I started out at The Castle Group (TCG) as an Account Coordinator in 2006. It was my first job out of college, so needless to say, I was very green to the public relations industry. Little did I know that this first job was much more than just a j-o-b. It was an experience that helped me uncover a passion for nutrition, and this discovery coupled with the unwavering support of the Castle team would set me on a path that would determine the rest of my career.
During my time at TCG, I had the good fortune of working with and learning from amazing clients like Stacy’s Pita Chips, Au Bon Pain, Genzyme and Jewish Family & Children’s Service. But perhaps more importantly, I was given the opportunity to work alongside some of the most intelligent, generous and professional people I have ever met. These colleagues and managers coached me from beginner to pro, helped me achieve a promotion before my one-year anniversary at TCG, and taught me the fundamentals of public relations that I still use today in my position as Co-Founder and Principal of FRESH Communications, a PR & Marketing business for the food industry.
Here are five timeless PR techniques that I learned at TCG. I use these tips every day in my own PR practice and pass them on to my colleagues and employees whenever I have the chance.
1. Remember who you serve. Your clients are your top priority and should be. But they are not the only group you serve. You also serve the media. As a PR professional, it’s your duty to provide members of the media with sound information that contributes to an interesting, factual news story. By focusing on serving the media to the best of your ability, you will automatically help bring success to your clients.
2. Don’t take short cuts on the contact list. Your media list is the foundation of your efforts. The more you know about the journalists on your list, the better you will be able to tailor your outreach. Take the time to read some of their articles and take notes to reference when it’s time to send out story ideas. Refresh your list at least once every six months so you stay current on positions, people and contact information. LinkedIn is a great tool to stay up to date on turnover, promotions, etc.
3. Do your research. Again, remember that you serve the media. It’s important that your facts are 100% accurate. I was recently at an event with ESPN reporter Mike Reiss, and he said something that I could not agree with more: “It’s better to take an extra 60 minutes to get the facts straight than it is to be the first one to get the information out there.” Your clients, and the media for that matter, depend on your credibility and integrity, so it’s of the utmost importance that you take the time to fact check.
4. Think outside the box. One of the best things you can do for your clients is to think of exciting, new angles about their product or service. Journalists receive hundreds of story ideas every week. When you bring them something fresh each time, they will remember and respect that. A great tip I learned from a colleague at TCG is to save your writing for your most creative time of day. So if you’re on fire in the morning, focus on writing over your morning cup of coffee. If your best in the evenings, perhaps you tap into that creative energy at the end of the day. The key is to know yourself and when your creative juices are most powerful.
5. Don’t bury the lead. Most PR professionals like words. We truly enjoy wordsmithing with flowery language and stand-out vocabulary. However, in the busy, fast-paced world in which we live, we need to get to the point. The fewer words you can use to get your message across, the better. For example, if you are bringing an NFL player to a school for a special student assembly, which headline do you think would result in more media coverage?
Lincoln Park Elementary Hosts School Breakfast Event with a Special Guest!
NFL Player Visits Lincoln Park Elementary to Celebrate School Breakfast!
Leading with the “NFL Player” immediately gets the attention of the media. Without that phrase, your email might immediately get deleted. Find the hook in your story and lead with that.
I am so grateful for the experience I had at The Castle Group where I not only learned lessons that have contributed to a successful career, but I have also developed life-long relationships with an amazing group of people. This year, when TCG is turning 20, I feel especially nostalgic for my TCG co-workers and clients. Good thing I know where to find them!
Stephanie Ferrari, MS, RDN is an emerging leader in nutrition and business. As Co-Founder and Principal of FRESH Communications, Stephanie creates transformative marketing campaigns for food companies. Stephanie worked at The Castle Group from 2006-2008 before returning to school to obtain a Masters in Science in Nutrition from Boston University. She is now a registered dietitian and uses the power of communication to make the healthy choice the easy choice.