One of my favorite things about my Twitter chat, #PRprochat, is that it brings smart new people into the spotlight, giving them a chance to shine and make new connections.
One of those people is a wonderful PR pro out of Columbus, Ohio: Michelle Garrett, who consistently joins the chat and contributes in wonderful ways with her knowledge. (Check out her contributions to our most recent chat, with fabulous guest Ann Handley!) She’s there to learn and share, and she makes the chat a richer experience for all of us.
Michelle is a PR Consultant and very talented blogger.
Michelle, do you specialize in a specific industry, niche or aspect of PR? If so, what do you love/hate about it?
For much of my career, tech has been my specialty. I just fell into it, in the beginning. It’s a great industry to work in, as there’s always so much to talk about. I’ve worked with both big tech titans like HP and Adobe, as well as many startups. Startups are fun, because they’re fast-paced and there are fewer layers of approvals to maneuver through. I now work with clients in various industries, still mostly with smaller companies. The truth is, you can have a “startup” in any industry—and I can leverage my startup experience to help entrepreneurs in any industry.
What is the single best thing you’ve learned from your past boss(es), and how do you now integrate it into your work?
I had a great mentor once who advised me to work at an agency before striking out on my own. He was SO right! That agency experience prepares you for the client relationship. It also teaches you systems for billing, reporting and so on that help you organize your business more efficiently. And, it helps you make great connections that can be important when you launch your business. For example, the agency I worked for contracted me back after I left to set up my own shop. Further, I formed a great network of PR pros. Some of my former colleagues still refer business to me, even after all these years.
Do you participate in any pro bono work? Tell us about it – successes and failures
I do some pro bono projects. I enjoy it because a) there’s less pressure! And b) it makes me feel that I’m doing something meaningful. I’m currently working with our local food pantry and have been able to get them some great opportunities and coverage. A long-term colleague who’s on staff asked me to help out, so now I get to work with her. It’s a truly great partnership because she’s very mindful of making sure to mention my work to their board and to others to help show me appreciation. I never asked her to do this, but she understands the value of this to my business.
The one thing you need to guard against with pro bono projects is giving away TOO much of your time for free. Of course, you could do pro bono work full-time if you wanted. But you can’t pay the bills with it. So, choose your causes wisely and make it something meaningful to you.
How do you establish relationships with media without overstepping personal boundaries?
Usually what works best is coming from an authentic place. For example, I try to interact with my journalist contacts on social media on topics unrelated to what I might pitch them on. When I see one of them post something funny about work or about their kids, I’ll engage with them—just for the fun of it. That way, when I need to pitch them a story, I hope they’ll see me as a person and not just another PR hack trying to get my client’s story covered.
What is the best way to connect with media when emails fail?
Email pitching can fail?! Ha! Just kidding! I believe in following up on email, sometimes with another email. Or the phone. Or on social. I don’t give up if I don’t get a response immediately—although I was recently on a webinar with a PR pro who pretty much recommended that! I wrote a piece about what to do if your pitch goes nowhere here, for anyone who wants more tips.
Thanks for the opportunity to share with your audience, Carrie! I so enjoy #PRprochat and recommend it to anyone who wants even more PR knowledge and tips.
Thanks, Michelle – I so value your time and participation. You are wonderful! I also feel like we have so much in common. It makes me enjoy and appreciate you even more. 🙂