Opinion

Simplicity is key: An exile’s look at PR in Australia

Katie Clift looks back at Australia's PR industry with the realisation that there's something missing. That something is simplicity.

About five months ago I packed up my little PR bags and made a big move. This Aussie, who spent over a decade working endless hours building a career in media, public relations and broadcast, is now living and working in Athens.

Not only have I gained a slight obsession with spanakopita and saganáki, but I’ve also had the opportunity to look back, now as an outsider, on how PR operates in Australia.

And I’ve come to one main conclusion. Put simply? I think we tend to over complicate.

I’m working with a range of clients in Australia and Europe as an international PR consultant – and my long-held belief that we as PR professionals need to spend more time perfecting the simple is stronger than ever.

PR doesn’t need to be over-complicated. In my experience, the simple way is often the most effective way to do business.

Simple strategies

I’ve never been a fan of overcomplicated gant charts. In saying that, whatever strategy planning method works for you, works. Find the method that helps you produce the best work – but keep it simple. Spending hours scheduling, planning, and writing long business cases can often be better spent in the trenches doing the ground work to secure great coverage. I personally work a day at a time, a week at a time, and a month at a time – never longer ahead than that.

In PR, anything can change, anytime. If you keep your strategy simple, you’re more flexible to roll with the news and maximise opportunities.

Simple press releases

At the risk of offending some PR professionals – press releases should be as short and simple as possible.

Journalists are more time-poor than ever. They need your story idea quickly, effectively and simply so they can make a timely judgement call. Simple press releases don’t mean less work – in fact they require more attention-to-detail to get your message across in a catchy way in just one page.

Help your spokespeople stick to the simple

If you’re a spokesperson, training or recruiting spokespeople – help them to keep their messages simple. In a one minute, 30 second TV story or short radio news bulletin – they’ll be lucky to score five to fifteen seconds of air time.

Their grabs need to be simple, strong, meaningful and memorable. Spend time translating the key points of your story, breaking news or launch into short, simple statements – and train your spokespeople to deliver them confidently. Help them get the facts across while showing a flair of personality. Good spokespeople will stick to the script, and know when to stop speaking.

Pick up the phone

The PR specialists that answer their phone, get the coverage. I am convinced 70-80% of my media coverage over the years is down to this simple action.

Journalists, radio announcers and TV producers comment on it all the time. You would be amazed at how many professionals send a press release or alert, then move on to the next job without monitoring their phone for media calls.

The media work quick – if you miss a call, you could miss the coverage. It takes mere seconds to fill an on-air spot.

Let’s commit to not over-complicating public relations. By definition it’s actually pretty simple: a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics.

Katie Clift is a PR consultant, journalist and broadcaster in Athens, Greece. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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