Exactly how do you get PR? What’s the holy trinity of getting noticed?
Enter Emma Diffen. She’s managed the PR for international events, was a media liaison officer for the US Department of Defence during 9/11 and worked on major public health service communication strategies. Emma knows how to craft a message and get it in the hands of the right people.
Emma is our upcoming Content Kin ecourse guest, and vast 20 years of experience means she knows how the media works, and how to give them what they need. In this Q&A she gives us a little insight into her background and her top tips for making it easy to noticed, and the holy trinity of PR.
Tell us a little about your experience in Corporate comms
My career in strategic communications spans almost 20 years and I have worked in every aspect of comms and PR from event managing the 2004 G’Day LA festival in the US to writing and editing books and major reports. My niche though, is crisis communications, particularly media management. I joke with people that I have managed more crises than I’ve had serious relationships! It started when I was working as a media liaison officer in the Department of Defence. It was 2001 and 9/11 happened. That led to a six month stint working as a liaison officer in Washington D.C. and Central Command in Florida. I then worked with the Australian Federal Police on the Bali Bombings and Boxing Day Tsunami, major drug operations in Australia and overseas and the largest, international online child sex exploitation operation, among many others. My last major crisis management gig was a Media Manager for the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, which was responsible for rebuilding the 74 fire affected communities devastated after the Black Saturday Bushfires. By this point I was a bit tired of death and tragedy so I went into a role as the Director of Corporate Communications in one of Melbourne major public health services. Now I run my own consultancy and teach and mentor the PR practitioners of tomorrow as a sessional tutor at Deakin Uni.
What has been your career highlight to date?
The Black Saturday Bushfires had such a dramatic impact on so many individuals and communities. In the immediate aftermath we had to think outside the box in terms of how we got information out to people. The circumstances called for a lot of face to face communication, which was actually the perfect way to communicate – people needed people, the chance to talk, share their story, figure out where to next. It was heartbreaking to hear so many stories of survival but also made me proud that I could do something that was useful. In a world where you feel like you have lost control of everything, information, accurate, factual, timely, helpful information, is critical.
What has been your most challenging moment to manage in your career?
Explaining to the finance people I can’t accurately allocate a financial figure to the benefit we, as an organisation, gain from tripling our positive media coverage. Other people writing or reporting good stuff about you is worth far more than anything money can buy.
If you were to pass on one tip to small businesses when it comes to gaining press exposure what would it be?
Make sure your story is a really great story! We are all very passionate about what we do, but be honest – is this something that ‘Joe Average’ would want to know about? Find a way to make it something he would want to know about. If you are not sure, talk to some friends or colleagues, tell them what you are doing and why it’s exciting. Their reaction will give you a hint of whether or not it is newsworthy!
The hardest part with a press release is getting noticed, in your opinion what makes a press release stand out from the crowd?
The quality of the story and providing a journalist with everything they need – the trinity: a great story, engaging experts to interview and great images. Provide it all on a platter, but before you serve that platter, make sure you are inviting the journalist at a time that works for them. There is no point holding a media event targeting the local paper if you’re doing it 90 minutes before they go to print!
What has been the biggest press release blunder you’ve seen made?
Someone sent out the wrong version – there are some great tips around this in the Content Kin ecourse ebook I’ve written. Inaccurate figures and unapproved quotes – it’s pretty hard to come back from something like that, explaining the difference or why the first figures aren’t correct. Even if you have a great relationship with a journalist, it is there job to investigate things – numbers that don’t add up are worth investigating and questioning.
When trying to create a newsworthy story about your business is there a framework you could recommend that will weed out a good story?
Find the human element. Does this help someone, how? Is the community affected? Who is involved? Who are these people and why should we care? Is a person doing something really unique? Why is it the best thing you’ve ever seen and you can’t stop talking about it? Read your target papers or magazines, watch the shows you’d love to be on – look at what they are already doing and ask yourself if your story fits with them. If it doesn’t, can you shape it so it does? Brainstorm with others, another perspective might help you get there.
Any words of warning you might like to share from your years of PR experience?
It can be a bit of a curse for me personally, as I tend to overthink things now, but always plan for every possible outcome. Spend time planning for the ‘what if’ scenarios. It is never a waste of time – never! It may not happen this time, but it will, one day and if you have spent the time figuring out what you’ll do when the worst thing imaginable happens, you’ll make it through the storm and won’t look like a moron.
Emma is our guest presenter for our Content Kin ecourse starting this Friday. She’s put together a terrific ebook jam packed with her best advice and tactics for our students. AND we’ll be hosting her for a live Q&A webinar giving our students the opportunity to her brain and ask for specific advice for their business (total bonus package valued at $199).