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Move From Reactive to Proactive PR in 2014: Here's How

Claire Celsi is the Director of Public Relations at Lessing-Flynn.

It seems that some companies just have good luck when it comes to getting attention in the Proactivemedia. You see a new article about them - sometimes every week. It can be frustrating to watch, especially if your company's story is just as compelling. Sometimes, you get lucky when a story falls on you, either through blind luck, or (unfortunately) a crisis occurs. Either way, you're stuck on the wrong side of the proactive PR equation.

What does it take to have a proactive PR program? Here are some basics to follow if your New Year's Resolution is to finally get ahead of the news.

1. Have a plan. This is basic PR 101. Companies who get a lot of publicity PLAN to get a lot of publicity. And they ususally don't sit around and wait for it to come to them. Your PR pro (on staff or agency) should be at the table for all your strategic planning sessions. Have that person listen for opportunities and incorporate those ideas into your plan. Ideally, even the smallest company should have something to offer at least once per month. So, that's 12 ideas.

2. Have something to say. Most companies have a lot going on, but are relatively reticient to talk about it publicly. Unless you are developing a new product that is going to rock your entire industry, or you're in the patent process, or in a silent period before a public stock offering - get out there and talk. Reporters like people who talk to them and tend to gravitate towards people who are willing to go on record with something new and different. If you're not willing to talk, reporters will move on to someone who is.

3. Don't spam reporters with stupid press releases. Your news releases should have a cogent idea and should be explained using very little jargon. Don't hide your lead in the fourth paragraph and make the reporter or editor fish for it. If an eighth grader cannot grasp your main idea after reading the news release, scrap it and start over.

4. Be transparent and proactive. This sounds like a really simple idea, but it's amazing how many companies (who should definitely know better), still decide it's a good idea to hide things for days and even weeks. If you don't tell your story - your way - first, then someone will most certainly tell it for you. And it will come out wrong. Ask Target. When the news came out about its recent Christmastime data breach, details from Target were scant so news outlets ran off the range with their own spin.

5. Be ready with additional information. After your news release is sent, be prepared to provide reporters with details. This might include photos, a quote, an annual report or other prepared information. If you're unprepared, you may not meet the reporter's deadline and cause her to move on to the next story.

6. Limit the fluff. Even lifestyle reporters will want to embelish the story in their own way. Don't add to much "opinion" and flowery, self-aggrandizing prose to your news release. That turns it from "news" to "National Enquirer" in a heartbeat. If you must sing your own praises to make a point, weave it into a quote.

7. Jump on spontaneous opportunities. Just because you're trying to be proacitve doesn't mean you shouldn't look for ways to break into the news cycle when appropriate. When a story breaks in the national media that has anything to do with your company's business, take the opportunity to reach out to national and local media to offer your opinion. Not only does this save time for a news outlet, but it helps to build relationships with reporters and producers who cover your industry.

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