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“How Do You Start Working with a PR Professional?” with Jennifer McGinley

How do you start working with a PR professional? We’re continuing on with Jennifer McGinley’s, CEO of JLM Strategic Communications, interview. In today’s episode, she tells us what to expect when you first start working with a PR professional. As you’ll hear from her, a lot of trust is involved. Jenn seems to thrive in that place where opportunity meets preparedness.

Here is the podcast episode:

Here is the transcript:

What is the 1st step to working with a PR Professional?

Jennifer: I start with a 15-minute call just to get to know eachother quickly. Then after that, I go into a 1-hour phone call. I love to just let somebody talk. I want their whole story, the good, the bad, the ugly. I want the who, what, why, when, and how of of their business. 

Hopefully, they’re in business for 3-5 years before I talk to them. I have worked with a lot of new entrepreneurs, but…. You would probably know the statistics on new businesses and what the failure rate is. (I do, it’s about 20% in the first year) Not to be negative, but I’ve worked with a couple entrepreneurs that I don’t even know where they are anymore. 

So I do that hour-long phone call, I delve deep, and I literally just keep my mouth shut and let them talk. I absorb the information, I take appropriate notes and then we just talk together about a strategy, a budget, and a plan. 

If they’re in the mental health space, I love to have a pseudo-editorial calendar set up. If it’s May Mental Health Month or October’s Mental Health Awareness Week, that’s a great way to set some deadlines, and bring in breaking news or something relevant. This is because it increases the media relations opportunities, but it’s also a community outreach opportunity. So there’s a lot of thinking and strategizing that goes into this. 

Not to get ahead of myself, but I do that strategy call, listen, and if they don’t have a bio written, I love to write bios. My bios are different. I really try telling a story that can be a separate piece. I’ve been told by another editor, “I love this bio because it makes me want to interview them and get to know them better.”

It was then that I knew that I was on the right path in terms of including quotes, their educational background, but also making it warm and intriguing. I think that’s what journalists want today, as well as anybody else that would interview them.

Ruth: That makes sense. From the client side of things, it sounds like they should be trusting you to do your job, but also being prepared to be that person who talks a lot so you can do all of that incredibly valuable listening. It sounds like there’s a lot of trust and communication involved.


Trust is Huge When You Work with a Public Relations Professional

Jennifer: Yeah, trust is huge for me. Public relations is not a one-sided game. It’s a collaborative effort. I want to educate that person on what public relations truly is, and the value that I can bring them with connection, visibility, and credibility.

Credibility is huge. They need to have a really solid website. If they want to go on paid or unpaid speaking engagements, I need some video. I need them to have their bio done. I need talking points. I love to do a draft press release, because something can pop up quickly if there’s breaking news. 

One of the cases I’ve dealt with was the Ford-Kavanaugh situation. I talked with her for months ahead of time. I told her, “Listen, this whole Me Too thing is gonna blow, and we need to be prepared.” So we prepared a couple of months in advance. Mental Health Month was also coming along. 

The day that I called her, I said, “It’s D-Day. We’re good to go. Use your talking points for each interview.” To me, that was the perfect, dream situation because when I first met her, I already knew that this was going to happen. (No, Jenn isn’t saying #MeToo is great. She’s speaking strictly about how her preparedness and the opportunity lined up.)

She was such an amazing person. I knew that we would get along so well because she said, “You know what, do what you need to do. Just tell me where I need to be and when I need to be there, and I will do it.” So I just felt the creative juices flowing since the day I met her. 

That’s when you get up in the morning, and it doesn’t feel like work. It’s what I love to do and I love, I love when the synergy is there. That’s really important for me. 

How Does a PR Professional Go About Getting Media Coverage for a Business?

Ruth: Okay, so what’s involved in terms of how you would try to get media coverage for me and my business, now that we’re working together?

Jennifer: Like I said, I want the bio done. I want to get to know that person. I want to really figure out where they see themselves vs. my constructive criticism of them. I’ve had people call me going, “Oh, do you have a friend at the Today show?” And I kind of take a deep breath and explain that media relations isn’t everything in public relations. You really have to earn the right to get on that outlet, or get that podcast, etc. 

There’s a lot of planning. Honestly, the person needs to be a legitimate expert in their field with a lot of backing educationally. They need to have local media placements behind them. So, that’s why I love going local first. 

Jennifer McGinley, CEO, JLM Strategic Communications

Alumni Publications Can Be a Great Starting Point for Public Relations

Don’t forget about your alumni publications. If you went to a college and you have a new book out, or you’re trying to grow your business, tell your alumni. Whether it’s in your alumni publication, or in an alumni reunion, where you can have a table to sell your product, book,  t-shirts if you’re a nonprofit, or something like that. 

That is such a great way to get your name out, because think about it: there are a plethora of fields that those alumni are a part of. I like taking that shoestring budget or community outreach approach to PR. 

I think when you’re building a community in such an authentic, raw way that it’s going to give you a lot more attraction and mileage. Especially when compared to paid advertising, Facebook ads, or hustling in a scattered approach. 

I work with my client in a very realistic way. We’re kind of just filling in each-other’s gaps and have a really nice, flowing thought process. That’s really what I let you do.  Trust, communication, collaboration, strategy, and research are all key components. 

I like to use those first three months to get to know the client. I reassure them that if I text, email, or call them, it’s not going to be a waste of their time. I will only do that if I’m on a deadline or breaking leads. So that’s the respect that I have for that client and their time. 

It goes both ways. If I tell them that an opportunity came up. I have a 7.00 deadline, it’s 3.30 now. We need to get this in. My clients are like, “Absolutely, what do you need me to do? I’ll cut and paste, I’ll edit, I’ll get it in.” I love that because it’s fun. It’s on a deadline and we’re working together to help them with their organization.

That is great public relations, and it’s a great approach.


If your PR person doesn’t sound like Jenn, well….. I suggest you start working with a new PR professional ASAP! If you missed it, here’s Jenn’s first segment on The Defiant Business Podcast. Let us know what you think in the comments!