By Vincent Frazzetto
As consumers, we see the end result of the news—the faces, the quotes, and the settings—with little thought into what’s happening behind the scenes. Heading into my first client-sponsored event, the Long Island Water Conference’s Drinking Water Symposium, I was heading in blind for the most part. We arrived very early, 6 A.M. to be exact, to set up the room and ready ourselves for the troves of officials from water districts and elected offices around Long Island to arrive for check-in. I took part in helping to organize crowd movement and offer officials for interview; it was a very lively, semi-crazy environment. In the down time, however, I was able to pick the brains of the reporters and gauge their own individual styles. I learned quite a few things, but none more important than these five:
1. Know Everybody in the Room
One of the things I underestimated in PR professionals was their innate ability to know every person in the room in some way, whether it was a long-standing professional relationship, a sponsor, or a client’s spokesperson for the event. When I would lean over to Christine, an account executive at Z/E, and gesture to an individual in the crowd, she would knew his or her name, affiliation, and role at the event—priceless information. Knowing everybody in the room is one of the most important skills of PR people.
2. Bridge the Gap
Being a PR person attending a client event is a lot like hosting a party. The press comes from one end, the client comes from the other, and the PR person is the bridge between the two. Our job is to introduce one to the other and appease both parties. The press wants their story and their shots in a timely manner so they can meet a deadline; the client wants to get its name out there and gain exposure for the event. It’s our job as the liaison between both parties to guide the interaction in a mutually-beneficial manner. I watched Christine introduce the reporters to our spokespeople and mediate the conversation between them, which was enlightening to see in action.
3. Behind-the-Scenes Interview Tips
Watching the on-camera interviews from the perspective of the PR person was interesting. I learned great tips regarding what we do during the process. One of the most simple, yet most effective, things I learned was where to stand during the interview: over the shoulder of the cameraperson, so we have an equal-plane view of the interviewee’s body language, responses and monitor.
4. Respect the Vision
Part of the mediating process is understanding the vision of both our clients and the press. No reporter wants to be told what to film/photograph just like the client doesn’t want to sacrifice his or her message for the sake of coverage. One of the cameramen told me, “There’s nothing worse than an overly controlling PR person.” It’s important to make your client’s desires known, but not at the risk of losing a valuable network connection by being overbearing.
5. Never Miss the Opportunity to Make a Connection
Public Relations is all about maintaining successful relationships. After all, if nobody likes your style of work, they will simply choose not to work with you. These relationships are paramount to being successful in getting your clients coverage and keeping your client satisfied. This is one of the most constant realities of a career in PR. During my time at the symposium, I tried to make members of the press, and our clients comfortable and happy with the overall experience. I enjoyed my first on-site venture, and while we can learn a lot about PR in a classroom, the field experience was very insightful.