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The Future of PR & Mixternal Relations with PR Daily’s Diane Schwartz – Podcast Transcript

The Future of PR & Mixternal Relations with PR Daily’s Diane Schwartz

Episode 33 – The Future of PR & Mixternal Relations with PR Daily’s Diane Schwartz – Podcast Transcript

SPEAKERS

Lexie Smith, Diane Schwartz

Lexie Smith 

Hey guys! I’m Lexie Smith, travel enthusiast, lover of puns, pizza and wine, PR Coach and founder of THEPRBAR inc., and you’re tuning in to the Pitchin’ and Sippin’ Podcast. Today we are Pitchin’ and Sippin’ with Diane Schwartz, the CEO of Ragan Communications, a media and training company that serves communicators with best-in-class events, training, membership organizations and award-winning service journalism with the Ragan, PR Daily, Communications Week and Workplace Wellness Insider brands. She joined Ragan in 2019 after 23 years at Access Intelligence, where she was senior vice president and group publisher of the Media Communications Group. A former journalist and author of two unfinished books, Diane serves on the board of the Institute of Public Relations, is a wish granter for Make-A-Wish and an avid volunteer. In today’s episode we learn all about the amazing Ragan Brands that Diane represents, what’s in store for the future of PR, a term called Mixternal Relations, service journalism, how to create meaningful relationships with the media and so much more. When it comes to sips let’s just say her favorite might have just inspired a new swag item for the THEPRBAR. Feel free to way in on the matter after listening. Let’s dive in!  Diane, welcome to the Pitchin’ and Sippin’ Podcast. I am so excited to have the opportunity to be chatting with you today about your career PR Daily, Ragan Communications and all things PR but first, I’d love to know a bit more about you outside of the office. So first up, where is home base.

Diane Schwartz 

Home base is Connecticut.

Lexie Smith 

Connecticut, okay. And so when you’re not working, what are some of your favorite hobbies?

Diane Schwartz 

When I’m not working? It’s usually sleeping or eating. I like writing outside of work, working on a couple books. I enjoy tennis and biking and wine tasting.

Lexie Smith 

Okay, I love books and wine as well. What genre is what type of books.

Diane Schwartz

I love to read nonfiction and memoir and memoirs and biographies. Any good book I love and as far as what I’m working on what I’m writing one is nonfiction and one and one is a fiction novel.

Lexie Smith  

Have you announced that yet? Or is it Sunday? We’ll find out what that is someday. someday. Okay, fine. suspense. That’s super fun, though. And we’ll look forward to the day when that’s officially announced. Okay, we’re gonna switch gears a little bit. You are so incredibly well accomplished in a multitude of ways. I want to rewind time back a little bit and learn more about your journey. So did you start in PR? Did you start in journalism? Do you want to take us back to the beginning, tell us how it all begin.

Diane Schwartz 

I started in journalism, I grew up always wanting to be a writer, or a reporter, or a writer and a reporter always been very curious from the early days. So I went to college for journalism. And I got the reporter bug. And I was a reporter for many years. And then I joined a publishing company where I was a managing editor. And then I moved up there to become a group publisher. This is at access intelligence, which is a B2B media company. And I oversaw a slate of brands in the marketing, PR, digital and advertising space. And I gravitated to the business side as well. So combining both my love of media and communications and business, I spent about 23 years at access intelligence, and then taking you to the present day, I became the CEO regen communications where I’m able to run a business and wear that business hat, but also serve the communications industry. So it’s the best of both worlds for me. I still love writing, and I still love journalism, and we actually cover a lot of media relations. And now you know, as part of like rigging communications, we’re running that business behind it and serving the community in that way. So it’s been a really incredible journey and opportunity for me to combine two logs both the writing and journalism side and the communications side.

Lexie Smith 

The best of both worlds so to say I love that and real quick and I want to learn all about today but what type of reporter were you?

