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The Best PR Lessons I Learned in 2018

Elisa Smith
The Startup
Published in
4 min readJan 2, 2019


This time last year, I wrote a blog for The Startup that offered some key learnings from my transition as an in-house public relations professional to a communications consultant. As I begin the start of 2019, I thought it would be a good time to reflect again on what I’ve learned in the last 12 months, and share with you a few more of my observations from the past year as it relates to public relations and client service.

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1. Traditional media reports won’t cut it.

Long ago are the days when media monitoring included the cumbersome task of cutting out newspaper articles and mailing them to clients (thank goodness for that!). But e-mailing a couple of story links to your clients to show the effectiveness of a PR campaign won’t suffice in today’s environment either. Clients are looking for more comprehensive reporting and metrics, which not only includes traditional media placements and social and digital reach, but also measurement of the campaign and company and competitors’ influence; the effectiveness of their messaging; and third-party engagement. Automating aspects of your reporting is fine, but it can’t be cookie cutter. I’ve learned that the hard way.

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2. Your network is your net worth.

You may be familiar with this old quote from author Porter Gale, but it still rings true today. As a communications professional, I am only as good as the relationships I have made in my career. Make a resolution to continue building your network in 2019, and finding ways to stay in touch with both former contacts and current ones. Join a professional industry group and go to networking events (which may prove difficult at times if you are an introvert or an ambivert, like me). Be more visible on LinkedIn, by sharing stories and commenting on articles. You never know when an old relationship can prove fruitful again — new business opportunities are much easier to win if you have a champion for your work from the inside.

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3. Journalists still want personal stories.

This seems like a no-brainer, but it can often be difficult to put a face to a product or campaign. However, nothing will sell your idea better than a relatable and personal story. Human-interest pieces were my favorite stories to write when I was a print journalist, and often the most well-received. Data will support your story, but an individual will put it into context. So decide this year to identify and share more personal stories on behalf of your businesses or clients — you will be happy you did in the end.


4. Podcasts reign supreme.

Podcasts have been a great medium to share content for a long time, but they have also have risen in popularity over the last year. According to Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer 2018 report, monthly listeners grew from 24 percent of Americans 12 and over to 26 percent year over year. As our cars are getting smarter, people are listening to podcasts more in their vehicles, and the average podcast listener listens to seven podcasts a week, according to So if your client or business doesn’t have a podcast, now may be a good in time to consider adding one.

5. PR agencies are evolving, and so should your strategy.

Lastly, the year 2018 saw consolidation moves by some of the large global PR firms, including my former employer, Burson-Marsteller, that merged with their sister agency, Cohn & Wolfe. BCW and other agencies are continuing to evolve, as the lines blur more and more between earned and paid media. Clients don’t want to have to pay one agency for advertising, another for media relations, and another for marketing or brand identity — they are seeking that needle-in-the-haystack, one-stop shop. The campaigns they are looking for also include multiple channels, such as over-the-top (OTT) TV and digital advertising, social media, web, e-mail marketing, grassroots outreach, and traditional media, to name a few. In 2019, it’s time to think bigger for your publicity and broaden your reach.

I hope these observations will be helpful to you as you start the new year and set new goals for your communications strategy in 2019. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

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Elisa Smith
The Startup

First shift: PR professional | Second shift: Wife and boy mom | Find me at: