I have never been a CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, CIO or other â€śofficialâ€ť member of an executive leadership team. My title didnâ€™t begin with â€śchief.â€ť However, working side-by-side with the executive team was essential to my role as a member of the marketing and communications department of a large health system in northern Ohio.
The executive leadership of any organization, often dubbed the C-Suite, holds absolute responsibility for its success. From leading management and employees, addressing financial pressures and analyzing the competition to reacting to regulatory changes, securing capital to invest in the latest technology or infrastructure, exploring growth opportunities â€¦ the list goes on and on. I witnessed first-hand the pressures they faced on a daily basis.
While those are all critical aspects of any business, I was most concerned with the first one â€“ leading management and employees. As the lead for internal communication in our health system, I knew we could do a much better job of communicating within our organization. Employees had the information and resources to do their job on a daily basis, but they did not necessarily have an understanding of the â€śbig pictureâ€ť and their place in that picture. While employees may have been satisfied in their jobs, were they engaged in being part of the health systemâ€™s success?
We knew communication with employees and leaders had to be more strategic.
To get C-Suite buy-in for our plan to take internal communication to a higher, more strategic level, we needed to prove the value it would bring to the health system. We did our homework. We studied corporate communication best practices from many industries. Our research showed that companies that effectively communicated their strategy and key business objectives to employees, and did so on a consistent basis, had more engaged workforces. According to a Towers Watson study, companies considered to be highly effective communicators had 47 percent higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years compared with firms that are the least effective communicators.
As a nonprofit health system, we wouldnâ€™t have returns to shareholders but we would have employees who understood the strategic direction of the organization and their role in achieving high-level objectives. Next, we needed to show the intended outcomes. In the article â€śWhat is Employee Engagementâ€ť published in Forbes, the author noted that engaged employees lead to:
â€˘ Higher service, quality and productivity, giving way to â€¦
â€˘ Increased sales (or repeat business and referrals) which leads to â€¦
â€˘ Higher levels of profit, which then are reinvested back into the health system
Gaining buy-in from the C-Suite on any initiative requires that you do your homework, create a clear plan based on needs in the organization and show results â€¦ results â€¦ results.
While it sounds clichĂ©, the experience you earn outside of the classroom is often more valuable than the material you learn inside.
Not to diss the value of my academic endeavors back at Syracuse University, but my experience at R/P has been chock-full of lessons that will undoubtedly contribute to carving my career in the public relations field.
First, R/P has given me opportunities that have proved to be valuable and varied. From writing news releases for clients, creating content calendars for social media accounts and handling the media relations activities for a large-scale event, I have improved my writing and communication skills with the assistance of helpful and passionate supervisors.
But on top of that, I have learned what it is truly like to work in a PR Week Top 200-ranked public relations agency. A certain special aura fills the air at R/P, a sense of humble expertise. Itâ€™s an expectation that superior work will be done, but sanity will be maintained to make the work and those with whom work is done enjoyable. Bragging is absent, but recognition is appropriately distributed where it is deserved.
In essence, I have learned what it means to be a true professional, something that is essential in any career I may pursue. R/P is a special place, and its leadership and employees lead by example. An example that I will not soon forget.
Through effective strategies for interacting with your local media, you can position your organization as the go-to authority and expert for information and resources related to your field. Interviews with the media can be nerve-racking, but they donâ€™t need to be, especially if you remember the three Cs â€“ credibility, control and consistency. Letâ€™s take a closer look at each of these points to help make your next media interview a success.
You and the other leaders in your organization are experts in your respective fields. The following are a few recommendations for demonstrating your credibility during an interview with the media.
• Prepare â€“ When a reporter contacts you and asks to speak with you for a story, find out as much information about the direction of the story and the information he or she is looking for prior to the interview. Then, write out your thoughts ahead of time, organize them into notes and speak from and refer to the notes during the interview.
• Use supporting data â€“ Use statistics and facts to support your message.
• Subject matter expert â€“ Remember, you know more about your area of expertise than the reporter. Consider the interview an opportunity to educate the reporter and the community as a whole about the issue, enabling you to help frame the story.
One common mistake in an interview is to become overly fixated by the questions. As a result, the interviewee likely becomes a passive respondent rather than a confident and credible spokesperson for your organization.
Your role in an interview is to effectively communicate the key messages of your organization. While you donâ€™t have to answer every question specifically, you need to respond. Though that may sound like a contradiction, it isnâ€™t. By this, we mean that you should listen for the bigger issue in the question and respond appropriately. Here are a few responses to help you maintain control during an interview and remain on point:
• â€śLet me put this into perspective â€¦â€ť
• â€śThe most important point to remember is â€¦â€ť
• â€śLet me clarify â€¦â€ť
• â€śNot necessarily â€¦â€ť
Although you may have heard the phrase â€śoff the record,â€ť there is no such thing. Although a reporter may say something along the lines of, â€śIâ€™m just asking this to help me understand the issue.â€ť Consider anything you say to a reporter â€śfair gameâ€ť to appear in the story.
During the interview, remain focused on your key messages. Reporters may ask the same question with slight nuances to elicit a different response. Stick to your messages. Another way to reinforce your messages is to use anecdotes or draw conclusions, especially if the topic of the interview could be confusing to anyone outside of your organization.
Consider media interviews valuable opportunities to tell your organizationâ€™s story. Be yourself and focus on the three Cs â€“ credibility, control and consistency. Reporters will contact you as a source for other stories if they find you to be knowledgeable, accessible and â€“ most importantly â€“ quotable.
Agency experience is a must have for every beginning PR practitioner. After being at R/P only a short time, I have come to the conclusion that agency experience is an important component to understanding a variety of aspects of PR. Never in a million years did I think I would have to educate myself on the healthcare industry or understand the ins and outs of building products. Working in an agency requires you to become familiar with an array of industries while working with a wide variety of clients.
R/P is a great environment for the enthusiast. Agency work requires a lot of energy as well as optimism. Anything could happen with a client at any given point in the day. You walk into work in the morning to work on a media list for one client and could end the day implementing a social media plan for another. This aspect of the job sure keeps you on your toes!
Agencies are an excellent way to apply your PR knowledge to a wide variety of industries. I am looking forward to learning more and continuing to gain valuable insights from my internship here at R/P!
R/P team members Jackie Zureich, Kelley Yoder and Laura Waltz successfully lend PR support to Chicks for Charity and its philanthropy, the International Boxing Club. Just recently, Jackie crafted a great story for the local media, connecting the dots between emotional appeal and engaging personalities with facts that make a compelling case for community support of the organization’s educational, vocational and leadership programs.
Watch 13ABC’s story, “Toledo Club Gives Teen a Fighting Chance,” featuring R/P CEO and Chicks for Charity founder Martha Vetter.