5 elements of ‘old-school’ PR—and why they rule

Social media is great, but it can’t replace the tried and true methods that continue to resonate.


Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a traditionalist when it comes to practicing PR.

There’s been much speculation over the longevity of “old school” methods and how social media will eventually replace the press release, the press conference, and good old “look’em in the eye” relationships.

I’ve embraced social networking, geo-locating, and Instagram as much as the average up-to-date PR pro, but the more I look at the practice of public relations, the more I realize how much the old tried and true methods are the ones that still resonate and work.

Here are five elements of old-school PR, and why they continue to rule:

1. The press release

Oh, yes, you’ve heard the same thing I have: “The press release is dead! Nobody reads them anymore!”

Well, I’m here to tell you the press release is alive and well and useful. I’ve yet to be engaged in a media relations campaign when a reporter doesn’t ask for “the press release.” It’s one-stop shopping for all the information a busy reporter needs when filing a story, and it becomes the foundational document for developing key messages and crisis questions and answers.

2. The press conference

Press conferences can be an expensive proposition. Costs for audio/visual, technical, and signage requirements can give you sticker shock. But there’s nothing like gathering media and stakeholders in one place at one time to create buzz, branding, and excitement about a newsworthy story.

3. Key message development

Some say “control” is a dirty word. I say it’s necessary to be successful when engaging in PR. I’m not talking “spin” here; I’m talking about the honest communication of key messages via the broadest channels possible.

I always ensure that my spokespeople have their three key messages—and know them by heart. It’s easy, then, to measure success, because the news items of your story should bear out the very same messages.

4. Face-to-face relationships

Every time I participate in an online PR chat, you see this question: “What’s the most important piece of advice you can give to a PR pro?” Easy answer: Get to know your media contacts. Not through social media (although you can initiate a relationship that way) but face to face, eye to eye, woman to woman (you get the idea). Personal interaction creates trust. Trust creates a great working relationship.

5. B-roll footage

B-roll (or background) footage helps broadcast media round out the visuals for a news item. With newsrooms busier and leaner, the more you can provide a journalist, the better. Shots that are most likely to be used? Spokespeople giving “natural” answers versus talking head corporate-speak; visuals that represent the story (for example, if it’s about pollution, smokestacks belching smoke). Also, don’t edit the shots too closely; let them run on a little bit. Let the reporter (and his or her editor) decide how to edit the shot.

Elissa Freeman is a 20+ year PR veteran who was recently named one of Twitter’s Top 52 PR pros. You can follow her on Twitter at elissaPR.

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