The good source

Journalists aren’t the only professionals who require good sources.

Professional communication managers need them, too.

Whether you call your role “PR” or “media relations” or “corporate communications”, it’s impossible to have a highly successful comms program without having some input from others around you.

Good communicators often join professional networks and associations.
Good communicators often join professional networks and associations.

I was reminded of the importance of this recently when I published the post “The To-Do List for Every New Corporate Communications Manager”. A few of my savvy LinkedIn connections suggested that the following be added to the list:

 “The only thing I’d add is get to know the organisational structure quickly so you’re across who’s who and what they all do. It will help you can track down information quickly when you’re in a hurry.”

 “I think another step that helps you get to know the organisational structure is to just get out amongst it, not to sit behind the computer but organise to meet people!”

 (Thank you Janet and Tanya!)

Good communicators do indeed operate more effectively if they have healthy networks throughout their organisation:

  • Let your colleagues know you’d like to hear from them.
  • Warmly encourage them to approach you at any time.
  • Find out their areas of expertise and take a look at their career history (LinkedIn is invaluable there, or a good coffee meeting).
  • Share the results of your work with the rest of the organisation,so they get an understanding of what you’re trying to achieve.

To me, the professional communicator is at the hub of their organisation (much like a good HR manager).

In communications roles which are media-focused (and by that, I mean roles which seek media coverage of your organisation and its work), a wide variety of good sources are even more important.

For example:

  • You may need a third opinion from outside sources – researchers, leading authorities and others – who could act as someone to provide additional, supportive comments in your media releases or at a media launch.
  • You may want to provide the media with a spokesperson from outside your organisation. For example, if you work for a health charity, you may want to offer the media a father whose child has experienced the rare condition you’re raising awareness of.
  • You may want a particularly unique venue for a promotional event, or a graphic designer to develop a captivating invitation for that event. Your networks are often a good source of the ‘best talent’ to fill these roles.

How do you cultivate good networks?

It’s similar to any good networking.

You need to ‘get out there’, meet and talk with others, develop a rapport and continue a long term connection. This often means you need to take the first step. Be warm and professional and curious. Ask people what they do and try to get a real understanding of what their interests and skills are. Of course, it also helps to have a good memory (something I need to work on).

The best communication professionals have a wide range of friends and acquaintances and may also be part of a lot of professional networks and clubs. They also keep up with local news. Today, many of the most savvy professional communicators also have a healthy social media network.

Michelle Prak on LinkedIn
Michelle Prak on LinkedIn

I know that I’ve gained inspiration from what friends have posted on Facebook. I’ve learned things about local organisations on LinkedIn. I’ve sparked new friendships on Twitter. And these have all contributed to my knowledge of who’s living in my region, what they do, what their views are, and how open they are to PR opportunities. I’ve gained ideas for media releases, for spokespeople, speakers for events, new angles on pieces of writing, and more.

Most communicators can’t operate in a vacuum. (If you can, you’re either very talented or fortunate or unsuccessful).

If you’re new to the field – perhaps a PR student – I would strongly encourage you to forge long-term professional networks, be on constant alert to what’s happening around you, and file away that knowledge of “who works where and does what”. The idea for your next promotional event / media release / column topic could very well be inspired by what a friend says on Facebook / what someone shares with you at a networking event / what a colleague complains about. It’s valuable stuff indeed.


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