Guest Post: Three Baby Steps for an In-House PR Startup

Matt Simpson, aka ScribeDevil, is a Fortune 1000 marketer by day and freelance copywriter and journalist by night. Visit to read his blog, browse his writing samples and connect via social media. (Or cut to the chase at

A reorganization late last year left my manager and me – both copywriters by trade – as stewards of the media relations program for a Fortune 1000 enterprise. Our company has historically shied from media coverage. But, despite limited resources, we wanted to transform our minimalist approach into a more proactive model.

At the start, our assets included a press release template, a process guideline for media engagement, and a pool of incredibly knowledgeable but far-flung subject matter experts (SMEs). That’s about it.

So, like most in this economy, we took a deep breath and got to work. These were our first baby steps:

Pick the low-hanging fruit. With limited startup resources, we had to accept our limitations and identify and pursue the low-hanging fruit – easily achievable wins – to gain momentum in our efforts. We simply don’t have the manpower to pitch stories or build deep relationships with the media. So we patiently follow journalists on Twitter and browse HARO e-mails and wait for a pitch to hit.

Secure executive buy-in. In some large companies, it’s easy to lose hours, if not days, in approvals. That dog won’t hunt for journalists on a 3 p.m. deadline. So we made the case for responsiveness and flexibility and streamlined our engagement process. Fortunately, our executives were very supportive—especially after we whetted their appetites with a handful of early wins.

Build a SME list. We’re blessed with a robust and deep pool of SMEs. Unfortunately, they’re spread from Boston to Chicago to Dallas to Phoenix, and that’s when they’re at their desks and not in the field. Plus, our industry is pretty technical. So we had to assess the SMs for which we had SMEs, and then locate the SMEs. Our SME list enables us to react quickly to media opportunities.

We’re not doing everything right. But we’ve managed to keep the lights on while building relationships with local journalists. And we’ve advanced long-term projects including an online media room and an introductory media kit.

We look forward to eventually adding resources and scaling our fledgling operation into industry publications and key markets outside Arizona.

So how’d we do? Let me know if we missed any key steps – or low-hanging fruit – in building out our program.

2 Responses to “Guest Post: Three Baby Steps for an In-House PR Startup”

  1. What the - September 21st, 2009

    Come on, you’re not really a copywriter. Over-laden with meaningless cliches. “Lights on”, “building out”, “robust and deep pool”, “low-hanging fruit”, “whetted their appetities”. At the end I didn’t know what you were talking about.


  2. ScribeDevil - September 21st, 2009

    I assure you that I am a copywriter. My two years as a B2B marketer in the Fortune 500 B2B have burdened me with an unnatural love for meaningless clichés and acronyms like ROI and TCO.

    That said, I don’t think the clichés take away from the message. If the story didn’t translate for you, I’ll happily provide a primer on MBA jargon via Twitter. Follow @ScribeDevil and I’ll define one buzzword per day for the next week as a service to readers worldwide.


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