Be the Expert

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By Kyle Kappmeier, Account Director, R&J Public Relations

Have you ever finished a conversation with someone and immediately thought to yourself, “Wow, they are clueless!”

Of course you have – we have all been there at some point; in fact, it just happened to me today.

Unfortunately, for those in PR, there’s no room to be lax in being the expert in our clients’ industries — and pay close attention to the fact that “industry” is plural!

At any given time, we could be straddling several different clients across multiple industries. We’re engaging with media on their behalf; drafting documents, whether they are press releases or messaging; speaking to stakeholders and even helping drive their use of social media to further amplify their unique selling points or position in the market.

Ask yourself this question – how can you effectively tackle any of those tasks without being an expert in that industry?

One of the most fundamental teachings I received when I first got my start in PR was to become the expert and strive to be as knowledgeable (or more so) about my clients’ businesses as they are. I took that guidance to heart and it’s one of the first things I instill in my teams today.

With the amount of information available at the click of a mouse button, there’s really no excuse not to be that expert. Treat your client’s industry as if it were your own. Conduct a SWOT analysis to determine opportunities and of course threats.  And most importantly, KNOW THE COMPETITION that your clients are facing. Understanding the key selling points of your clients’ competitors is just as important as knowing theirs!  Make it your business to know the ins and outs of your clients’ products or services. Many times, junior PR professionals are satisfied with memorizing specs; however, real knowledge is more than simply memorizing a new feature. Immerse yourself and be eloquent when it comes to elaborating on the user benefits and how consumers’ experiences will be impacted.  Regurgitating bullet points will only get you so far.

Also, just how well do you know the media that’s most important to your client?  What titles are critical when it comes to coverage? What are their customers reading? Do you have those relationships?  Media relations is one of the core services we provide and in the end, media coverage is one of the most exciting for any client. Demonstrating you have the understanding of the mediasphere most important to your clients, demonstrating to THE MEDIA that you are informed on what they write about, and offering resources that are a good fit for their publication, is a surefire recipe for success.

In the end, we are in a service business, so with that in mind, put yourself in your clients’ position and ask yourself about the “service” your team is providing.  How would you feel if you were speaking to your PR agency and the thought of “Wow, they are clueless about my business!” popped into your head? It’s without question unacceptable.

Ensuring your clients that you are committed to their account starts with being able to demonstrate an understanding of their industry and being able to speak to their company and products / offerings intelligently. That’s what separates the good and the bad agencies. Only then can you provide counsel and communications strategies to help raise the profile of their brand, separate them from the competition, move the needle for their business, and address those items that keep them up at night.

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