Diane Schwartz 

I worked in Virginia and Connecticut for smaller daily newspapers and then I work for some magazines in all while the magazines and the newsletters We’re in the business side of things travel and tourism and association management. And back when I was a reporter, I worked one of my favorite Jobs was working in Lynchburg, Virginia for the news in advance there and I got I got an incredible opportunities to interview so many interesting people. One week, I’d be interviewing The Miss Virginia and and go with her to Atlantic City where she competed in the Miss America contest. And then like the next week, I’d be interviewing a death row inmate in Mecklenburg Virginia. So that’s the great thing about early days are reporting as you get to do a lot of different things, get your feet wet, and really learn in the road.

Lexie Smith 

For sure. So when you say the beat then was just more, what did you have a beat did you go cross?

Diane Schwartz 

General assignment at another paper as a lifestyle reporter, I really had my hands in everything on the newspaper reporting side and then moved into more niche B2B and then became a managing editor and did a lot of editing and a little less writing on everything from Telecom, to advertising to air safety. And digital media.

Lexie Smith 

Again, kind of all over and I actually don’t know if I’ve ever talked about this on the podcast, but prior to doing what I’m doing now, I was in telecommunications, so that’s always a fun fact, I get to share Mike from lifestyle in Hollywood restaurants and hotels to telecom kind of bent across the verticals. So I relate to the the switching gears there in the mind. So okay, Ragan communications. Tell us briefly, you know about the company, the different types of services you offer, and the brands, air quotes under the brands because I know there’s a lot of, you know, segments.

Diane Schwartz 

Yeah, we have a lot of offerings. The the commonality is that, primarily, we’re serving the communications professional. So we are a media company. And we have websites and newsletters, conferences, workshops, boot camps, we have membership councils. So really, we’ve been serving communicators at all stages of their career for the past 52 years. And when we talk about communicators at raggin, we’re talking about the PR person but also the internal communications person that lead employee comms executive comms leader who is working inside the organization communicating to employees stakeholders. So that so under the Ragan brand we have, we actually have four websites now we have PR daily Ragan.com communicationsweek.com which we just acquired communications week brand that we have in website that we have is workplace wellness Insider, is under Ragan, wellness.com. And this is our newest area that we branched out into which is all around workplace wellness, everything from helping your employees with mental health issues to diversity and inclusion to financial well being among your employees. So we’re really excited about that area. But end of the day, we’re educating and inspiring communicate communicators.

Lexie Smith 

I love that. And it’s very aligned with what I’ve decided to do with my career. So it’s probably why I feel so connected. And I actually want to start with all those brands at PR daily, because I’ve been personally reading the publication and referencing it for years. So what’s the quick what is PR Daily?

Diane Schwartz 

Well, first, thank you for being an avid reader and consumer of PR daily information. Pr daily is every day we’re we’re educating communicators on the latest news, developments, insights around public relations. So anything having to do, whether it’s Media Relations, crisis, management, writing, business acumen, community relations, product launches, we really run the gamut. I mean, PR is about storytelling. And so we help communicators be better storytellers. And it’s very much service journalism. It’s a lot more tactical and practical content on the site, rather than, you know, waxing poetic about, you know, the the role of the communicator, we really show you how to do it, rather than why to do something.

Lexie Smith 

The how to I love service journalism wrote that, I think that’s a perfect way to describe it and you touched on something that I wanted to ask you. So if you look at the subject headers on your sight, there are a bunch of different categories, which you just spoke to a bit from social media to media relations to crisis marketing, writing, and editing, etc. I’d love to talk about how all of these different topics integrate into the greater umbrella of PR. How would you personally go about explaining this or breaking that down?

