!

  16. April 24, 2009 2:59 am

    4 words? Vikings win, Packers lose!

    On a serious note. For me, the thing that comes to mind when working on any PR or marketing activity is R-A-C-E.

    Research – How can you start any project without researching first?
    Action – What do you want to achieve?
    Communication – How are you going to achieve it?
    Evaluation – Did it work? What worked well? What didn’t work?

  17. April 24, 2009 12:21 pm

    Kasey –

    OHHH…. you’re so funny. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great point about RACE…. we learned that in my PR classes. It’s a great tool and something to rely on when going through the process.

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