Lou's Views : Qwick Takes

Nikki Held ofProsek Partners continues in the fine tradition of PR standouts working at the New York-based firm.

Yours truly has always had a great relationship with Prosek Partners, one of the class firms in New York City. And while some friends have come and gone, able talent continues to show up reliably; just witness the ascendancy of Nikki Held, whom we’re featuring in this installment of Qwoted 100 PR superstars.

Currently in her second year at Prosek, Held took time from a busy schedule to share her views on the state of PR in the back half of 2023. It’s a crazy state of affairs, what with non-stop deadlines and artificial intelligence zooming to the forefront. But Held takes the fast pace and changes in stride, describing media relations as a “team sport.” (Read on to see what she means…)

Qwoted: What do you see as the future of PR—technologically, strategically, or in any category you’re passionate about?

Nikki Held: Given that consumers are becoming increasingly well-informed and attuned to the ways they’re being targeted, I envision that PR will need to become much more integrated across organizations’ platforms and strategies. I imagine that teams across marketing, advertising, social media, PR, events, and internal communications — plus company executives, among others — will need to collaborate even more when launching initiatives or products and demonstrate stronger interconnectedness in their messaging. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out with consumers and key audiences.

Qwoted: What do you do that other PRs could learn from?

Held: I see PR as a team sport. When a reporter reaches out with an ask that isn’t the right fit for any of my clients, I (like many of my colleagues at Prosek) make sure to ask around the firm in case someone has a great client for their story. In my eyes, a win for my colleagues is a win for the firm and by extension for me. More than that, it’s our job to help the press craft engaging, interesting stories — and, of course, get our clients into those stories. As someone who comes from a predominantly writing-focused background, I love being in the position to help out the person who writes so many of the stories that I love to read. So beyond the people I work with, I also see the journalists and writers I interact with as all being part of one big team. After all, it’s our job to make one another’s jobs easier.

Qwoted: What’s your toughest challenge with reporters?

Held: The PR industry is a funny beast. Some reporters hate agencies — I’ve got receipts to prove it — and some see us as partners. My toughest challenge has been finding the right people who understand the value we PR folks can deliver. That’s tied for first place with getting reporters to answer my emails. [Laughs.]

Qwoted: How do you approach breaking through the noise floor to get effective coverage?

Held: Whenever I work on a pitch, I like to ask myself two questions: 1) What makes this uniquely interesting? and 2) What makes this uniquely interesting now? If I can’t answer those, it doesn’t bode well for reporters to find it worthwhile, and tells me I need to go back to the drawing board. I’d like to think that my transparency is another factor. For example, while I do try to make my subject lines pithy and intriguing, I don’t write deceptive subject lines.

Plus in the emails themselves, I’ll acknowledge when something I’m pitching isn’t 100 percent aligned with a reporter’s beat and explain why I’m still reaching out. I also try to do little things that make reporters’ jobs easier and show I’m there to help, such as linking to a spokesperson’s bio page or LinkedIn profile, crafting a potential narrative angle for them, and making my pitch as concise as possible. And though I’m certainly not batting 1000 on this in terms of remembering every time, I like to send a quick thank you note to the reporter for including my client in their story.

Qwoted: How does PR in 2023 square with the future of journalism?

Held: Right now, if you talk to just about anyone in journalism – or, at the very least, follow them on Twitter – it’s clear that the foundational elements of the industry are beginning to crack and take on new shapes. Between shrinking newsrooms, the shift towards freelancing and other emerging changes, it’s become trickier than ever for PR people to identify the right reporters for the stories our clients want to tell and build meaningful relationships with them. As the industry undergoes this evolution, PR people like me face a unique opportunity to demonstrate our value by helping build even more bridges between our clients and writers. We can play a part in helping writers craft the stories they want to tell amid an increasingly fragmented landscape.

Qwoted: What advice would you give to those seeking an effective PR person?

Held: Don’t pick someone who just says yes to everything. If you want to get great press, pick someone who challenges you to consider why the stories you want to tell matter, and why the spokespeople you’re pitching are worth being interviewed. Journalists get so many emails every day. When you work with a PR person who isn’t afraid to ask questions or make suggestions to help you craft a more differentiated narrative, it’s easier to cut through the noise, get noticed and generate more meaningful media coverage.

Qwoted: What is your golden rule of PR?

Held: Being a jerk is never worth it.

You can connect with Nikki Held of Prosek Partners via email at nheld@prosek.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Lou Carlozo is Qwoted’s Editor in Chief and the Editor/Publisher of Talking Biz News. Email lou@qwoted.com or connect on LinkedIn.