Jerry Schranz is a company legend. He’s one of our longest tenured employees. And his boundless energy, limitless tenacity and enthusiasm, combined with a massive arsenal of reporter relationships and a keen understanding of the evolving media landscape, make him an invaluable member of the team (not to mention the softball captain). We sat down with Jerry to gain his valuable insight about media relations.
What gets Jerry going? How do you start your day?
I’m a lucky guy with a wife and three kids, but I’m also blessed with a short commute, which is important because I spend a lot of time reading. It’s always important to stay on top of the news, and I actually start my day off by reading the obituaries. I guess it sounds morbid, but I find learning about other people’s lives very instructive. From there, I move onto the top national dailies, local papers, and then energy, tech, real estate and foreign affairs news. Personally, I like to read a physical copy of a paper, but these days, a lot of what we read comes online or in email newsletters. There are only 24 hours in a day, so I’m just scanning much of the news I read, but if we’re trying to be proactive and leverage every opportunity for our clients, it’s important to have an eye in every segment of the media to see what wave of news we can be riding.
Jerry, one of the hallmarks of PR for decades has been the press release, but in the 21stcentury, a lot of people say the press release is dead. What’s your take on this?
The press release is certainly not dead, because publicly traded companies need press releases for earnings reports and other major announcements. The misconceptions about press releases emerge, in part, from the fact that some people think they can put a press release on the wire and they’ve done their job to get into the news cycle. Ideally, you’ll be acting much more strategically than that, utilizing the best approach for the specific announcement, whether it’s an exclusive, an embargo, etc. Press releases also have the ancillary benefit of giving any reporters who might be looking up your company in six months some formal, approved language they can use, along with a quote.
How much of a role do relationships play in making someone a good PR practitioner?
There’s no doubt that media relationships can help you ace PR, but oddly enough I have found that they’re most helpful if the story you[‘re pitching isn’t all that exciting. Friendly reporters won’t write a story that isn’t good, but they will give you valuable feedback. There’s sometimes a bit of a disconnect on what makes something a perfect story, and we rely on relationships to make our pitches better. In an agency setting, like here at Beckerman/Antenna, I’m frequently able to “share” media contacts with other colleagues, allowing them to cultivate relationships with reporters I already know. And this benefits everyone, from me to our clients to the reporters.
It’s pretty common for PR pros to be former reporters. Are there any benefits to coming to PR not by way of the media?
It’s always good to have a different perspective, whether it’s from someone who’s fresh out of college, a former journo, someone from the world of politics, etc. Two people from different backgrounds looking at the same situation can offer widely divergent opinions on how to move forward. In PR, we always need more angles. That’s one of the reasons we love having interns or recent college grads join the firm: so our senior team members can learn from millennials (and vice versa).
The nature of most PR pros is to never take “no” for an answer. But what’s your advice for when a pitch flops?
It’s easier said than done, but media relations is really an example of how important it is to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. If it’s time to scrap a pitch, everyone is best served if you scrap it. Be honest with yourself, your team and your client. A flop might have worked for Mel Brooks in The Producers, but when it comes to PR, making believe a pitch still has legs when it doesn’t is never the right move.