Communications – So Much More Than Grammar

Before jumping into a career in communications, there’s something you need to know = you’ll have to be more than a great writer or public speaker to make it. Because, at the end of the day, a career in communications is more than simply relaying information; it’s all about the ability to form meaningful relationships.

Think about all the people you have to get in your corner as a public relations pro:

  • Reporters (please report on this thing)
  • Clients (please tell me the thing so media can report on it)
  • Coworkers (please tell me the thing so we can talk about our own brand for once)
  • Online haters (please stop spreading misinformation about the thing)

Getting all of these people on board takes relationship building. And the art of relationships takes just as much time and consideration as learning to write well. It takes experience and is often a refiner’s fire at the beginning of a communication pro’s career. Let us save you from some of the burn with a few lessons learned from our own experiences.

Mistakes happen in media relations, but the way those are addressed is key to maintaining a strong relationship.

Overcoming Miscommunication with Reporters

Rebecca Dantuono, Communications Coordinator

As PR pros, we deal with media members almost every day. It’s important to maintain strong relationships with reporters to gain maximum media coverage for our clients. As a former reporter, I’ve experienced firsthand what it feels like when you make the subject of your story feel unhappy.

A few years back, I wrote an article on a pet health crisis happening in the area, and cited information the source had provided me. After the story was published, the source contacted our publication and was extremely upset, claiming part of the information was reported incorrectly. The error was immediately corrected.

The way the PR pro handled the situation left a negative impression on myself and my team. While there was miscommunication on both ends, the source did not communicate clearly in the beginning, was quick to place the blame and came off rude. As a result, this PR pro’s relationship with our publication was damaged and we were not inclined to cover her organization in the future. To help keep a positive relationship with media, always be friendly, clear and communicative. Mistakes happen, but the way they are handled is key to maintaining a strong relationship.

Sometimes, the key to client relations is as simple as being willing to pick up the phone.

Relationship Status – It’s Complicated.

Amber Liptai, Director of Communications

No matter how good your work may be, without strong client relationships the partnership is doomed.

While you may immediately click with some of your clients, others can take a little time and effort to build that connection. And it’s not like dating where you can swipe left to choose a better fitting personality. So, what is the key to developing strong professional relationships? The answer is communication.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who read the intro to the blog and discovered it’s from the BIG YAM Communications Team.

My number one piece of advice is to pick up the phone. Even in today’s digital age – with email, text messaging and a variety of instant message programs – you would be surprised how effective the phone can be. A five-minute call can save hours of back and forth over email and help avoid potential misunderstandings.

Face-to-face communication is even better, so make an effort to schedule in-person meetings as often as possible. Bonus points if you buy lunch.

To maintain strong relationships with your coworkers and employees, remember to follow the Platinum Rule.

Don’t Forget Your Team Members

Rob Merritt, VP of Communications

Remember the Platinum Rule – treat everyone else the way they want to be treated, right? It’s a great lesson for relationship building, regardless of the profession you are in. But it’s especially important for the agency and communications business, where we have lots of people to communicate with on a daily basis.

Clients, of course, are our main focus. And yes, we have lots of business partners, vendor partners and media with whom we need to develop and nurture relationships. However, there are times when we forget to build great relationships with the people we work with every day. None of us can do the job alone; it’s a total team effort.

So, here are a few additions to the Golden Rule to help you build better team relationships, wherever you work:

  • Treat every team member like you would a client. And since clients are why we are here, treat everyone as your most important client.
  • Do what you said you would do … nuff said.
  • Listen more than you talk. The old “two ears and one mouth” philosophy.
  • Ask a lot of questions. No one knows everything, right?
  • Ask for help. Working out a problem with someone else is always more fun and rewarding than doing it alone.
When it comes to community management on social media, it's often better to hug your haters than to give into the urge to respond with anger.

Hug Your Haters

Chelsea Warren, Social Media Strategist

I have a not-so-secret wish. I REALLY want Facebook to expand its list of post reactions (thumbs up, heart, sad face, angry face) to include a little person rolling its eyes. With about 80 percent of the comments online, I find myself wishing with every fiber of my being that I could respond to these comments with either an eye-rolling emoticon or a super salty response from the brand. Unfortunately, this really isn’t the way to get haters in your corner.

Why should we care about online haters? Let’s say you need a certain base of customers to support your brand. It takes less work in the long run to support a stable base of customers by answering their grievances than it does to cycle a constantly new group of people through the sales funnel. Thus the term “Hug Your Haters,” coined by Jay Baer in his book by the same name, was born.

To demonstrate the power of hugging your haters, let me tell you a story about a client I had once. This brand received A LOT of negative comments on social media and at one point, we were hiding and deleting grievances right and left. After reading Jay Baer’s book, we decided to do our best to answer every comment that came through, positive or negative. We found that when we took the time to respond, even if it was to apologize for the things the brand could not change, that disgruntled social media followers went from haters to some of our strongest brand ambassadors.

We don’t hug every hater – some people won’t be happy, no matter what you say. But we try to approach all haters with the highest standards of customer service in mind.

Let’s Be Friends

We would love to develop our relationship more with you! Follow us on social media at @BIGYAMAgency or contact us today.