The Power of Cross-Training in PR

By Megan Kessler, Publicity Club of New England

If you’ve ever cross-trained to prepare for an athletic competition, then you know three things are true:

  • Cross-training is uncomfortable – you’re using muscles that you may have never used before or that have atrophied over the years.
  • Cross-training takes commitment – the results aren’t immediate. You need to commit time and energy if you want to reap the full benefits.
  • Cross-training works – by the end of your training, you are better, faster and stronger.

The same goes for cross-training in PR. As the pace of change in our industry continues to increase, we need to reinvent our training regimens to ensure that we don’t find ourselves – or our organizations – watching from the sidelines. That means making ourselves uncomfortable and committing the necessary time and resources to strengthening our performance.My team recently had the chance to cross-train with SHIFT’s marketing group and we’re already seeing results – deeper metrics, smarter strategy and greater impact. Today, everyone has an opportunity to cross-train. The proliferation of on-demand training tools has opened the door for any PR practitioner, at any level, to up their game with new skills. But cross-training is particularly powerful when your organization supports it.

Whether you’re looking to strengthen your own career or to drive the performance of your organization, consider these three opportunities:

  • Cross-Channel Training: As PR pros, we all understand the power of earned media. The audience that earned media delivers is the bread and butter of our industry – and we’ve traditionally measured its impact in impressions. However, our clients often have a different set of metrics to meet, so it behooves us to understand and embrace the business impact that they are looking for. Earned media is just one piece of a larger puzzle. Does your team understand how to create and leverage owned content – and how to track its success? Can they drive engagement with influencers and create viral campaigns that spread messages through social channels? Can they expand the reach of earned and owned media through paid media? Training ourselves and our teams to recognize the opportunities that exist at the intersection of earned, paid and owned media is essential to our long-term success.
  • Cross-Practice Training: I’ve had the tremendous opportunity to sit at the intersection of B2B and consumer PR – and I can tell you that the view from here is stunning. I can only imagine what my colleagues who’ve achieved the PR “trifecta” of working across B2B, consumer and healthcare practices are seeing in terms of opportunities and new ideas for client programs. The lessons learned in one practice certainly translate to another – in fact, they can be drivers of both innovation and efficiency. Even if switching between practices isn’t an option, cross-training and idea sharing across practices should be.
  • Cross-Unit Training: A great way to broaden your perspective is to spend time in your marketing, creative or sales teams’ shoes. Do you understand how your organization is run and how each “cog in the wheel” contributes to its success? Have you experimented with the tools and learned the best practices of each business unit so you can appreciate how one influences and brings value to another? Case in point, one of the first requests our PR account teams make of a new client is access to their Google Analytics data. Why? Because it offers a treasure trove of insight that can help us plan, execute and measure our PR campaigns more effectively. This marketing best practice has quickly become an agency best practice and has enhanced our collective strength.

A wise manager once told me that he believes generalists – those who don’t have a specialty focus – are the most effective in our field. While I have come to recognize the benefits of specialist knowledge, especially in a B2B practice, I think that he was on to something. We should all strive to be generalists in our careers, if not in our roles. Exercising our collective muscle across channels, practices and business units will only make us stronger – as individuals, as organizations and as an industry.

Are you ready to feel the burn?

Megan Kessler (@esteves1) is an Account Director at SHIFT Communications.

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