Advice from the Expert: Jennifer McGinley, JLM Strategic Communications
Strategic comms and PR can be a closed world to an outsider. When I first started writing about entrepreneurs in the US, I cast around Facebook contacts, asking who would be good to talk to in the business.
I was pointed straight to Jennifer McGinley, of JLM Strategic Communications, who has a great reputation for being honest, reliable, and delivering for her clients. She has an exceptional reach of contacts, built because people know her, trust her, and value her integrity.
Jennifer built her career experience in strategic communications, working at University Medical and Pharma schools and hospitals, none of which are easy to achieve constant media results for, a long way from the glitz of celebrity consumer brand PR. Jennifer shone.
Since 2016, Jennifer has run her own successful consultancy, JLM Strategic Communications where she focuses on community outreach, reputation management and media relations. She works with small businesses, start-ups, healthcare, education, fitness, nutrition and the arts.
I am delighted to share her advice.
One sort of marketing is needed if you are a social influencer or have a glossy new product or brand to promote. If you have a non-profit or are in medicine, education, or STEM, you and your organization will have to work very differently to achieve the publicity you need to build awareness and fundraise.
With the current statistics in the US of less than 5% of any media placements making it into the news, it requires expertise. Most start-ups need it but cannot afford it. Jennifer generously offers her advice on how to plan out your strategic communications.
From day one, a strong mission statement is critical. Everything starts with that. When Jennifer starts working with a company, her very first job is to get to understand the “who” they are, the “why” they exist, the “what” their goal is. Every start-up must start in the same place, and then ensure that everyone involved understands the answers.
The next decision is deciding what impact the messages need to have and on which communities. Your goal might be fundraising or gaining support from the local community, for example.
The CEO must have a great bio and a professional headshot. They need to define some noteworthy points to speak about that represent their company, cause, and viewpoint so that they can produce them on demand. Leaders need to get out there, be visible, make connections, and network. Freelance reporters often attend these events, and some strategically useful and thoughtful remarks can be delivered.
Jennifer also trains her clients’ teams, who should also be involved to produce these expert comments. She also teaches when to stop talking, advising to think of it as a triangle. When speaking in any public forum, make three good points, and stop talking.
Jennifer coaches CEOs to be both confident and relevant. As well as knowing their facts, they need to develop their place in their local community, the size of which will grow as their company does. They need to do free speaking wherever they can, do workshops, develop that place in the community.
Social media is an essential part of strategic communications. What you say must have credibility, but it must also be consistent. Jennifer says time and time again, she sees people working like crazy on social media, then dropping out and the whole impact falling flat. You have to produce clear, consistent content and communication to build a community. There may be days when you don’t want to, but it is essential you still do. Only through consistency, do people start to know they can count on you and begin to trust in you as an expert, an authority.
It is also relevant to recognize the overlap now between business and personal on social media. Jennifer advises that you should never, talk politics or religion, and always be appropriate. All associations will reflect on you and your company.
Jennifer says that people who write thank-you notes get remembered. She advises CEOs to talk to every member of their team regularly, bother with their stories, and the details. Good communications lie in the details.
Every member of your team should be involved in strategic communications, so everything has to be completely open and transparent, and everyone treated with respect. Jennifer points out that security people are particularly essential as you grow; they will be your best friends as you go to events. The best stories often lie within your team and only come to light as you get to know them all.
Start-ups often expect to appear in upper tier publications like the Wall Street Journal instantly, which does not tend to happen. This takes time. You need to build visibility and credibility. White papers are excellent for this and make a footprint for you to use as you grow. You cannot just appear from nowhere and expect accolades, Jennifer points out.
Strategic communications are not just about media relations. Appearing on TV, on podcasts, or in the papers are just the icing on the cake, achieved by building relationships over time, building trust, integrity, and authenticity. You need to showcase any appearance on your web site and social media, so it gets seen and talked about.
To succeed, you need to rise above the competition. Always remember that the media do not care about you, but they do care about your social impact. Journalists do not respond well to people who are just going “look at me.” They need to provide value to their audience first.
So, remember – for effective strategic communications, always nail your “why”, be clear on your message, and where/how you want it to impact and build trusting relationships with journalists.
If you are interested in advertising and PR, you might also like to read of Adrian Falk, an Australian specializing in advertising.