Claire Celsi, a self-described “Public Relations Princess,” is a publicist based in DeMoines, Iowa. On her blog – which is, like mine, her website, she posted one of the most popular articles reposted by Ragan’s PR Daily, a very widely-read (famous to us insiders) PR blog. There’s good reason. She lists the ten most important tasks that a publicist does and describes how what they look like in real life.
1. They shape the debate. Ethanol is a mandated fuel mix in many states. But winning the hearts and minds of the American consumer was the goal. My job was to identify the knowledge level of the consumer, identify strengths and weaknesses, and to use public relations channels to inform the public through a variety of means.
2. They research. Its critical to be able to measure the impact of any communications campaign. For a retail client for whom we staged their grand opening, we implemented social networking sites and documented calls to help us identify where targeted publicity is driving sales.
3. They write. After identifying key messages, we wrote the key messages into all kinds of documents. We wrote fact sheets, news releases, media pitches, position papers, PowerPoint presentations, op-ed pieces, Web copy, blog posts, and ad copy. Once you have your core message, ride that pony ’till it drops.
4. They plan special events. The photo above was taken at an event at a Dallas 7-Eleven store. Our second driver, Jeff Simmons, took over behind the wheel after Paul Dana passed away. That event featured two more Indy car drivers, the Secretary of Energy, and ethanol advocates from all over the country. We gave away cheap ethanol and pitched reporters all over the state. It took a lot of time and planning, but it reaped benefits in the local media and taught Texas to pronounce ethanol “Eth-an-ol” rather than “eeeth-an-ol.”
5. They manage crisis situations. When Paul Dana died, the ethanol industry suffered a psychological blow. Not only was the circuit’s most passionate and visible advocate dead, but he died in a fiery crash in the ethanol “E” car. Not a great visual. Moving the organization past this loss and regrouping was part of my job.
6. They talk to the media. I formed relationships with media across the country while working on the ethanol account. It was my job to think of as many angles as possible, so my team worked hard on finding reporters from as many beats as we could. We ended up pitching energy reporters, business reporters, feature reporters, and trend reporters. The most memorable and creative pitch my team did ended up appearing as an AP story in more than 140 different media outlets.
7. They find advocates. There were many allies of ethanol, such as corn growers, industry groups, convenience stores, “Clean Cities” initiatives, and of course, the Indy Racing League. It was our job to reach out to them and form alliances for our client, and figure out ways we could work together.
8. They tell the truth. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it’s tempting to skip steps, make assumptions, and push the button before the facts are checked. Sometimes the client is asking you to do things that push the boundary of the truth. Sometimes it’s your boss. Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts that will undermine your credibility with your team, client, or employers.
9. They educate themselves. PR Professionals should be among the smartest people on the team. They’re articulate, well read, and care deeply about the subject matter they represent. They keep up on current events, read the newspaper, and know about what’s going on in the world.
10. They use new media tools. There has been much debate about the role of social media in the PR world. Moving forward, I can’t imagine a PR professional doing a thorough job in any industry without using all tools as their disposal.