The topic of my blog post applies to more than only public relations professionals. It applies to anyone in a profession that requires a person to be connected to the community and stay current on what’s going on, who’s doing and saying what, the political landscape and how certain projects in the community are affecting its members. The list goes on, really. This month, Memphis Magazine released its annual City Guide issue, and as I was flipping through the pages, I found myself playing trivia. I turned to the “Who’s Who” section and without reading the profiles, I asked myself what I knew about each person.
It can take a long time to become engrained in the daily “happenings” of your city, but the quickest way to do that is to read the news. We instill this principal within new PR managers who come to work for us. It can’t be done by reading only one paper or watching only one nightly newscast. We read the news in print and online, we watch local news whenever we can, and we keep up with breaking news through social media and news outlets’ email subscriptions.
Why is this important? As a PR professional or as someone who must be engrained within the community, the “who’s who” and “what’s happening” comes up in conversation more than you realize. And, sometimes those people, events, political developments, etc. affect clients in ways you may not realize. I’ve been in numerous meetings where clients have brought up all kinds of news about what notable people are doing and saying, controversial topics and other relevant community news. If I hadn’t been paying attention to the news, I would have looked like the most unconnected PR professional in town.
Another rare but unpleasant scenario is running into someone that you should know, and then ending up looking like a total moron when they introduce themselves because you weren’t aware. I experienced an awkward exchange with a client at a TV morning show one day a few years ago. A congresswoman was there to talk about a project she was working on, and when she introduced herself to my client with her name only, my client looked at her earnestly and said, “Now what is that you do?” I admit in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that big of a deal, but if I had been the one to ask that question in front of my client, what would they have thought?
Absorb as much knowledge about your community as you can. I promise it will help you in ways you won’t realize until suddenly it does.