[Editor’s Note: In cooperation with our sister website Qwoted, Talking Biz News is pleased to present the Qwoted 100 series, which spotlights standout PR professionals. Look for new installments every week.]
Having recently touched down in Dublin for a spell, this editor can tell you for 1000 percent certain: There’s nothing halfway about it. I learned in short order that the city was once home to Vikings, boasts a pub in business since 1198 A.D. (The Brazen Head), and has a unique character that isn’t quite European, not quite colonial: It stands apart like a poem by Yeats or a Bloomsday celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Did U2 make Dublin famous? The other way around, my friend.
Why should it come as any surprise then, that many behind-the-scenes pluggers in this city of 1.3 million embody their own brand of passion? That includes one of our Quoted 100 PR superstars, Caolán Walsh. Currently an associate at Wachsman, Walsh specializes in the Web3 community, which if you haven’t heard is out to reshape the world’s online experience through metaverse activities. Those run the gamut from purchasing virtual property that mirrors the real world to creating communities that collaborate on NFTs, ventures with major brands and much, much more.
And does he have cred? Oh man, plenty. In his spare time, Walsh is building a decentralized rehearsal space for musicians (SoundsMint) and prior to taking on his current role, completed a Master of Laws degree at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, Galway. Here we talk to Walsh about what it takes to stand out and stand above in today’s media relations landscape.
Qwoted: What do you see as the future of PR—technologically, strategically or in any category you’re passionate about? Caolán Walsh: From a technological perspective, things are going to be even more data-driven than they are today. Analysis tools are practical and powerful, opening up new opportunities in PR for those who are willing to become early adopters. Strategically, short-form pitching is the art form to master. It takes more talent to write a decent hook in shorter pitches. This trend of brevity will continue and it will be crucial to make pitches shorter and snappier to catch the attention of journalists.
You tend to hear about people’s attention spans getting shorter, which I don’t think is true. I can tune into a three-hour podcast if the title or thumbnail catches my eye. It may be that our reward systems have been socially engineered!
Qwoted: What do you think you do that other PRs could learn from? Walsh: Tailored pitches should be used more often; mail merge/mass pitches are less effective. Don’t be afraid to use alternative channels such as Telegram, Signal, Twitter DMs, or LinkedIn. Tools such as Qwoted have been a great success in reaching journalists who may not be on your radar otherwise.
Qwoted: What’s your toughest challenge with reporters? Walsh: Sparking interest is one thing but securing commitment can be tough when reporters are bombarded with so many potential sources and news angles. Even when you have successfully cut through the noise, secured interviews can fall through at the last minute. On a positive note, last-minute cancellations can result in substitutes that produce unexpected, high-quality placements.
Qwoted: How do you approach breaking through the noise floor to get effective coverage? Walsh: Using alternative communication channels is key to effectively break through the noise and secure coverage for clients. It’s essential to think outside the box and consider where journalists are receiving notifications on their lock screen – which is probably not their email inbox. Reaching out via Twitter, Telegram, and Discord can grab a reporter’s attention and further build rapport with them. In real life meetups are the best relationship builders. A few minutes of quality face time can do wonders!
Qwoted: How does PR in 2022 square with the future of journalism? Walsh: In recent years the industry has moved on from old methods of PR, such as immediately following up on press releases with a phone call. Leaving these personal touches behind may be one of the factors contributing to distrust from the media. Data-driven PR can help to rectify this. At Wachsman, we do our due diligence to work with a strong and reliable client base. The caliber of clients that we have makes it easy to pitch. Representing professional, well-informed experts in their field is reassuring. We hold ourselves and our clients to the highest standard and ensure that we’re representing clients that we are proud to stand behind. In the future, having reliable, trustworthy spokespeople available will go a long way to maintaining a strong relationship between PR and journalists.
Qwoted: What advice would you give to those seeking to find an effective PR person? Walsh: You want to find someone who views PR as a true partnership and who is there to offer real strategic consultation rather than just weekly updates. This means that they take an active and creative approach to pursue media opportunities and building exposure, rather than being passive and awaiting instructions. Importantly, they should also be able to say no, push back and suggest a different approach when needed. You don’t want a “yes” man in your PR camp.
Qwoted: What is your golden rule of PR? Walsh: When pitching journalists, always be succinct. Pitches can get dressed up in a lot of fluff to catch the attention of reporters but more often than not, journalists just want to get to the point.
Qwoted: Anything else to add? Walsh: To build on a previous point, PR professionals should be taking a seat at the strategic table. Solidify that partnership. Prioritize your client’s needs. In the long term, PR is not a once-off service. Top-notch PR must incorporate a range of different business-critical functions, including strategic communications, business consulting, and policy communications, as well as brand and digital marketing.
Communication drives outcomes and changes behavior – so a PR professional who can use data analytics and behavioral intelligence to craft compelling narratives and deliver impactful campaigns will succeed. Delegate deliverables diligently, constantly consult clients and proactively pitch people.