February 27, 2018 by Ed Kennedy
‘The Global Conversation: Marisa Lutter on PR’s Digital Revolution’
Tuesday February 27 2018
Good media relations have always been about communication straight to the point – not only with your client or partners but also with journalists. In the digital era it is easier than ever to interact with others from your old college friends on Facebook, all the way up to the President of the United States on Twitter, it is easier than ever before to connect and interact with everyone on earth. But is good communication always part of that interaction?
Marisa Lutter knows a great deal about the importance of communication and how important it is to build long-term relationships with influencers and journalists. As a veteran in the field of International media relations and as founder of WI Communications, Marisa has built a career and business based upon delivering real communication and engagement for her clients across Europe, and around the world.
Following our conversation with Jason Cahill last month, it’s feature Marisa here in a profile, and we got in touch with her for an interview at a time when her business is set to expand anew, adding three new team members, and building a plan for greater expansion in 2018.
EK: Thank you for speaking to us Marisa. Let’s begin with an open question: How has PR changed in the digital era?
ML: I think it has changed in big ways, and will continue to, plus there seem to be even some threats. Let us start with some platforms such as helpareporter.com which is in the market out there. The PR agent at first sight seems to be “cut out” and the client can directly pitch a story to the journalist. To be honest, that sounds easier than it really is. Being on this platform and writing pitches is a full-time job; so no worries you would not need a PR consultant anymore. It requires hours every day to go through the bulk of tenders made by journalists. However, AI and super computers might lighten up my work. I would say that as a PR agent you have to be well prepared to issues about Big Data and use the software such as Marketing automation tools which analyse and collect data about target groups and where to to spread information best.
But AI does not help only with data collection and identifying target groups, but also building media lists, distribution of press releases, the setting of KPIs and media reporting have already been a standard. But when it comes to creativity, AI still has to catch up with humans, however IBM Watson made it already possible to create a movie trailer in 2016. Some might think that AI will only play an assistant role for many years to come. But who knows if the development of AI will happen much faster, even in the creative field? Data is expected to double every two years – ironically, thanks to supercomputers and AI (and humans, of course). Who knows if there will be a scientific breakthrough in a few years’ time when it comes to creativity in AI.
But let us continue with the media relations work itself. Nothing is like in the past. Excellent PR relationships around the globe are no longer a luxury for businesses, they are essential‚ and there is more. The face of PR and media relations have changed around the world in the digital era. Professionals in the field are expected to understand not only communications, but also SEO, design principles, online advertising, and even programming and foreign languages. It is a wonderful career, but it also requires confidence and skills to do it well.
EK: What led you to start WI Communications?
ML: I think it is a mix of professional and personal elements. I’ve founded this business based upon more than 10 years experience working in the multinational media relations sector. It was great to worked for employers in the past, but I always felt that I should work on my own, be my own boss.
After a while, the circumstances were right to make the move, and I started WI, bringing all my prior experience in logistics, technology, steel, industrial, fashion, travel and many other fields under one umbrella.
Then, on a personal level, I’ve always loved the world and the interaction of so many different nations and people. Sure, you may have a German and/or European background and may perhaps natural inclination to be culturally engaged and aware of other countries, but I think it goes far beyond that.
I love to experience the world as a whole each day. Even if I am not always about to catch a plane, you’ll still find me reading The Financial Times, Forbes Magazine, The Economist, The Japan Times, The National in Dubai, The New Yorker, the Guardian in the UK, and of course papers like FAZ and Die ZEIT from my home country.
To succeed in international media relations is about meeting journalists in the real and in the digital world and thinking of new concepts all the time. You have to understand not only your clients but the target group of them.
EK: How do you explain what makes WI unique?
ML: One thing we are focusing on is to help British companies in Europe and the world‚ dealing with past, present and future changes after Brexit. You need to understand the political conditions and influences of Brexit on specific markets such as the Automotive or Technology sectors, among others. The aim is to advise your clients correctly about existing opportunities and threats confronting them. We are not limited in consulting clients from the UK, we have media contacts on a global scale and this is our USP. Be it in Australia, Hongkong, Brazil, the US, the UK, Russia, Germany, France or other countries. My team and I know influencers and journalists around the world. We just open doors for great opportunities around the world with the help of our industry specialists who scan local markets and maintain contacts to magazines and newspapers around the world.
Besides a unique and innovative story or news the relationship with journalists can play a significant role. The combination of both plays a significant role when it comes to great media coverage.
Many great things go viral, but this can happen during a company crisis as well, and managing ‘what happens next’ when something is going wrong has never been more challenging. We actually see this in the big debate we have in Europe today about ‘the right to be forgotten’. Whatever happens with that debate in the future, it will definitely remain a really difficult issue forever.
That’s why having a voice and an efficient way of communicating with the media is so important. For instance, WI actually means ‘sun’ in the in the Lakota and Dakota dialects of the Sioux, and bringing sunlight and exposure to our clients is what we aim for each day – based on excellent worldwide media relations.
We provide a global service to all our clients, and one with a real understanding of the challenges of PR in the online age. And one that includes work done by ourselves based on many decades of relationship building and experience.
EK: What does a regular day look like to you?
Usually I’m up at 6am, and the first thing I do is to check my emails, checking if a client’s article has made it to publication, or any other piece of news that is positive and a base to start the day. Around 9am I drive to the office and begin meeting different colleagues and partners, as well as clients.
The next thing is to read my global newspapers. As I said, I have clients who are and will be affected by Brexit and other political issues. I love what my clients do and I am always excited what articles run in the newspapers and magazines that I am placing around the world. Then, I usually present new strategies or results to my customers.
