PRSA ICON 2021: Media Pitching Rules, Master PR Writing, Proving Brand Purpose 

By Rachel Ornstein

Though hosted virtually again this year, the PRSA International Conference offered various powerhouse sessions with professional speakers. The last three weeks involved attending live webinar sessions in between classes or watching recorded sessions from the day before. Here is a roundup of my biggest takeaways from a few sessions that resonated with me.

Mastering PR Writing in 2021

Speakers: John Bianchi and Kelly Quigley 

As any aspiring public relations practitioner knows, the name of the game in this practice is writing. In this session, I learned about the core writing skills required for different types of writing such as social media posts, speeches, and news releases. Among many, here are three of my takeaways: 

  1. Remove unnecessary words or phrases like “that,” “in order to,” and “to start” in your writing
  2. Write press releases in AP style to give journalists the option to use as much of your content in their story, as AP Style is their language  
  3. Use the active voice in your writing by having the subject act and the object receive the action.

Ex: Passive Voice: “The report was released by the CEO” 

      Active Voice: “The CEO released the report” 

Media Pitching Rules for 2022 

Speaker: Michael Smart

A common practice of public relations is media pitching, but as time goes on, the rules change to stay effective. In this session, I learned how to have the most success with media pitching in 2022. The key point for practitioners was to niche down their media lists, as that is what consumers are doing in their news consumption. 

The speaker said to niche down to daily newsletters rather than pitching to big organizations for higher results. He claimed media outlets who win in today’s landscape will do the best job at serving their focused audience instead of a broad one. Overall, the formula for media success is quality with niche audiences.

He also shared a tip for pitching outlets that involve subscription-based newsletters. These are outlets less interested in the shareability or virality of news since they are focused on serving their core audience. Therefore, the objective needs to be credible when pitching to them, because the focus is on being showcased in that specific outlet to their niche audience. 

Pledges to Purpose: Proving Brand Purpose in 2021

Speakers: James Wright, Ben Boyd, Ruth Harper

Now more than ever, brand purpose needs to be proven and not just stated. In this session, I learned about what it truly takes to prove brand purpose in today’s landscape.

A statistic shared in this session claimed that 73% of people think brands must act now for the good of society and the planet. This made me think of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as companies can’t just exist for their own purpose nowadays; instead, they must have a larger positive impact on society and the world. 

My biggest takeaway from this session involved the three pillars underlying brand purpose and examples to demonstrate them:

  1. Wellbeing Before Everything

This pillar represents the heightened importance of employee wellbeing. The speakers showcased the brand Salesforce as an example, as they conducted internal surveys with their employees to gauge topics of interest and things that the company can improve on to better their working environment.

  1. Doubling Down on DE&I

This next pillar encompasses the importance of how companies need to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to DE&I efforts, as it’s not just talking about the efforts the organization plans to implement, it’s about actually doing so. Paypal exemplified this idea by funding $500 million dollars to support black and minority businesses in addition to the company’s internal diversity program.

  1. Counteracting Climate Change

This third pillar demonstrates the importance of CSR and how audiences are keeping brands accountable by making sure their efforts focus on the sustainability of our planet. To exemplify this, Mercedez Benz published an article by the company’s CEO detailing the comparison of learnings from the COVID-19 global crisis, and how society can adapt these same takeaways to the global crisis of climate change. In addition, the CEO specified how Mercedez Benz implemented sustainability practices.

Overall, I enjoyed the opportunity to attend many sessions that reflected what the PR and Communication industry looks like today. I learned the most sought-out writing practices, the media pitching practices of next year, and how companies are held to a higher accountability standard by their audiences.

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