Top PR Pros Get to the Point at PR News ‘How-To’ Conference

Eleven top PR practitioners gave strategic and tactical advice on a range of critical topics at the PR News “How-To Conference, held Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

Those topics ranged from crisis communications, social media and public affairs to corporate social responsibility, measurement and media training. In addition, GenY expert Donna Fenn gave a keynote address on gaining market advantage through better understanding of this entrepreneurial group.

The day-long event featured a non-traditional format: 20-minute presentations followed by Q&A. Highlights from presentations include:


Ashley Pettit, communications manager with Southwest Airlines, said that the advent of new media has forced her team to re-evaluate the way in which communications efforts are measured. With more channels to monitor and measure, “we now have to look at the big picture,” she said. 

That picture includes measurement of blog activities, and Twitter and Facebook traffic. Source codes unique to each channel can then pinpoint which channels were most successful. 

Media Training

Andy Gilman, president and CEO of CommCore Consulting Group, stressed preparation and more preparation for company executives about to interview with the media. Gilman, who trained Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke before a recent interview with 60 Minutes, had this advice for how and what to prep for:

  • Research and ask questions of the reporter and media outlet. What is the subject and the angle of interview, and who else is being interviewed?
  • Establish core messages and prepare examples, testimonials, charts, photos, etc.
  • Prepare for difficult questions—this can be done effectively using a bridging technique.
  • Beware of the “last question” response. Repeat the core messages.
  • Offer to provide more information through the corporate Web site. 

Tying PR to Sales

Not known as a direct conduit for sales, PR pros can take advantage of new channels and tools to achieve sales success, said Diane Thieke, marketing director for Dow Jones Solutions for PR and Corporate Communications

Thieke cited these five steps to drive sales through PR:

  • Understand the buyer and the buying process
  • Create integrated campaigns
  • Develop direct-to-customer content
  • Go beyond spokespeople to the experts in your organization
  • Use marketing and Web metrics

Ultimately, said Thieke, “it’s important to effectively collaborate with marketing, Web and sales teams, and track every action that PR makes towards sales.”

Media Relations

Colin Moffett, VP of digital communications at Weber Shandwick, said that new media realities dictate changes in media and influencer outreach.  Information used to be scarce, expensive, institutionally oriented and designed for consumption. Today information is abundant, cheap, personally oriented and designed for participation

The most important steps in better engaging with the media in this new landscape, said Moffett, is to get to know them and build two-way relationships with them, through both traditional and social media outreach. And because of social media, “everyone is a potential influencer,” he said.

Understanding GenY

In her keynote address, Fenn, author of the book How GenY Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, discussed what makes this generation tick and how companies can leverage GenY-ers both as employees and customers to their advantage. Fenn described attributes of a GenY-friendly company (big digital footprint, clear expectations, frequent communication, social mission) and characteristics of GenY as consumers (value individuality and independence, sophisticated and brand-conscious, peer-influenced and social). 

Importantly, said Fenn, they have "an extremely low BTL," meaning a low tolerance for dishonesty and deception.

For further perspective on the How-To Conference, read Ashley Houghton’s account.

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News. He can be reached at