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Behind the Headlines with Catriona Pollard

Today, media is fragmented and competitive. To make your voice heard, use strategic, targeted pitching techniques and broadcast authentic stories that will resonate with your audience.

Catriona Pollard is the director of CP Communications, an organization which merges traditional PR tactics with cutting – edge social media strategies to best engage consumers. She is also the author of From Unknown To Expert, a step by step framework to help entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become thought leaders and influencers in their industries.

This week, we sat down with Catriona to discuss the PR lessons she has learned, her insights about utilizing social media, and the importance of finding (and owning!) your spotlight.

You are known for helping entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become a recognized influencer in their field. What are some of the most important lessons or strategies that you find most PR professionals are missing?

Many PR professionals are still focused on producing and sending out media releases to journalists in bulk. With today’s media being so fragmented and competitive, what works better is strategic, targeted pitching of interesting media angles to select journalists. It requires more time, but gets a better story.

There’s too much focus on promoting products and services in PR. What I’ve come to realize, particularly in the past few years, is people are inspired by the stories of others. They can be aspirational stories, relatable or educational. Storytelling by recognized, influential people is where PR is heading.

What is the biggest PR lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?

The biggest PR lesson I’ve learned is to never be afraid of finding and standing in your spotlight. I did a TEDx talk about this a few years ago and it still resonates with me today.

In my everyday life I meet so many amazing experts who are reluctant to stand in the spotlight. What they need to realize is that sharing their stories isn’t indulgent or ego-centric, it’s about helping and influencing growth in others. The journey from unknown to expert not only helps you personally and professionally, but it also has the power to fuel others to grow in their spotlight.

What is your secret to media relations success?  How do you measure that success? How does social media and analytics drive your PR strategy?

Before diving into pitching stories to the media, you first need to understand that the effectiveness of your communications heavily relies on the strategy and objectives that you want to achieve. By having a detailed strategy and clear understanding of the end results, you are able to effectively run successful media relations.  Your success in the media is determined by your consistency, perseverance and understanding of what the media wants.

When it comes to PR and social media, what many don’t realize is that the two go hand-in-hand. Social media helps us to understand trends, what people are interested in and the news agenda. It can also tell us which of our stories are resonating more with audiences. We can then use this information to refine our topics for pitching to the media and communicating with audiences.

What role does social media play in your job? How has social media transformed strategic communication? What role do you see social media play in reputation and crisis management today?

Social media plays a big part in my personal and professional life. It’s a key communication platform for me. It allows me to not only form and build relations but it also links me to my tribe, news and keeps me informed of what’s happening around me.

Social media hasn’t necessarily transformed strategic communications; in fact, it has only added to the many media channels to help individuals tell their stories and connect/engage with their audience. The tactics have stayed the same, even though the channels have evolved and multiplied. However, social media plays a vital element in both establishing and building a good reputation for you and your brand. With social media, business leaders can position themselves as recognized experts and thought leaders in their industry, build relationships and communicate with people that matters to them and their brand and allows them to showcase their business to drive awareness and credibility. It’s important to start implementing a social media strategy to build your business’ profile and reputation before a crisis hits. By building a good online reputation and gaining your customers trust you can minimize the damage to your business during a crisis.

How has social media transformed PR? In terms of utilizing social media to improve their communication strategy — what is one thing most brands are not doing, but should be?

With social media becoming more and more prevalent, it has become very difficult for brands to ignore it. Social media has transformed PR in the sense that it can extend your coverage to a whole new level. You can share your PR success by tweeting your coverage,  posting it on Facebook or writing a blog about it. In fact, that is one thing that many business people fail to do — they are not utilizing the resources that are right in front of them. By not using social media in their communication strategy, aspiring thought leaders are missing out on opportunities that could benefit both them and their business.

What advice do you have for PR professionals who are trying to build rapport and strengthen relationships with their consumers?

The media landscape is so much more diverse than even two years ago. You shouldn’t only be pitching to traditional media like TV and newspapers but also leveraging non-traditional platforms to reach consumers like podcasts, blogs and social media.  A story that is authentic and real is what’s able to cut through the noise. Tell stories that can resonate with your audience. Those are the ones which are more likely be absorbed and shared.

How did you discover your passion for communications and what advice do you have for others who are just beginning their careers?

I was lucky to discover my passion fairly early in my career and I nurtured that passion, especially when I started my own agency 15 years ago. My advice for those who are just beginning their career is to be open to learning different things. Especially starting a career in the media industry — consume all types of media, newspapers, radio, blogs, podcasts, etc. Keep yourself informed of hot trends and understand what drives the news agenda. PR isn’t about having the loudest voice in the room; it’s actually about listening the best. So be humble and listen to others.

Rapid Fire Round: 

  1. If I was president of my own country I would….fund art better, close the gender wage gap, and introduce nature into the school curriculum.
  2. Some items on my bucket list are…walking the Inca Trail, a week in Paris and an artist in residence in Italy.
  3. I feel accomplished when…I have made my clients happy and achieved great outcomes for them.
  4.  My favorite subject in school was…English (and business)!
  5.  My hero is…anybody who has the passion to achieve their dreams.

About Julia Rabin

Julia Rabin is a Media Researcher for Cision. With a background in organizational communications, public speaking and international relations, she has a passion for social justice advocacy and loves keeping up to date with the latest global news. In her free time, you will find Julia traveling, playing with puppies, baking dairy free treats or reading.

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