Public Relations: Great or Gone in 7 Seconds?

by PR Coach


PR: 7 seconds to success or failure

When you think about it, in public relations, we’re all just seven seconds away from success or failure. Every day.

This insight smacked me on the upside of my head right after reading a brilliant post “Gone in 14 Seconds” by Abe Rosenberg at

In his post, Rosenberg describes a TV news program perfectly designed for today’s attention deficit, internet-addled viewers:

“One station in Los Angeles (by now there’s probably one in every market) does a newscast described by its producer as “Rock ‘n’ Roll News”. Half an hour. Dozens of stories. Heavy on the animations. Extreme camera moves. Headbanger music beds. Segments like “Hot Shots”, “Weird News”, “Street Beat” .Average script length: 14 seconds…. You sneeze and you miss Afghanistan.”

That’s the reality in many newsrooms where we are pitching new stories. News at the speed of sound, fragile fact checking and fewer reporters with resources stretched to the max.

Rosenberg offers six superb tips to help newswriters find the essentials of the story. He also reminds us that knowing what to leave out of the story is just as important as knowing what to put into each story. Sounds like PR doesn’t it?

If you think that’s nearly impossible, what about public relations? We really are just seconds from success or failure in most of our daily PR activities:

  • Pitching: You have seconds to get a reporter’s attention on the phone or in your email subject line.
  • News releases: Without an excellent headline and lead para? Poof!
  • Interviews: Get it tight and get it right.
  • Key messages: Think about Rupert Murdoch’s message to the British parliamentary committee: “Today was the most humble day of my life.”
  • Crisis communications: As the former CEO of BP can attest, a careless comment, made in seconds, can make or break a crisis.
  • Opening of your presentation: Apple’s Steve Jobs excels at getting your attention right out of the gate.
  • Blog posts: A great headline grabs readers by the lapels.
  • Client complaints: Skillful handling of a client call or e-mail can turn a complainer into a supporter or explode into an online crisis in seconds.
  • Social media: Talk about dancing on the head of a pin. What you do in moments in social media can be magical or magnified into embarrassment or even worse.
  • PR Strategy: Is your public relations strategy simple, compelling and inspiring?

Rosenberg concludes with newsroom advice that rings true for PR professionals too:

“Sooner or later the 14 second rule will reach many more newsrooms. Writers must be ready to adapt to the format without sacrificing content, accuracy and style.”

My takeaway for public relations pros?

You’ve got seven seconds. Think fast. Move even faster. Will you be great or gone?

We’ve got lots more resources in the PR Library on strategic PR, social media and more. You can also sign on to our blog or get our RSS Feed directly to your favorite reader.

Photo Credit: Tracy Byrnes via Flickr

Author: Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach

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