After this, I’ll scan the news in the media since I have to find new opportunities for my clients every day. That’s one of the reasons no two days are the same, as I’ll often be working on weekends and on bank holidays. This is fine with me, I love my work and the global nature of it ensures there’s always something interesting going on to keep me engaged and active.
Mid-morning to Afternoon
After the initial work, my attention turns to phone calls and brain storm strategies. Of course, the ongoing monitoring of my contacts to journalist on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is a daily task at least twice a day and is very time consuming. In the late morning or early afternoon, once business hours are underway (in whatever time zone I’m working that day) there will usually be some telephone or video conferences with new clients, and also journalists.
In the afternoon I meet people such as partners, journalists and clients. Then, once I’ve the core data of all the published content, ongoing news stories, and client information for the day in my hand, I’ll then prepare briefings and assign tasks throughout my team and our wider network. In this way, I think you could say my day is a bit like a ship leaving port, much preparation and planning goes into our journey, but man, we move fast once we’ve set off and start sailing. This is also the time when I think about how to expand and improve processes.
By the day’s end, after the busyness of the afternoon rush, the pace returns to normal. I will be looking to finalise some bookings or to tie up loose ends. Again, talking to partners and journalists is common here, as my team and I are always polite and professional, but also very persistent when it comes to getting a journalist on the phone. So, even if they’re out of the office in the morning they can be sure I’ll call back later in the day, making sure they hear what WI has to say.
After these winds down I’ll review how the day has gone. When I succeeded in arranging for great publications for a customer in a high-profile medium like the Handelsblatt or the Financial Times, I usually reward myself immediately with good food. I think even when you’re lucky to love what you do, celebrating your victories is important.
EK: What is something about your role other’s might not often recognise?
ML: I think as anyone in PR will tell you, the need to identify and see minor details is crucial. Of course, my business has many clients from many countries around the world, but trying to understand their goals and their target group in-depth is essential to ensure that I can deliver perfect service.
Anyone in PR – especially in media relations – will know this isn’t always easy. You have to be well organized, have always amazing ideas, be very patient with journalists, be persistent and working hard. A good story and interesting and innovative starting points are of significant importance. Furthermore, even in high-level media, you never have the guarantee of publication. But well-established contacts and good news angles can open many doors.
TDB: How has the digital arena helped your business grow?
ML: I think any businesses that wants to grow its global brand must be digitally involved. Sure, you still could possibly run a business offline, but the reach that the internet and social media give you is simply amazing. Yes, many of WI Communications’ new clients and businesses start from word of mouth referrals by satisfied clients or friends. But: New leads also come through connections through LinkedIn and similar sites. This digital access makes everything ‘local’.
I think this applies not only to clients, but even to my own story, and that of my team. For example, I am someone originally from Germany having started a business in the UK, while working with clients around the world – and all this while living in Europe. – If it were not for the digital age, such a global reach would have been next to impossible. The fact that my colleagues Manuel and William are based in Japan, and Nicole is in Germany shows this too. For me, the great thing about the online economy is I don’t have to wait decades to start building clients and growing my business fast – I can do it much, much faster.
EK: What is a digital app you use each day for work?
ML: I really like Anewstip and Cision. It helps with creating media lists, pitching stories, monitoring, evaluation and email communication as well as data processing. Also, the everyday work and communication in my network runs completely digital based on google calendar and diverse project management tools.
EK: Beyond your professional life, what do you find yourself doing when away from the desk?
ML: Well you know, while I love what I do, when I am done for the day with work I usually move away from the online world. In the evenings and weekends, if not working, I really love old classic movies such as Citizen Kane or Sunset Boulevard. Also, Columbo. It is cheesy, it is very 1970’s, and yet that’s why I love it so much.
I also love exploring new places, the sea, networking, good food, technology, music, animals, squash, nature, tropical countries, some principles of Buddhism and of course, my family and friends.
And I’m a big fan of efficient problem solving and productivity. I come into the game when other people think this would not be possible any longer. And I think this is a characteristic which you need to have as a media advisor. It shows up in my life as even when away from work I’m always having fun trying out new productivity apps and other goods like that.
It doesn’t matter whether I am traveling for business or for pleasure, the chance to get outdoors and go find a beautiful part of the world somewhere is always wonderful.
And actually, another passion of mine beyond work is animal welfare. It’s an important cause that is very important to me and WI as a whole. We’re very proud that 3% of all WI Communication’s revenue goes to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
So when away from work I’ll often be browsing WWF Together, Project Noah, or another app that connects a personal interest of mine with conservationists near me, and around the world. Some clients of mine help animals and other human beings and that is what I am very aware of, too.
EK: What is a business tip we should take with us from you and WI Communications?
ML: On a technological level, I would say continue to look at artificial intelligence and how it can make your professional life easier. I think businesses in the digital era need to be ready to plan long term. Shed all your mental barriers and ideas that impose limits. I also think it’s important to be patient, to not give up on yourself, and be ready to work hard and build something step by step.
That’s why my specialists and I live according to the simple principle: “Nothing is impossible!” I can say from my experience, if you continue to work on your goals and those of your clients, you’ll reach them in almost 95 percent of all cases.
Also, I would also tell to anyone, specifically in PR: Understand the target group of your client. Remember the importance of combining a good relationship and a quality story. Having one is good, of course, but you really need both to be at your best and get the greatest results. And establishing a great PR team to help you build a profile of course!”
Marisa Lutter is founder and manager of WI Communications. She always welcomes enquiries via firstname.lastname@example.org More about Marisa’s take on the present state of PR can be read in her Global PR Blog that offers tips for techniques for media work country by country.Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via email@example.com on LinkedIn or Twitter@EdKennedy01