Working Public Relations Today with Jeff Crilley

For twenty-five years, Jeff Crilley spent his time in TV news. From there, he invested the experience into his public relations company. Today, he has 140 clients ranging from Walmart to an at-home author. A lot has changed for public relations since Crilley published his book, Free Publicity, in 2002. But there are plenty of insights he has into the current world of public relations. Whether you work in public relations or are an entrepreneur looking to work your own publicity, his experience offers valuable knowledge.

The Changes in Public Relations

The most significant change in public relations would be the rapid growth of social media. Like any change, it comes with positives and negatives. Social media platforms are a great way to connect with reporters and establish a relationship. But Crilley also senses a slow death approaching traditional media. When a girl at home posts a YouTube video called “Teen Makeup Tutorial” and gets 2 million views, it puts into perspective the roughly 900,000 audience of CBS evening news. There is a focus shift for consumers, and traditional media shows signs of suffering from these shifts. And the increase of distrust the public has towards traditional media adds all the more hardship.

Inserting Yourself into a Media Feeding Frenzy

When the media has constant coverage of a story, they explore it from as many interesting angles as possible. It is essential to stay current in the media when you know what they are buying, and you can sell them something interesting. See what angle you can add to the story that inserts yourself or your client into the coverage. Crilley gave the recent example of the mask mandates in schools, and the authority governments and schools have over such decisions. If you have a child psychologist client, perhaps the media would be interested in doing a story on what effects the mask mandates are likely having on children. A child psychologist would be a relevant expert to consult on the topic and discuss any adverse psychological effects authorities should consider.
When inserting yourself into a media-feeding frenzy, ensure you do not come across as corporate or exploitive—it will backfire real quick. Be sure to use good taste when you try to sell your story. Run it by a few people you know, make sure nobody thinks it will backfire.

Media Credibility

Crilley still believes the media to be a place of credibility—for now. Many companies are criticized for leaning too far in a political direction or publishing content with too much bias. However, their credibility remains with their audience, making those media companies valid sources of exposure in the proper context. While media companies could always gain and lose credibility in the span of a few stories, the general media could permanently lose credibility in the eyes of the public if it is not careful.

Hiring and Being Hired in Public Relations

There is little consistency in the price for those looking to hire others to do their public relations. The fees range from a thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, depending on the company and the client. When looking to hire, ask for their previous clients and for a means to contact them. People are often willing to give free advice about a service they used. Asking a prior client if they believed the company was worth the cost is a great way to confirm its credibility.

Crilley recommends those hired for public relations keep a few things in mind as well. Watch how a potential customer plans to evaluate your success. The media helps establish credibility and increasing exposure for your clients. But if they are an author and plan to determine your success based on how many books you helped sell, it is best to redefine realistic units of measurement or walk away. If you decide to take on a client, have them inform you of any potential skeletons in the closet. You want as few surprises as possible. Finally, if their budget weighs on the lower end, take your contracts in smaller steps. The last thing you want is to realize you and the client are a terrible match, and you still have six months left in the contract.

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EJ Niemczyk

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