Diane Schwartz 

Yeah, I everything is integrated now. Right? If you’re a communicator, you, you know, it’s about managing your brand’s reputation. So whether it’s in a crisis, avoiding a crisis, whether it’s, you know, dealing with the media during good times, or bad times, they’re all integrated, you know, so the approach that we take while we do separate it out, because there are people come to our site, and they just want something related to media relations, or they’re launching a product and they just want something about, you know, product development or getting the word out about a product or social media is a big part of what we cover, actually. But nothing operates in a silo anymore. And even though we cover internal comms and external comms, my philosophy, our philosophy as a team is what what is internal as external. So even though there are people in roles that are just inside their corporation or enterprise, they still need to be concerned with crisis management and strategic communications, Media Relations. So everything is connected, we look at it as mixed ternal relations, sometimes we use that term. And we’ve seen that I mean, it’s kind of a catchy term and everything, but it’s, everything’s integrated, I would even say that advertising, HR, marketing and PR, more than ever need to work together in their silos needs to be broken down. So we try and make it easier for people when they come to a site to catch what they want. Because everyone’s attention span is you know, what it is, you know, pretty short these days. But you’ll notice a theme in all of our content, you know, we don’t really just cover one, it’s almost impossible to cover one topic in a story. If it’s a media relations story, it’s a reputation management story. It’s also a measurement.

Lexie Smith 

Mix, journal relations, I freaking love that so much. I’ve never heard that one.

Diane Schwartz 

I can’t take credit for it. But we do use it a lot.

Lexie Smith 

Well, in my mind, you now have credit for that. So when I think mixed journal, I’m gonna think Diane, that’s, that’s great. And I also love the comment you made about how HR, PR, you said a couple marketing, they all integrate, because it’s so true. And at the core is communications and relationships and how it’s all mixed ternal relationship these days when it comes to running a company and growing a brand. So that’s great. I love that new word.  Present time as a thank you for tuning into the show. I am gifting all of my listeners a completely free Pitches a good checklist, which outlines all the things you should do. Before you ever hit send on a pitch ever. to snag it. All you have to do is visit my website. We’ll also put this link in the show notes at the prbarinc.com/pitchitgood.  Tell me how do you go about finding or staying top on top of the latest news in the industry? Where do you guys go to get your content?

Diane Schwartz 

Yeah, that’s a great question. Like say, we we are really fortunate because we have conversations every day with so many people in our community, or we have access to so much information from our customers and our readers. So for example, we run about a dozen awards programs between PR daily and Ragan everything from the PR daily awards to the CSR and dei awards to we have a media relations award to any we so we get to see the best of the best. So when we see a great campaign, and you know, that puts us in touch with the team did the campaign and then we bring them into the website for stories and so forth. We have editorial meetings, we hold a lot of conferences where we talk to speakers, they give us story ideas, our councils that we have we have a crisis Leadership Network. We have a social media Council, we have a communications Leadership Council, so we’re always having member cause which a lot of topics bubbled to the surface. We do a lot of roundtables now. They’ve been virtual. So really talking and listening both to our customers and even seeing what’s trending online on social media, or in the business press Wall Street from the wall street journal to New York Times to other, you know, trades and kind of see what people are talking about it because if a lot of people are talking about it, it’s something that we have a responsibility to cover. We also have something called the daily scoop. And we, so we cover every day, the news you need to know, that’s happening, you know, in the mainstream press and what it means to you as a communicator. So putting context around that, that keeps us on our toes as well, because every day, we’re watching what’s happening out there.

Lexie Smith 

I did not know about that, where can i because I’m going to sign up for The Daily scoop. Well, if you go on.

Diane Schwartz 

PRDaily.com, it’s usually the top story that you’ll see. And then we do have a news, a free newsletter, that you can sign up for on our website. So you can get PR Daily for free. Every day, you can get the top headlines.

Lexie Smith 

Fantastic. I also subscribe to the skim, which, in a way sounds similar in the sense of rounding up kind of top headlines. And I find it so helpful, because there’s so much happening. So the fact that you’re summarizing that, and what it means to me as a communications professional, is genius. So thank you for doing that. I’m So glad that I just learned that exists.

Diane Schwartz 

That saves you some time, right? We want to make your audience you know, both be smarter and sound smarter. Yeah.

Lexie Smith 

The times we’re living in, it’s more important than ever to be up to date with what’s going on in the world. So do you guys, I guess first of two questions here, how big out of curiosity is your in house editorial team.

