“I’m a Communicator”

On Friday, February 4th our JMC Principles of PR class was fortunate to have Lori Merricks come and speak to us.  She serves as an Account Director at Luckie & Company, and Advertisting and Public Relations agency located here in Birmingham, Alabama.  She spoke to us not only about Luckie and what it does, but also about her personal journey from a print journalism student at Samford to her current position with the company.  There were many insights I gained from her talk, but these are just a few of the points that resonated most with me.

1. The Pitch – Public Relations is all about “the pitch,” whether it’s a proposal you’re giving to a potential client or a press release you are sending out to the local media, and you’ve got to get it right.  With the pitch, it is not just what you say that is important, but when you say it.  Timing is everything.  One of her examples is that you should never pitch information for an article to a newspaper on a Friday afternoon.  The editors have already decided what stories are going to run across the weekend, and unless a major story breaks, they won’t change their mind just because you asked them nicely.  With timing being so key, it is important to understand how different types of media work, from newspapers to newscast, so you know best how to get your client well represented in all the right outlets.

2. PR is a Dialogue – NOT a monologue.  When you’re involved in Public Relations it is important to remember that it is always a conversation, both between you and your client and you and the publics.  You can’t just throw information at people continuously and expect them to absorb it all, but you need to take their feedback and use it to better hone your message.

3. Factors Impacting the Brand – consumers, trends, competitors and influentials all have an impact on your clients brand.  As a PR expert it is important to understand each of these factors and control the impact they have on your client.  You have to be caught up on all trends, aware of the customer’s needs, and knowledgeable about the competitors to protect the brand from outside threats.  Also, it is helpful to get on the good side of influentials, particularly industry groups like the AARP, because they can help by giving your client good press to their members.

4. Research – I am kind of a nerd and actually enjoy the research part of writing a research paper, so I was excited to hear about all the background work that has to be done in PR.  She stated that research was all about “being aware of what is going on around you,” from targeting the right audience to developing campaign tactics, details matter at every stage in PR, and the research phase is where the information is gathered and the strategy is solidified.

5. Social Media – I liked the quotes that were provided about social media, and thought they showed the growing importance of watching what you say on the Internet as it continues to grow in popularity and accessibility.

– “a press release is anything you’re doing to present the brand.”

– “good marketing encourages the right sort of conversation.”

Both show that social media can extend far beyond sharing with the world what kind of sandwich you ate for lunch.  It can really be proactive in PR, setting the tone for the conversation to come between the brand and the publics it seeks to reach.

Listening to an individual experienced in Public Relations was both informative and exciting for me.  I learned more about Luckie than I had known before, which was valuable, since it is important to know about all the opportunities that exist in my own city.  Also it was good to hear a little about the day to day work of someone in the PR industry.  I particularly liked how she described her job as being “a communicator.”  In any given day she may use many different modes of communication to market her clients, and it is important for her to be skilled in each of them.  It is obvious that you have to always be actively following all types of media to be an effective player in Public Relations.  Thankfully, because of Lori, we now have a better understanding of what it takes and are better equipped for our future jobs.

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