Why PR needs to be in the room

You know that feeling when you find out something your organization or client is doing, but it’s too late to take full advantage of it from a PR perspective? I hate it when that happens, so I’m sharing an inspiring example to help you avoid it.

A PR person needs to be in the room whenever the organization is deciding when and how to pull the trigger on a new development. Sometimes, to be the voice of reason and explain how it might backfire. But more often, to advise on how to get the most attention possible for the new venture.

That’s what happened early this past summer during an internal meeting at Duolingo, the company behind the #1 language-learning platform in the world. (I’ve earned four crowns on German).

Senior PR Manager Michaela Kron was meeting with colleagues who were discussing which new languages to add to the app.  Among those they were considering were Navajo and Hawaiian.

Michaela recalls: “I just threw out the idea of how cool it would be to launch them on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

The team agreed, and all buckled down to get the courses complete and ready to launch on that day, which was Oct. 8th.

The strategy paid off big-time. The time element Michaela conjured dramatically enhanced the newsworthiness of the announcement, and better still, gave journalists a deadline by which they’d need to cover it for greatest effect. That’s the best way to motivate them to take action.

The announcement earned coverage in TIMEABCNBCFast CompanyTravel+Leisure, and lots more.

For this to work, Michaela needed two things:

– A knowledge of contemporary culture and the media agenda. That’s why she’d recognized the growing movement to “rebrand” Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and how much media like anything tied to “new” or different holidays. That was her responsibility as a PR pro, and she was all over it.

– To be in the room early enough in the development of the new initiative to be able to influence its completion date. Now, contrary to what you might think, that was ALSO her responsibility, not the responsibility of anyone else in the company. And she met that standard for success, too.

If you or your colleagues keep finding out about stuff too late, that’s your opportunity to insert yourself earlier into the discussions. Demonstrate how you can add value to the process – you’re not there to nitpick or naysay, but boost the impact of the idea that your colleagues are cultivating.

Frustrated because you’ve tried and keep getting shut out? Use this example to rekindle the conversation about looping you in to new initiatives. Once you get your own success story, run that up the chain so executives can spread the word that PR needs to be in the room.

I got to know Michaela as one of the most dynamic and engaged members of my Inner Circle group coaching program. In addition to teaching pitching techniques to our members, I talk often about specific ways to earn credibility for our profession and respect for our expertise. Check it out and join in.

This article was originally published on November 29, 2018

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