Diane Schwartz 

We have about five people five, content, people on our PR daily team, we have freelancers, as well. And we also have a lot of contributors. And so if your audit, you know, people listening to this have a point of view on a topic that’s relevant to communicators, or even marketers and HR and social media, people, you know, we run a lot of user generated content from professionals like on the front lines of communications. So a lot of our content on our website is from outside contributors who are working, you know, professionals and communications.

Lexie Smith 

You submit segwayed perfectly into my second part of the question, which was going to be Do you accept contributors? So you do? How does one go about, you know, submitting a piece for review?

Diane Schwartz 

Yes, so I would I’ll, I’m going to give out his email address to you. And so our editor PR Daily, his name is cat, Ted kinderman. And it’s Ted K, as in kangaroo, or as in kinderman. Actually, Ted K. And Ragan.com R, A, G, A, N dot com and you know, or while we can start with him, and you know, pitch them your story idea. And we will edit it, sometimes we send it back. We have some guidelines, we generally look for shorter, you know, under under 700 words more like in a 500 word range. But more and more, I don’t know, maybe I’m jumping the gun here on questions. But as far as pitching, we’re really looking, we’re very interested in infographics and visuals and checklists, and very prescriptive, like, here’s how you do it type of stories, rather than, you know, anything that’s sort of stating the obvious, repeating things already said on our site. I mean, take a look at the stories we already have up there, we’re not going to run rate, we might as well rerun an article we have, then you know, run the same thing from someone else. So do a little bit of homework by just enjoying the content on the site. But if you have like data and research and visuals and even video, we be very interest probably more interested in those, that part of the pitch than anything else.

Lexie Smith 

That’s so helpful. So thank you for sharing that. Do you guys want the article, concept pitch pitch to you or do you want the article fully baked pitch to you.

Diane Schwartz 

Either. If it’s fully baked, make sure it tastes good. You know what I mean? And we don’t want to have run somewhere else by you know, should be original to us. That doesn’t mean that Two weeks down the line, you can run it on your blog or run on your site by we want, you know, to be the first to run it. I mean, if you’re that confident and feel like it’s a great story, yeah, it’ll speed things up. We’re very nimble and quick, it could go up on our site within, you know, a day or two. Fantastic.

Lexie Smith 

So helpful. This is kind of a big question. But I think you’re the perfect person to ask, Where do you see the industry of PR and communications headed? In the next five years? Do you see it changing? And if so, how? I no big question. But what are your thoughts here?

Diane Schwartz 

Well, it’s something that we talk about. And I think that a lot, because the last year has been, it’s been a silver lining for communicators. And it’s been a horrible year for humanity in so many ways. But one of the things that really became apparent pretty early in spring of 2020, was how important the role of the communicator is to an organization or an agency is to their client, you know, in terms of getting the message out, and managing the brand through multiple crises, not just a pandemic, but the social justice issues, political unrest, I mean, there have been multiple crises as we now. So the communicator I think, accelerated his or her role immensely in just one year. So we really, we really have a lot of momentum as communicators. Five years is a long time from now, you know, what I see is if we can keep this momentum that we’re gonna see many, many more titles like chief communications officer, we’re gonna see those see CEOs or even VPS of comms having not only a seat at the table, but you know, a voice in the room. And they’re going to be part of the decision making, not just communicating the message, but helping to decide on the strategy. We talk a lot about getting away from order taking, right and being, you know, communication strategist, where we’re interested in the outcomes. And we’re not just, you know, tactical and doing the work of others, but we’re creating a lot of great things in this space and communicating that out. So I see that integration, internal and external and all the different departments silos breaking down, and more and more opportunity for comms people to be true business executives within our organization are hopeful. Yeah, no.

Lexie Smith 

That’s great news. I love that. And I think that you’re I really agree. Not that you’re asking if I agree, but I’m just kind of thinking through what you said. And it’s, yeah, yeah. What do you think? Do you think this? I, you know, I this is a question I asked a lot of colleagues and those within the PR industry. And that’s such an interesting take a lot of people and I’ve spoken to, you know, the continued integration of different tactics, and marketing and digital, but having a seat at the table. And really, seeing our industry and the professionals within it. Being more valued is fantastic news, actually, for everyone listening. So I do agree, I think all of us within the industry already would argue that we are valuable, it’s great now that other people maybe outside of us can start to really see that as well. So thank you for that. And I want to continue on with more of our insight. And let’s go into some of your best PR tips. And I know you can speak to this from both sides, considering your background in journalism, what would be your best tips for cultivating relationships with reporters, writers, members of the media?

