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5 Easy Tips to Improve Your PR Game
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Flack Me is a designated blog for public relations professionals created by the wunderkinds of Talent Zoo. While we understand this is a growing forum to uncover what is up in the industry, at times, you need some expert tutelage. While I'm not disclosing my age here (because I look much younger than I really am ... and shut up to those of you who know me), I've been at this flack thing a while. Mentorship is a forgotten art in PR, so please take these five easy tips to improve your PR game as that — a hand-up instead of a hand-out. Love you. 

1. Practice Public Speaking. Seriously, practice. In a mirror, in the car, in the shower, or even join Toastmasters. That said, if you can't handle the stress that comes with speaking in front of a group of people angling to buy your product, you will remain on the bench. Do you want to go to new business pitches? If you "um," "uh," "like," and "you know" more than create a coherent, diagrammable sentence, you can forget your future with new business. Sure, you're cute and can rock a suit, but if you can't speak well in front of a group of people, your managers, directors, and other higher-ups are not going to trust you in front some would-be clients. Public speaking is as much reciting prepared talking points as it is thinking on your feet and learning to roll with extemporaneous questions. Can you do that? If you haven't been asked on a new business pitch (and you don't work at a large agency where if you don't make six figures, that won't happen anyway), guess what? You need to work at public speaking. 

2. Visit a Newsroom. As a hack-turned-flack, I understand how a newsroom works. I've been there. I understand when to pitch, what to pitch, and how it works. I'm not saying that I'm batting 1.000 but at least I don't get blacklisted by spamming and sending crap the reporters/writers/journos can't use. If you have never been in the nerve center of where your pitch lands, and no one in your agency has the proclivity to take you, ask to visit a newsroom yourself. If you politely ask an assignment desk editor if you can sit back, stay out of the way, take notes, and learn, few people will say no to that request. And if they do, they suck and you have at least three other TV stations and a newspaper to try. Trust me, that's a must. You have to immerse yourself in what they do for some time to respect the hustle-and-bustle of journalism. Perhaps, if you do that and see how few times a reporter is trolling email, you will understand why your email hasn't been picked up in a week. 

3. Sleep. I know that sounds like something your mother would say, but it's true. And I'm a real-life insomniac (pills, treatment, and everything). Sleep can kill stress. Stick to a sleep cycle. I understand that this is not a 9-to-5 gig we have chosen, but sleep has to be a priority. Without it, you will constantly be off your game. Your pitching suffers. Your thinking is off. And your writing will suck out loud (See No. 5). You have to give yourself the permission to leave some stuff on the desk for tomorrow, quit playing video games or watching some smut like any Kardashian on TV. Go to bed. Enjoy your sleep. Wake up and conquer another day. 

4. Learn from Others. I always laugh at the young ones in an agency because they hang out together, go to lunch together, work together and, most importantly, call the one person in the office who spends time with a superior a suck up. Those people doing the name calling will find themselves barren in AE land forever. They will never improve at PR because they refuse to take the time to try. Do yourself a favor, find someone in the office who knows more than you. Plan a lunch, get on a mutual account, do whatever you can to learn from that person. If they are where you want to be, you need to glean the skills they have or it will never happen. As I have shared, mentorship is gone but not forgotten. Find someone who wants to help you learn, and milk that cow for every ounce it has to offer. (I'm not saying that manager has to be a person of heft, but you understand.) 

5. Write Daily. I blog; therefore, I write. What do you do? A press release every once in a while? A Facebook post when you are so inclined? How often do you learn anything from the AP Stylebook or from anyone in the office is a self-professed "AP Nazi" (like yours truly)? The true skill in PR is knowing how to write convincingly. We tell stories to reporters, clients and any audience that will listen. How do you think that happens? By sitting them on your lap and reading a book? No, by writing. If you can't write well, you can't do this job well. Much less, at all. If you don't blog, keep a journal ... and then edit your entries. You must develop a voracious appetite for writing stuff people want to read. Think about your pitches — the lifeblood of any flack. Ask someone to read one. If they don't have anything to say — an edit, a comment, a remark — it sucks. Writing is a muscle because you are training yourself how to tell a story as you write it. Without that muscle, you are one gimpy flack. And who wants to look at that mess? 

I hope sincerely that these help, and if they do, I'd love to hear from you at fishinthenews@gmail.com. That, or tweet a brother at @ShawnPaulWood. You can do this PR thing. It's fun and full of Play-Doh — mold it into whatever you want. 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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