Behind the Headlines With Doug Wright
New technology has transformed the relationship between communication professionals and journalists. Traditional rules no longer apply, so how can your brand gain the media’s attention?
Doug Wright, senior account director at Feintuch Communications, recommends building rapport online by following, sharing posts and commenting on social.
In this interview, Doug discusses how to build positive relationships with clients, how to improve your media relations outreach and how new technology has affected communication.
What do you hope to accomplish in your new role as senior account director at Feintuch Communications?
I want to make a positive impact and move the business forward. There is a strong roster of B2B and consumer clients here in tech and AV, two of my specialty areas, as well as in the marketing, financial services and consumer products sectors.
I am looking to help bolster the firm in areas in which I have the most experience, but also to branch out and gain experience in new domains. To me, this position at Feintuch Communications represents a great opportunity for growth in the next stage of my career, and I plan to take full advantage.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?
There is no substitute for building positive relationships with clients and making them consider you a part of their team. In addition to providing good counsel and effectively executing on the day-to-day job, you need to build your clients’ trust and comfort levels as soon as possible. I have found that consistently maintaining your professionalism and employing an even keel approach to the job, even under pressure, shows the client you are in control.
Another way to build positive relationships with clients is to connect with them in a genuine and organic way. People want to work with people, not automatons—even if they are spectacularly efficient and good at what they do.
Positive relationships make work more enjoyable and, more importantly, the connections you make now will last and give you opportunities in the future as you cross paths with them throughout your career.
You’ve landed clients high-profile coverage in publications such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mashable and more. What’s your secret to media relations success?
I learned early on that it all starts with good writing skills. In addition to being a tool to share ideas effectively, the act of writing requires that you develop your message and organize your thoughts. This includes determining where your clients and their products and services fit into the big picture. If you’re going to engage high-level media, you need to perform due diligence and have your story together.
As a communication professional, you are often your clients’ first point of contact with the media. This means that if the press finds you unprepared and unhelpful, your client’s prospects for getting coverage will be compromised.
These days, social media is also a great tool for building relationships with the major mainstream editors you will be approaching on a regular basis. Following them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., and reposting stories that are relevant to your client and of interest to you, shows them that you are keyed in to their editorial coverage and appreciate their work.
How do you approach PR for a large Fortune 500 company vs. a small non-profit? What do you do differently and what do you do the same?
The major difference between working on accounts for Fortune 500 companies and small non-profits, or even start-ups, is account structure. Bigger clients will have bigger budgets that enable you to spend more time setting up and maintaining processes. There are more layers in larger organizations, and this often calls for more support materials to be generated and shared up and down the ladder.
For smaller accounts, where maximum efficiency is needed to make sure the bulk of the time and resources are spent on executing media outreach, these documents and backup materials are still important, but may not be as extensive. The same rules and requirements apply to successfully manage any account, but with varying budgets, everything needs to be scalable.
You have more than 20 years of experience in PR. How has the industry changed since you started?
One thing I remember distinctly about my first jobs at New York City PR agencies was how easy it was to get media contacts out of their offices. Even as an assistant account executive, I was able to invite writers from trade magazines and even mainstream media out to lunch to build relationships and get them up to speed on my clients’ latest products and services.
Nowadays, the way business is done has changed greatly. Editorial staffs are often short-handed, and any time out of the office is at a premium.
This has made it all the more important to tighten up the other aspects of media relations outreach. Pitches, both written and verbal, must be very efficient in getting the attention of writers and editors right off the bat to get them to stop what they are doing and pay attention. Doing your research beforehand to make sure your pitch would be of interest and relevant to the editors you are calling on is more important than ever.
How do you envision the future of PR?
I think the technology of communications, which has changed the industry drastically, will continue to do so, and at an even faster rate going forward. The rise of the “citizen journalist,” which first appeared in the proliferation of bloggers has since morphed into influencers on the many social media platforms now available.
This means the traditional codes and “rules” between PR pros and reporters are changed or disregarded. Twitter superstars who share their thoughts on your clients are often untouchable in the traditional sense, and the classic relationship between PR person and journalist is harder to achieve. But it is important to be involved—follow, tweet and retweet to establish yourself among those that can help spread your clients’ news.
Another aspect of the SM and mobile revolutions is the need to tell your story quickly and succinctly. With limited character counts and screen sizes (think Apple Watch) you need to get your point across without the benefit of being able to write paragraphs – or even full sentences.
What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in PR?
Starting out, I wish I knew how creative you can be in finding the right job, and adapting a current job to your preferences. The need for PR is everywhere—in corporations, financial institutions, art organizations, healthcare companies, non-profits and on and on—so there is a great degree of opportunity to find your place and passion within the field.
As for adapting a current job, I now know you can use your strengths to bring a position even more in line with your interests—and maybe even create a new position.
In addition, the role of social media in PR cannot be overstated. Whether or not you are active on the various platforms, you need to have a sense of how they work and how people, including your client contacts, reporters and influencers, are using them to connect and share ideas.
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