Getting to the Point in Public Relations

Getting to the Point in a PR Pitch

When he’s not peering into my purse and desk drawers to scout for contraband snacks and gum, Gil Rudawsky spends his days as one of GroundFloor Media’s fearless leaders. As a Vice President, he has more than two decades of communications and journalism experience. This translates into expert counsel for our staff and clients, particularly in the areas of issues management, crisis communications and public policy campaigns.

Prior to joining GroundFloor Media, Gil served as the deputy editor on the business and metro desks at the Rocky Mountain News. When asked to describe the number of pitches that crossed his desk during those years, he estimates 50,000. This volume of requests has helped him to finely craft pitches of his own.

As colleagues, we review one another’s client communications constantly. Gil is adept at revealing the heart of the matter and never mincing words – a quality I deeply appreciate and admire in a teammate. I sat down with him to talk about how digital and public relations professionals can get to the point.

Press releases then and now

CLARE: With ever-expanding digital media, has there been a shift away from lengthy press releases?
GIL: Going back 30 years, lengthy press releases were always looked down upon, and that’s the case today. I don’t think anybody should have ever sent them, even when we had newsrooms that were four times the size they are now. Because of the breakneck pace of news, journalists have always been too busy. Back then and today, they are only attuned to the top one or two paragraphs of a pitch. If you haven’t sold your story or angle in that spot, you haven’t done your job.

From journalism to public relations

CLARE: Given your background at the Rocky Mountain News, how does that experience as a journalist serve you in your day-to-day work as a communications leader?
GIL: I use the skills I gained in journalism on a daily basis in a variety of areas, mostly in messaging. I focus on writing concisely and getting to the point quickly and I encourage our clients to do the same. In terms of strategy, I’m always thinking about audiences and the best way to present the information. I love capturing a narrative through an engaging video, graphically or in a podcast. For better or worse, we don’t need journalists to tell our client stories anymore.

CLARE: Your personal writing is succinct and to the point. Do you have a method to harness that style when you write content for clients?
GIL: Succinct and to the point are good but context and good storytelling are more important. Color, flavor and storytelling can bring dry or mundane issues to life. Always ask “Why should the audience care about this?”

Supportive proof points and audiences

CLARE: Do you have specific questions you ask a client during the briefing process?
GIL: For messaging, we always want to focus on three key points that we want to get out to their audiences. At the same time, you should your identify the audiences, whether internal or external stakeholders, customers or regulators, etc. You want your three key points to be strong and include supporting proof points that make sense to each of those audiences. I always look at it as a pyramid —  simple messages and building to more in-depth proof points.

CLARE: What are some common mistakes companies make during the messaging phase of a release?
GIL: I think it’s forgetting your primary audience. The general public doesn’t care about your internal terms and branded words – these are meaningless. Companies forget how to be conversational and accessible.

Fewer specialized journalists

CLARE: You have written on our blog about the changing landscape of journalism (one, two, three). Do you want to share any learnings from 2018 so far?
GIL: The trend over the past 15 years continues. We have fewer specialized journalists. Journalists who used to cover a beat now have to cover a variety of topics. Everyone has to be a generalist and that makes our job more difficult. You used to talk to a reporter and they were just as knowledgeable about the topic as you were, if not more so. Because journalists are stretched thin, that’s a rarity now. Educating the media is becoming more important.

CLARE: What do you enjoy most about working in public relations?
GIL: My favorite work is the collaboration between our staff at GFM and CenterTable and the variety of our clients. Our strategies and thoughtfulness can make a real difference in how clients communicate, and therefore how they are perceived by the public. Personally, I feel like the work I do is valued by both clients and teammates and that’s easily the best part for me.

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