Diane Schwartz 

Yeah, I love this question. And it’s, you know, media, or journalists are very skeptical by nature. I mean, the best journalists need to be skeptical, right? When you think about it, they can’t believe everything that they hear. They need to verify trust, but verify. And so when communicators are approaching the media, they have to really understand that so they need to build I mean, this is something I’m sure you’ve heard from other guests is building the relationship with a reporter over time, not in real time, like a crisis hits and all of a sudden you think you have this great relationship with this reporter, no, that’s not going to happen. So building those relationships and how do you do that you do that with you know, trust over time you do that with show, you know, helping helping the reporter out in so many different ways, I mean, don’t, you can always expect to get coverage. If you’re communicating with a reporter. I know in the end of the day, at the end of the day, you want to get some sort of positive coverage for your brand or your client. But sometimes it’s just going to be a conversation with that person or something on background. And that’s a success if you had that, you know. And so I would say relationship building, showing your business acumen to the reporter. I think, again, reporters, I mean, most journalists are really smart, they can see through a person if they don’t really understand the business that they’re representing. And this, by the way, is advantageous for anyone in PR communications is just really understanding the business that they’re in both their company’s business and that ecosystem. But really just basic things like, you know, reading a balance sheet or understanding an annual report or something like that. That’ll go a long way with reporters in terms of pitching them and having those conversations. And really just watch how before you send an email out, or just I guess it would be email right now. But not only spellcheck, but read, read the email one time before you send it out or have you know, someone spot check for a little while because spellcheck doesn’t pick everything up. And I can’t tell you how many times pitches have been rejected, because it’s someone being an awful writer, and just not communicating well. So writing good writing is really important.

Lexie Smith 

Absolutely cannot agree more to everything you’ve just said. long game, you know, when you’re talking about relationship building and developing trust over time, thinking about the long game is something I speak to a lot with my clients and I believe in wholeheartedly and not just approaching the media from a place of ask ask ask ask what can you do for me, like cover me, right? It’s a mutual relationship and how first off Can you be a value and helpful to them? So that’s golden advice. And guys get Grammarly the Chrome extension, if you don’t have it, spellcheck make sure you get their name, right. That’s what people spell my name wrong all the time. And it cracks me up, because my email address has my name in it. So just you know, pause. And I’m not saying I’m flawless. I’ve certainly, you know, had my mistakes out there. But as simple as it sounds, really do slow down and listen to what Diane said, reread that email, make sure that it’s written well, you’re you’re pitching to people whose entire careers built around, you know, the written word and language. So it’s gonna give them a little eye twitch, if they see a grammar error.

Diane Schwartz 

And also, and this is a pet peeve, you know, and something that at Ragan, we take pride in no jargon, you know, so when you look at even how press releases are written, and if you’re sending the media, your press release, and the press release is full of jargon, like the industry’s you know, largest or best or most successful, or, you know, this person is a keynote speaker or a guru or just, you know, an industry jargon. We hate that, you know, our reporters hate that, and media in general sees right through it. And it’s not that you’re not going to get a response. But I think it’s not improving your chances to get rid of the jargon.

Lexie Smith 

Yeah, that’s great. And it’s, I think, when you talk about best, and these, there’s subjective, unless you have data that says this is the fastest car, which I think could be maybe proven, then it is subjective and more marketing speak. So that’s a great tip. Thank you for highlighting that.

Diane Schwartz 

And short. be short, like, you know, two to three paragraphs, tops, maybe even one leave them wanting for more information. I mean, we received tip we receive pitches sometimes that are like five paragraphs long, and you think that reporters reading that fourth paragraph, probably not.

