Constant Evolution a Must to Deliver Value as a PR Pro

Jennifer M. Whitlow

No industry remains stagnant, and no business within a particular industry can afford to not evolve. And an organization's PR team must evolve as well if it wants to, in the words of Jennifer M. Whitlow, vice president of worldwide media relations at Lockheed Martin, "deliver value."

In the following Q&A, Whitlow, who will be speaking on the “Time and Team Management: How to Best Allocate Your Media Relations Resources” session at PR News’ Media Relations Conference on Nov. 30 in Washington, D.C., discusses the evolution of her media relations team.

PR News: Does everyone on your team bear some responsibility for connecting with journalists on social channels?

Jennifer Whitlow: While everyone on the media relations team has responsibility for monitoring social media channels, we have a dedicated new media team responsible for connecting with our followers in the social space. The journalists covering our business are monitoring our social media engagement, but they rarely use it to engage us.

PR News: How many people are on the Lockheed Martin media relations team, and how many countries does the team encompass?

Whitlow: There are nearly 300 Lockheed Martin communicators responsible for supporting thousands of programs in the 75 countries where we do business. The corporate media relations team is made up of 15 professionals, of which eight are dedicated to international communications and six are based outside the U.S. We also have media relations professionals in each of our business areas who support our programs. 

The corporate media relations team is responsible for developing our media relations strategy, setting media engagement policies, monitoring and reporting media metrics and counseling our senior leaders on media engagements and outreach. We also work closely with the communicators in our business areas to support their media relations activities. 

PR News: At PR News’ Nov. 30 Media Relations Conference, you’re going to be discussing time and resource management. Are you deploying team members differently than you were, say, three years ago?

Whitlow: We have evolved significantly in the last three years. We have grown our corporate media relations team, created a dedicated international communications team and shifted our focus and agency resources from the traditional international markets, such as continental Europe, to emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East. 

If we want to continue to deliver value, the communications organization must be willing to evolve and shift resources in alignment with our business strategy and customer priorities. 

PR News: What do journalists need from you as a media relations professional that you were not expected to provide a couple of years ago?

Whitlow: Speed is of the essence for successful journalists today. With social media channels emerging as competitors to the traditional media, deadlines have gotten shorter and journalists are being asked to do more with less. As a result, they need and expect constant availability from us.   

The dynamic presents challenges and opportunities for media relations professionals. We are expected to react and respond quickly, and if we’re ready for the story with background, data and a spokesperson to share our perspective, we’ll likely get better positioning for our company.

Another new dynamic for journalists is the requirement to gather good visuals to illustrate stories online. As part of our story pitches, media relations professionals now need to offer journalists—print, online and broadcast—compelling photos, videos or interactive graphics to accompany a story.

PR News: If you could offer just one tip about reporting media metrics to senior leaders, what would it be?

Whitlow: Make sure your media metrics are aligned with the business objectives and focused on results and impact, not activity. It’s easy to stay busy, so we have to constantly push ourselves to focus on the activities that produce meaningful results.    

To learn more from communications pros like Jennifer Whitlow, register to attend PR News’ Nov. 30 Media Relations Conference in Washington, D.C. 

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson