How Do You Become an Expert B2B Public Relations Advisor?

I remember thinking that I must be crazy for taking the job on multiple occasions during those first couple of months. Thankfully, I was surrounded by great mentors inside and outside of the company who reassured me not to freak out. They told me my first job was to learn, and the best way to do that was to immerse myself in reading everything I could get my hands on about my client and their industry. My first priority was to understand the trends and issues happening in my clients’ industries, and to know enough to be able to ask smart questions that would potentially shape a good news story.

It was great advice that I still find myself repeating to younger professionals starting out. Great B2B PR advisors aren’t know-it-alls; they are intellectually curious. Here are a few tips I’ve received over the years that I now pass along to my younger colleagues:

  • It’s your business to know your client’s business – Subscribe to their news feeds, blogs and set up news alerts. Spend time on their web site, particularly where they house their intellectual capital. Participate in every client call that you can – nothing beats hearing information straight from the source. Know how your clients are doing financially, what challenges they are facing, where they expect growth, etc. Ask those same questions about their clients.
  • Understand the internal dynamics – Equally important to the external factors, you also must be savvy about the internal politics of companies. Who controls your budget? Who influences decisions that are made? To whom do the people you regularly work with report? Are there specific divisions/areas that make more noise than others?
  • Monitor trends – Read key trades and national reporters covering your client’s industry, and the issues/trends important to their clients. What are the pain points? Are there emerging trends or regulations that will affect your clients or their customers? Set up news alerts for keywords, reporters, competitors and key spokespeople. Short on time? My colleague offers a few helpful tips on her rant on this subject here.
  • Your job is to know the media. An effective PR counselor knows when and where to push on clients for a good story because they act like good journalists. Develop strong media relationships with reporters most important to your clients. This is a skill that can only be developed by constantly reading. Look at stories with a detective’s eye – what kind of sources does the reporter talk to? What kind of perspectives does he/she seek? Did the sources have an immediate hook into the story? What are possible follow up angles that haven’t been explored?  What kind of new information did sources offer?
  • Ask smart questions. You don’t have to have all of the answers, but you should act like a reporter and come armed to every client discussion with a good list of strategic questions. Whether it’s a brainstorm or a planning session, do some research in advance and come prepared. A helpful resource to improve your interviewing skills: The Four Interview Principles (Columbia University)
  • Keep your skills current. Good PR professionals are always learning and trying new things. There is a seemingly endless list of marketing, PR and digital media news and blogger outlets to which you can subscribe to stay current on the latest trends (blog Rank is one good resource for finding the more popular blogs). Read case studies about marketing/PR campaigns outside of your client’s industry. Great ideas come from a variety of places.


What tips do you have to add?


To reach Kellie:

Twitter: @kshe
LinkedIn: Kellie Sheehan