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PR folks are known for comparing notes about what they like to read in the morning to stay on top of news relevant to their clients. And they are reading now all types of ways – thru their iPads, SmartPhones, e-newsletters that summarize news, and yes, the old-fashioned printed newspaper. If you work with a nonprofit organization and can’t spend all day reading but need to spend it cranking out the work, what should you be reading?
Be strategic. When you have limited time, you need to evaluate what you invest your time in reading for the maximum benefit. Clearly, if you are engaged in media relations in any way, you have to keep up with current events. If you are planning to pitch a story to a group of reporters – include pieces they are currently writing and broadcasting into your reading plan, so you know what they are interested in and care about.
Remember you. You also need to think about yourself. Professional development and training dollars are often limited at many nonprofits. Reading can help you keep up with new trends and develop your skills further so you can work more efficiently.
Get the news you need to build relationships with reporters for your nonprofit and stay abreast of trends related to what your nonprofit works on. Most PR people who do press engagement should be reading a significant dose of current news every morning related to the organizations they represent. Many also try to keep up with industry trends so they can develop professionally.
If you work in a smaller nonprofit with a local reach, that might mean really following the local newspaper and local stations well – and supplement with some Google news alerts on topics related to your nonprofit, so you know about industry trends.
For a larger nonprofit organization with chapters or offices around the country – you probably already have Google alerts for your organization’s name so you are aware of news that comes in all around the clock about your nonprofit – but it’s also important to keep up with current news trends and topics related to what your nonprofit works on. That way you know what others are talking about when a hot new report comes out, and a reporter calls to ask if your organization has an opinion about XYZ research or the new white paper – and you know what he or she is referring to.
Growing professionally through reading. If you work primarily in nonprofits – is it to your advantage to read tons of public relations industry publications? Probably not. Focus on reading the ones that can help you do your job better or share insights that help you think about doing things in new ways.
One easy way to footnote materials as it shows up is to put it on your twitter feed – you have a permanent repository of stuff you found interesting. There are tons of great tools out there that can help you catalog and archive information you are reading, but it can be easy to make your reading a project unto itself – so use the tools that work for you.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.