PR Pros Share Branding, Social Media Tips

On March 21 the National Association of Black Journalists hosted its first ever Institute for Media Professionals, bringing together NABJ Associate members from across the East Coast and as far away as Texas. There were clearly two subjects on everyone’s mind—the economy, and social media. And thankfully the consensus on both was universal among the amazing array of panelists: don’t freak out!

There was tons of practical advice to help keep both new and old PR pros focused during all this uncertainty. The first step is building a strong personal brand. If you haven’t yet, figure out what you’re main area of expertise is, and sell it. Next, keep the quality of communication planning and execution high in whatever you’re doing now, to prevent financial mistakes or rush to the web without a strategy.

And then there’s Twitter. My favorite audience question of the day was, “What is it? I’m on there, but what am I supposed to do with it? And what do I need to tell my clients about it?” PRSA board member and panelist Lynne Appelbaum, APR, had a great answer, reminding everyone that Twitter, like every social media product, is simply a tool, not a solution, and nothing beats a strong communication plan. Incorporate social media all you want, but remember our work is ultimately about reaching an audience, and using the right vehicle is still critical.

Still, social media was all over several sessions, and Michael Chin of KickApps joined a panel on how to expertly apply it to public relations plans. There was plenty of Twittering going on, but for the uninitiated the advice was simple: start small, follow the conversation, and build your voice over time (which relates nicely back to building that personal brand).

I had the honor of sitting on a panel discussing how PR professionals can give back to their communities. For the employed in need of resume-expanding experience, or the unemployed trying to keep sharp until the next gig, volunteering or joining the Board of Directors of a charitable is a great option–for those unsure of where to start, I posted some resources on my blog to guide their search.

The day was not without an emotional component, which is so important to keep in mind with all that’s going on these days. Career coach Lynn Adrine of LKA Strategies gave some great advice for people facing layoffs from major companies during the closing session: ultimately, your position is not your job. It’s the company’s job to do whatever they want with. Realizing it can help when and if a layoff comes, and its okay to be emotional when it does, so that you can manage the baggage and not take it with you into future opportunities.

NABJ Associates and event co-sponsors Black Public Relations Society are planning more events in the near future, including several free webinars in April, so check their sites for more details. 

Lesly Simmons is media relations lead for the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. For more on nonprofit communications, check out Lesly’s blog or @leslysimmons on Twitter.

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