Jacob Streiter is a VP at Rosen Group.
Never pitch on Fridays. Always use a hashtag. Whatever you do, don’t ever let your client say “no comment.”
Familiar with those tips? Great. Now throw them away! Right into the trash bin.
To clarify, I’m not here to advocate for disregarding any and all PR tips. But what I do propose is this: approach the tips and “best practices” given to you with a critical eye, and with the awareness that while some tips, tricks and hacks will be helpful for you, some can—and will—veer you off course.
Now, onto the pitfalls of blindly following “tips, tricks and hacks”:
- Tips, tricks and hacks are, at their core, about optimization. But what if the pitch, press release or meeting you’re setting out to “optimize” isn’t even a worthwhile initiative in the first place?
- Often, they provide only a superficial or temporary fix to what is a deeper, more fundamental problem. Whether the problem is poor management of expectations, a non-newsworthy press release or excessive meetings, until that problem is truly fixed, issues stemming from that underlying problem will continue popping up no matter how many Band-Aids are applied.
- Time and time again, I’ve observed that attempting to emulate a suggested tactic without fully grasping context — including the how and why behind its original use, and the ways in which the tactic ought to be tweaked and tailored for your own purposes — is a recipe for missing the mark.
Simply put: it’s a critical, discerning eye that allows any given tactic to be adeptly applied. And this underscores a broader point, which is that the ability to think critically and independently will take you far further in this industry than any single tip, trick or hack.
How to make an impact: Do things differently
Whenever a tip or practice becomes the industry standard, chances are that, simply due to the ways of human nature, it gets overused and misused. Case in point: the press release. Safe to say press releases are overused, right? Well, that common overuse is precisely what presents opportunity.
How do you make an impact in this industry? By finding ways of doing things differently. For instance: the next time your client asks you to do a press release for something that your gut tells you isn’t press release-worthy, you don’t have to say “yes.” While other PR practitioners spend their time client-pleasing, you can instead spend your time on the high-impact work that is likely to actually move the client’s needle.
Doing things differently means taking risks. From client to client, there are many forms that a smart risk can take — from saying “no” to a superfluous assignment, to using a provocative subject line, to arranging a never-been-done-before stunt, to even, dare I say, sending out a pitch on a Friday. The takeaway here: it is in your interest to think of ways of doing things differently, and sometimes doing things differently means going against a commonly recommended tip or accepted best practice.
Thinking and principles over tips and hacks
Critical thinking, time management, smart risk-taking. Those are the skills that are most important to cultivate in this industry, and the process of developing them will help you find and determine your personal principles that, over the long term, pave the way for your career growth and success. Those skills will inform everything you do, including the decisions you make about what tips and practices to follow, which ones to consider going against and who you trust most as a source of PR advice.
Now, here’s the tricky part: while articles, podcasts, books, bosses, managers and mentors all have their places as sources of knowledge and wisdom, it is ultimately up to you — and only you — to decide what advice is good for you, and what advice isn’t. But take comfort in this: that very awareness, coupled with time and experience, will go a long way in keeping you on a fruitful path in your PR journey.
Critical to stepping onto that fruitful path: Being willing to think for yourself.