When it comes to comms, Peter Woolfolk has done it all.
Before founding Communications Strategies in 2004, Woolfolk served as a Clinton White House appointee in the U.S. Department of Education and as a press secretary for three members of Congress. He’s been a comms and PR VP for a university, a radio (and now podcast) host and producer, a columnist and a public speaker. He was the “voice” of Nashville Airport. Oh, he’s also an accomplished tennis player and a licensed private pilot.
He’s the kind of person you want to seek out for career advice—and probably just for life wisdom in general. We asked him to give his best tips for helping communicators blaze a successful career path. Here’s what he had to say.
Media relations insights from an industry icon
Regardless of your specific communication focus, Woolfolk touts the importance of nurturing genuine relationships with those who cover your industry. Building relationships—and anticipating needs—are still the name of the game for media relations.
“My very first tip for media relations success is, when possible, develop a relationship with the reporter—before you ask for something,” he says.
It’s fine to proactively introduce yourself and to clarify how you might be of service, but always be brief. “You might also inquire about their deadlines, a preferred method of receiving information and more specifics on their beat.”
Do not pitch stories outside their beat or purview, Woolfolk says, and “do not waste their time.”
Woolfolk also says that bonus points go to those who share supplementary news and views journalists can use. Provide complementary artwork, quotes and data, and distill the gist of your findings into tidy bullet points. Saving the reporter time and effort is an easy way to secure a spot on the “good PR person” list.