4.5 Tips for Bulletproof PR

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if PR pros got the communications equivalent of a bulletproof vest upon college graduation? Come on, we’ve all needed a little bit if kevlar from time to time! Since such a product doesn’t exist (although it should), here are 4 Tips to Bulletproof PR!

Tip #0.5: Have this song playing in the background while you read this. It helps.

Tip #1: Plan Start to Finish For a plan to be useful, it needs to go as far ahead as possible. Of course, it’s subject to change for any of a million different reasons, but it goes back to the old writing adage that it’s easier to edit than to create. The act of creating a long-term plan forces you to think about causes and effects of your campaign. Before you send out one release, make sure your entire team (and of course, any client contacts), know the next steps. From a client relations standpoint, having a plan reinforces your image as an expert.

Tip #2: Anticipate the Bad

Whippet looking sad

Poop Happens. Know it, accept it, plan for it and be ready to deal with it at all times. Look at it with this analogy. If you take your dog for a walk and bring a plastic bag with you, when your precious pup does his…uhhh…business…you don’t end up with poop-covered hands and a smell that won’t go away. The more you think about, discuss and prepare for the inevitable moment when the stuff hits the fan, the more bulletproof you’ll be.

Tip #3: Be Honest and Transparent What’s one sure way to NOT be bulletproof? Get caught in lies and Man's screaming facedeceptions. Just look at the recent BP oil spill as a “How Not To” guide. Seemingly every day, there as been a report of the public being misled on the entire incident, from the initial explosion to the clean-up efforts. Sometimes the truth can hurt. A lot. Like to no end. However, if you tell the truth from the start, it’s ALWAYS better than being caught in a lie down the road. Protect yourself and your client by just not lying.

Tip #4: Know When To Stop Talking Perhaps the biggest lesson a PR pro can learn is when shut the hell up. We are a gabby sort, us PR folks. We like to talk, share, learn, etc., etc., etc. But knowing when to stop talking and sharing is critical. Every PR pro I know has inadvertently said something they shouldn’t have to a reporter. It’s OK to not pick up the phone or wait a little while before returning an email. I know it sounds like a direct contradiction to Tip #3 (be honest and transparent), but saying NOTHING is much different than misleading.

What other tips for Bulletproof PR do you have?

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  • Keith, tip 4 is the best not only in a crisis but in SO MANY situations. Think of all the meetings and presentations and memos that would have been better if we just learned when to shut our stupid traps. I guess flacks are naturally chatty folks.

  • keithtrivitt

    I think tip No. 3 is one that should be plastered on the walls of every. single. comms. class. Honestly, it's the one that unfortunately, you see far too many PR and comms people forget when things really start to get hairy. Not saying these are bad people, unprofessional or anything like that. But client or organization demands in this business can be brutal sometimes, and PR pros often get the very raw brunt force of this from colleagues, bosses, clients, etc. before it has been truly thought out and filtered by people actually thinking through and planning their responses.

    Really, every one of your tips here would be good guideposts for anyone in business, regardless of the profession they work in. 1. Filter yourself. Think before you say something to someone you will either regret or misrepresent. 2. Treat people with actual respect. We're all in this big struggle of life together and there's absolutely no reason to be vengeful or mean to someone you work with or who works for you, unless it's absolutely warranted. 3. Listen. Just listen. If there is anything I have learned in many meetings now with potential clients is that people really do appreciate and respect those who listen far more than they talk.

    Thanks for sharing these tips, Mike. A welcome refresher for all of us.

  • Mike, love #4, know when to shut up. I'll add “walking the walk, after talking the talk.” Live up to your hype, exceed it. Make your products, your service deliver on their promises.. have a great story and tell it well. Nothing makes for bulletproof PR more than success, so start at awesome and go from there. And if you're product or service isn't the best, build it into your plan to study it, work with your customers to improve it and make it so. FWIW.

  • OnlinePRNews

    I'll jump in and say I like Tip #1 (although they are all great!) I find that more often than not clients will have an idea of what they want — but no real vision as to how it will all come together in the end. It is important to make sure that the content you are creating meet your short and long term goals.

    I disagree that it is “easier to edit than create” — especially when a release is published online! It can be very difficult to track down every last version just to make an edit. Take time initially to make sure you are saying *exactly* what you want to say and that the news you are announcing matches your overall marketing goals. Then publish!