By Deborah Sosower
We’ve all experienced it. We toasted with family and friends, sharing the hopes and habits we will form as the old year closes. We look at newly hung calendars marking the start of another year – pristine days full of promise – and feel resolved to fill them with good work. And then it happens. The days start to fill with obligations, with travel, with deadlines. Soon, our resolutions feel like luxuries time does not afford. If you are experiencing that feeling with public relations, here are steps that may help you get back into PR shape – and tactics to maintain good PR health throughout the year.
- Understand why your PR efforts broke down
It’s hard to determine solutions without first diagnosing the problem. First, identify the areas of your PR strategy that have gone undone. Have you failed to write news releases? Are you out-of-date with the journalists or community leaders in your region? Has posting on social media taken a back seat? Did you stop checking your analytics? Take time to map out the areas that have been underutilized, and then make time to ask yourself why these have not been done. It can be helpful to create a visual map, list, or chart of the areas you want to work on, with the reasons they have been neglected written out. Only then can you determine what solutions are best – leveraging accountability, changing your mindset, or investing in different tools to help you resolve your PR problem areas.
2. Start with a small, realistic goals
At the start of the year, your aspirations – and expectations – are enormous. That can hinder your ability to accomplish a strong, sustainable PR strategy. For the best success, start small. Author and “happiness expert” Gretchen Rubin introduced the concept of the “One Minute Rule:” If a task can be completed in one minute or less, it should be done immediately. When this rule is practiced consistently, it manifests in greater happiness and lower stress. Imagine the one-minute tasks that you might accomplish in PR that, when built up over time, can lead to huge dividends. Can you send one email a week to a media professional in your area, introducing yourself or reminding them of your position and organization, or asking what might be of interest to their audiences? Can you compose a quarterly newsletter, instead of jumping into a weekly publication?
3. Invest in reliable, consistent practices
“Slow is Fast” is a mantra I learned during my first book-arts class in graduate school. It was used as a reminder to swap out X-ACTO blades when cutting down book board, which is like a thick cardboard. When I was impatient and tried to save time by cutting down harder with an old blade, the result was a jagged line or sometimes, a nicked finger. By taking the time to recognize when my blade became dull and replace it with a fresh blade, the piece was ultimately completed more swiftly and more professionally. This applies to all areas of art making, and it may be helpful in building your PR strength. Find excellent-quality practices, then make the time to do those well and with consistency. That quiet competency will get your agency respect and trust in the long run.
4. Create an accountability system
Find the right accountability structure for your motivation. Do you need another person to review your progress? Can you craft a daily checklist that includes your PR projects to mark as ‘done’? Do you need a group to bounce ideas with? If you think a community of PR professionals can help, the PRSA Volunteer Chapter is a wonderful resource you may consider joining.
5. Celebrate your progress
It’s important to recognize the steps you’ve taken to better your PR practice. In Step 1, after you’ve identified the problem areas, record a snapshot of their current state. For example, how many followers you have on social media; how many media impressions or articles your company had during this period last year; how many employees open the emails you’ve sent. Now, after implementing your new tactics and slowly, steadily increasing your PR practices, it’s time to see where your hard work has paid off. You work hard to improve and celebrating your development is important to stay motivated.
6. Evaluate and adjust your tactics
When you’ve taken time to assess your progress, you’ll find areas to celebrate – and possibly, areas that fell short of your expectations. In PR, there are no strategies or routines that always work. The world changes; your audience changes; you change. And so, your PR routine must also change. Look at the areas you identified from the start, and where the tactics you tried didn’t pan out, adjust them, and try something different. Keep your goals in mind as you evaluate what didn’t work and form your new resolutions.
Deborah Sosower is director of marketing & communications at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. She has a BA in fine art with a concentration in feminist & gender studies from Bryn Mawr College and an MFA in printmaking from Pratt Institute. She was an inaugural Walthall Fellow for WonderRoot (Atlanta), artist facilitator for the SouthWest Art & Social Engagement Project at Emory University, and a juried artist in ArtFields (2016). Deborah was part-time associate professor at Kennesaw State University and served as staff and board member for a number of nonprofits including the Atlanta Printmakers Studio, C4 Atlanta, and SGC International. She is secretary for the Volunteer Chapter of PRSA