Lexie Smith 

Definitely not. How do you feel personally about follow ups?

Diane Schwartz 

You mean following up?

Lexie Smith 

So if someone’s pitching you or Ragan, can they send a follow up email? If they don’t hear back? Should they is that annoying?

Diane Schwartz 

I don’t think it’s annoying. I think it’s really it can be helpful. As long as the original pitch is good. You know, sometimes that’s a way to fix the original pitch. If you realize you did something wrong or something, you can forward the last pitch and they’ll read it and it’ll be corrected. So I’ve seen that done before. But now I mean, we’re all really big reporters are really busy, the smaller newsrooms and less resources so things do get lost in the show? So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with following up.

Lexie Smith 

I would agree with that my season finale of season one of this show I did the state of the media and journalism reports from scission and muck rack. And that’s always one of the data points that journalists are interviewed on. And it’s also a question I asked members of the media on this show, and from what I’m gathering 95% of people are okay with one, pass that one, you know, it kind of splits off and how people feel about it. But I mean, I need people to follow up with me, sometimes I wish I was as organized as to remember every single email that hits my inbox, but like, we’re human, right?

Diane Schwartz 

So Well, if you times didn’t have time to put a deadline on a response or have some sense of urgency to it, such as you can have the you know, we’re your this person’s available for interviews, you know, respond by XYZ day, or, you know, just some sort of deadline on the pitch. I think you you will raise your chances of getting a response, whether yes or no at least responding, or that you’re going to go to their competitor if you don’t hear from them by a certain time. So remember, I mean, reporters live on deadlines.

Lexie Smith 

I love that tip. I think that’s a great one. And I know maybe sometimes people think of you can only use a deadline with an exclusive perhaps, but maybe not. You know, no.

Diane Schwartz 

Why. Why is that? You made that roll?

Lexie Smith 

Yeah, through that roll throwing that out there. I love it. Those are amazing. And I want to be respectful of your time. I can pick your brain for hours, but I won’t. I will however, ask you one more question and true pitching and sippin fashion so we talked pitching What can we find you sipping? What is your favorite beverage alcoholic or non alcoholic?

Diane Schwartz 

I do like Cabernet red wine. Especially on Friday evenings. I think it could be any Cabernet on a Friday. That would taste delicious after a long day. But I’m a big fan of Cabernet. Out your way I really like the Dave Matthews winery brand crush, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s an acronym.

Lexie Smith 

I’ve definitely heard of it. I couldn’t tell you the taste profile off the top of my mind, but I definitely aware of the brand.

Diane Schwartz 

It’s wonderful. But yeah, that would be my preferred alcoholic beverage or any beverage.

Lexie Smith 

Oh, can we make a shirt that says Cabernet on a Friday? I’m all about the rhymes here. So yeah, we can do that. That’s fantastic. Put it on your store. I know right? So on brand for me. That gets my my wheels turning. Um, last thing before I let you go, where should people go to learn more about you and Ragan and all the different you know, amazing things and resources and brands that you guys have?

Diane Schwartz 

Thanks, Lexie. Um, there’s a lot of different ways like for to get in touch with me. I’m at Dianes as in Schwartz at Ragan.com or connect with me on LinkedIn and get you know, check out Ragan.com and PRdaily.com, our contact information is on there as well. So and all of our social media accounts are there too. So we’ll see some new people visiting us.

Lexie Smith 

Yes, that’s an order guys go to her site, please. I’m just kidding. No, seriously, Diane, thank you so much. I know it’s a Monday that we’re recording this but I’m gonna pretend it’s Friday and I will say cheers. And I hope you have a fabulous rest of your weekend weekend.

Diane Schwartz 

Thanks like say you too. Thanks for having me.

Lexie Smith 

Hey guys, if you are enjoying the Pitchin’ and Sippin’ podcast, please do me a huge favor and leave a review wherever you are listening. If you want to connect with me to learn more about THEPRBAR inc., You can do so on Instagram @theprbar_inc or you can check out my website at theprbarinc.com. Cheers

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