Q&A with Rhonda Rees: Public Relations Expert
What is it like to handle clients in the age of Covid-19, and what specific media challenges have you faced?
I have had a very unique perspective in representing clients that have been directly involved and/or impacted by our current Coronavirus pandemic. It’s been both a challenge, as well as an uplifting experience to present them to the media during these uncertain times. Examples include an up-coming original Sci-Fi drama TV series called Space Command. The producer created an episode which was shot remotely during the pandemic from cast members’ homes: https://cutt.ly/VaywFQm. Another client is an author, activist and athlete that is helping people stay in shape while being indoors during the lockdown: https://cutt.ly/zayw3po. While promoting her new book, a video was filmed safely outdoors as the quarantine was lifted: https://vimeo.com/439075165. I also represent filmmakers that made a music video (Lights in the Forest) during the pandemic, that was shot on different continents: https://cutt.ly/Oat54X9. Finally, I will be handling a stuntman who is involved in breaking a Guinness World Record by driving a truck backwards, while honoring first responders.
The way in which TV and radio shows are now shot and produced has also changed. Zoom has become the standard method to get a client “on the air”. Productions are relying more heavily on green screens and special effects. Also, most of them have skeleton crews with many producers, booking coordinators, anchors and hosts working directly from their homes. No longer do audiences participate as they did before. The TV stations don’t have the same size staffs either, and it becomes all the more difficult to make contact with them when handling any media relations. Some productions have temporarily shut down, and are not filming right now.
In order to get the word out about your clients, what are some of the most effective PR tools and techniques that you have used?
I have found that the best way to get great media coverage is to create a winning press release that has an impactful angle or “hook”. Tying something into a news making headline, holiday theme, or other important topic has always worked out well. Optimizing the press release by adding embedded links to your client’s website, blog, photo, logo and social media is also a must. Another good technique is to make sure that the subject line on your email has something interesting to say, so that the media will want to open it. Limiting that to around 65 characters is very important. Adding a well-written paragraph to the body of your email will help get your press release read. Creating a tailor-made media list including the correct editor or producer’s name is wise. Afterwards, making media relations follow-up calls is still a vital part of it all. Backing this up by using web-based wire services is a good idea. PRWeb, PR Newswire, and EIN Presswire are examples. Many distribute information to the Associated Press, and provide analytics reports as to where coverage was granted. PRLog is a free web wire service.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) doesn’t charge anything. They have very credible journalists, reporters and producers who are always looking for good sources to help them with their stories.
What is the best way to get and keep clients, especially in the uncertain times we’re all living in?
I have relied upon many different methods to attract, get and keep clients. Some specific examples include: Joining industry organizations, serving on boards, word-of-mouth referrals, social media and direct mail marketing, entering contests, cold-calling, writing on blogs and doing traditional PR.
Also, it’s smart to keep in mind that when the economy goes down, PR is often the first budget item to be cut. Sometimes old-fashioned business networking still works best, such as attending meetings, workshops and industry organizations. Volunteering your time, doing pro-bono work, holding seminars and webinars, sending out direct and electronic mail, and participating in trade shows are good ways to attract attention.
Today, many of these regular methods of getting and keeping clients need to be updated. Luckily, we’re living in a time where technology makes it possible to still move forward. Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet (formerly Hangouts Meet) are excellent ways to connect and get together with people.
Rhonda Rees is an award-winning veteran in the field of public relations. She is an independent in charge of Rhonda Rees Public Relations Company: https://www.rhondareespr.com/ In 2018, Rhonda was named as one of the five most powerful publicists in Hollywood by PeopleMaven. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Profit and Prosper with Public Relations®: Insider Secrets to Make You a Success, and is the recipient of the Publicist of the Year honor from the Bulldog Reporter publication for a media awareness campaign she orchestrated to help bring attention to online book piracy. In her varied career, Rhonda has represented a wide variety of clients including authors, celebrities, Fortune 500 and environmental companies, manufacturers, fire and safety firms, the military, attorneys, politicians, financial planners and non-profits. She is an active member of professional business and civic organizations, and has served as president of the former Publicity Club of Los Angeles.