We at Rasky Baerlein are proud of our talented public relations and public affairs experts across the firm’s practice areas. In our new Meet the Expert series, we sit down with a different agency leader every Monday to get their thoughts on several important and timely questions and gain a greater sense of their industry expertise and experiences. This week we sit down with RBSC associate vice president in our issues management practice, Harry-Jacques Pierre.
You’re a member of Rasky Baerlein’s issues management practice. What do you see as the major challenges for crisis communicators today, especially given the rise of digital and the 24/7 news cycle that it has created?
One of the biggest gifts and challenges for PR professionals today is the rise in use of social media to get your message out and engage the public. Social media is a great way to broadly reach your audience while also controlling your message. Anyone can be a “reporter” on social media. So when an issue or crisis flares up that could affect your brand, knowing what’s out there and having a strong response strategy are critical to protecting your reputation.
Briefly, in your experience, what are the three most important things an organization needs to keep in mind when facing a public reputational challenge?
1. Observe the “Golden Hour” rule – When a crisis hits be ready to respond quickly with your message. Don’t let time slip away and give outside voices the opportunity to define your situation or your brand.
2. Have the right team in place to communicate your message clearly and effectively.
3. Always tell the truth.
You served as the deputy press secretary in former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office. In what ways did this public sector experience help shape your work today?
My time in the AG’s Office was invaluable in giving me the experience and knowledge to help our clients navigate situations involving the law, government or politics. It was great in helping me become a better writer and identify how to tailor the right message for the right audience. My time in the office also allowed me to build a network of strong contacts that I can lean on when I need advice.
You also spent nearly five years at CBS Boston. What kinds of insights did you gain on the media side that have proven invaluable as a PR professional?
My newsroom experience was an excellent training ground that helped me understand the fast pace of news and the speed at which information can travel across all channels. I was lucky to work in the WBZ newsroom, which also had a great relationship with WBZ Radio, and see how TV and radio interact with their audiences.
Working on the assignment desk also gave me the chance to be pitched by people looking to get their story told, so I began to quickly tell which stories could get the attention of our viewers. I learned what made a good story for TV versus a story for radio, and I try to bring that expertise to our clients when crafting a message or trying to get attention for a story.
You run the Media Training program here at the firm. If you could offer clients one piece of advice as they prepare to meet with the media, what would it be?
We like to tell our clients “Know what you’re going to say, then say it.” Have a clear, defined message that can be delivered consistently and that can also speak to different audiences.
In your mind, what sets Rasky Baerlein apart from the rest when it comes to its approach to public relations?
Our team is great at really understanding what our clients’ needs are and crafting the right strategy for them to ultimately achieve winning results.
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