“We are what we repeatedly do.” - Aristotle
I can’t tell you how much I adore this quote, because I’m a big believer in the power of habits! I think it’s all of the small, daily decisions we make – more than the large ones – that make the most difference in our lives. I’ve read a lot about how habits are formed, what goes on in our brains to etch them into becoming part of our daily lives and the hard work it takes to break less-than-stellar patterns we've formed. It stands to reason that we should strive for habits that strengthen the areas of our lives we want to prioritize, right? Right.
But in some fields, this is a little clearer than in others. If you want to stay on top of your accounting, for instance, you might create a habit of entering debits into QuickBooks at the end of each workday. Or if you want to improve your mental clarity, you may set your alarm for the same time each day so you can devote 15 minutes to meditation. I personally like to start every morning with a giant glass of lemon water, because of its cleansing properties and how it jumpstarts my day. I’ve been doing this for so long that the process of getting the water and squeezing the lemon as soon as I'm awake is entirely automatic.
And this is the goal, isn’t it? To ingrain positive choices in our lives so that they become automatic and further our personal or professional growth.
So when it comes to PR, how does this apply? It’s tough because the nature of this industry is fast-paced and unpredictable. Your pitches will vary based on company circumstances, and your messaging will evolve over time as your business grows and offerings change. You can’t scour the Internet for new awards every day because it’s unnecessary and would waste your time. And it’d be silly to set aside the 15 minutes before you go to bed every night to write customer testimonials, because you might not have new or willing customers to give you the material this often.
But this is all okay. To be effective, habits do not need to be done every single day. And they also do not need to fall within the exact field you’re trying to improve. For example, if you create a habit of stretching every morning, you’ll positively impact numerous other areas of your life and wellbeing – not just your ability to stretch. So if you want to get better at mastering public relations and content initiatives, by way of creating significant habits, here are my two best recommendations:
1. READ. I cannot emphasize this enough. I’ve heard many times from multiple sources that the best readers are the best writers, and I strongly agree. Here’s why:
- By reading the work of other skilled (or even unskilled) writers, you learn about what works and what doesn’t work in your own writing.
- By reading the publications you hope to contribute to, you get a solid grasp of the kinds of content they’re willing to accept.
- By reading about what’s going on in your industry, you stay on top of news that could affect you and your customers.
- Reading also helps you to intuitively understand the nuances of good writing, like sentence flow and syntax. And it makes you a better communicator, in both written and verbal form.
All of the insight you glean from reading helps you become a true fount of knowledge who is better equipped to offer opinions and advice, and to write. The best way to make this a habit is to assign the same chunk of time to it each day. Maybe you spend the first 15 minutes at your desk each morning browsing a handful of important industry publications, or maybe you dedicate a half hour of your lunch break to skimming the biggest stories on a news aggregator site. However you decide to incorporate this into your day doesn’t really matter, as long as you are consistent.
2. Update your media list. This is a task that doesn’t need to be done daily, but still should become a regular habit. Once you have your basic media list in place (template found here), you’ll need to give it a scrub every now and then to be sure that the press you’ve identified haven’t changed positions or publications. The easiest way to make this a habit is to carve out a half hour of your time every week, and go from top to bottom verifying the people on your list. I used to do this every Friday afternoon, and it worked well for me. I’d look up the name of the reporter or editor, double check that the publication for which he or she works hasn’t changed, verify that this person has written a few articles within the last couple months and confirm that the title and beat I have written down are still the same.
You might have to dig for some of this information more than others, but most of it is readily accessible. Comb through as many people on your list as you can in a half hour, and then the next week begin where you left off. This will save you time when you’re actually in pitching-mode, and reduce the chance of making embarrassing or damaging errors in your media relationships. It’ll also solidify a pattern of conscientiousness in your public relations efforts.
It takes time, intention and diligence to successfully create new patterns in our lives. But if you are willing to apply what I’ve outlined here, your PR and content (and overall business) will benefit from it. Aristotle would be so proud.