This month, we had the pleasure of chatting with Ricki Weisberg, a publicist and the CEO of Bird Hill Public Relations. This boutique PR agency helps nonprofits and social-good companies working in health, social justice and climate change. Weisberg’s career began in Washington, DC, working as an in-house communications and public relations support for non-profit organizations. That is where Weisberg discovered she loved the challenge of moving people to action through communications.
When publicist Ricki Weisberg moved back home to Philadelphia after time in Washington, D.C., she moved from in-house communications and public relations for nonprofits to corporate marketing executive in the private sector to help independent companies compete with national chains. In Washington, Weisberg learned that she loved the challenge of moving people to action through communications and, in 2019, she founded Bird Hill Public Relations to work with nonprofits and social-good companies in health, social justice, and climate change.
Here, Weisberg shares a typical schedule, sharing insight and nuggets of wisdom on what’s helped to build strong media relationships and secure placements:
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Walk us through your daily routine. When does it start? End?
- 6:30 a.m.: Wake up
- 7-8:15 a.m.: Help my 8-year-old son prepare for school, including making him breakfast, packing his lunch and a snack and getting him on the bus.
- 8:15 to 9 a.m.: Check all of my journalist source streams for any new stories they are writing that could be relevant for my clients.
- 9-10 a.m.: Take a walk. I am obsessed with walking in the morning. It makes my day so much more productive.
- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Work work work! I either work from my home office or walk into town and set up a coffee shop for the day. Work includes client meetings, researching journalists to pitch, writing pitches, pitching, and checking all the usual sources for journalist requests. I also spend time engaging with journalists and prospective clients online.
- 4-6 p.m.: Mom mode activate! Time to support the kid’s homework, music practice, and chores. Plus, this is when I cook dinner and pick up around the house.
- 6-8 p.m.: Back to work. Catching up on emails, any new journalist leads post[ed], and closing out any engagement conversations online from earlier.
- 8-9:30 p.m.: Put kiddo to bed: brushing teeth, reading, and cuddles. My husband and I alternate bedtime, so when it’s not my turn, I use this time to catch up on ‘Real Housewives’—or whatever else I’m binging.
- 9:30 to 10:30 p.m.: ‘Me’ time before bed.
How do you invest in your relationships with clients?
Taking the time to listen to my clients is the strongest way I invest in our relationship. My clients can come to me with any struggle they have to reach their goals, and they know I will lend a non-judgemental ear along with solutions to help alleviate their stress. Educating my clients is also a successful strategy for relationship building. I am quick to share with them when I learn about new trends in PR, new journalist source services, and, conversely, what is no longer relevant.
What about your relationship with journalists?
Being helpful, detail-oriented, and timely is ultimately the best way to build relationships with journalists. Journalists often work on fast turnaround deadlines, so they will remember the ones who helped them get their jobs done well. I also look to support journalists' careers by following and engaging with their Substack, Twitter, Instagram, and so on.
What advice would you give to a publicist just starting out?
As a publicist who transitioned from in-house to running my own agency six months before the start of the pandemic—I am proof that it can be done!
My advice is twofold:
First, make sure you pick press-worthy clients and ideally clients who would be covered by [a] specific journalist beat—so the relationships you are cultivating can be used for multiple clients.
Secondly, sign up for as many journalist source sites and platforms as possible. Journalists are good at asking for what they need when they need it. You just have to be quick to respond and make sure you follow all of the pitching directions! Journalist substacks are the new goldmine for publicists. If you are looking to connect to a specific journalist, hunt for their Substack and the leads will come to your inbox.
What are three things brands should keep in mind when pitching media?
Relationships first: This is a relationship business; your goal should be to foster relationships with journalists who cover your beat. If they are not interested or don’t respond, don’t badger them.
Timing: Understand the media cycle. It will not be helpful to pitch journalists gifts for the holidays in November. Most publications post “media guides” on their websites. It will show what they cover and their deadlines.
Relevance: Triple check that your pitch is appropriate for this journalist based on recent pieces they have written. Include relevant hyperlinks in all of your pitches and keep them short. The magic of the pitch lies in the balance of being as concise and as thorough as possible to the right person.
What’s the biggest no-no in earned media?
The biggest no-no in earned media promises it to your clients. Until the piece goes live—it is still not a done deal. Clients may push you to promise a certain number of press hits each month, but that is impossible to control. (And you should probably run away from those clients.) Our job as publicists is to educate our clients about the challenges around securing earned media and to work to add value even when our pitches are not landing.
What do you like the most about your job? What’s the hardest part?
I am passionate about making the world a better and more equitable place, so I love that my job helps to raise the profile of nonprofit organizations and companies who share my passion. I remember when I was working at Women for Women International, and the 'Oprah Show' accepted our pitch. It was a story about women being systematically raped during the civil war in Congo. After that piece aired, thousands of watchers took to action to help. That is a moment I will never forget.
The hardest part of my job is the lack of control. It kills me when no one responds to a pitch that I thought was strong. You need to get zen with knowing you are doing the best you can and shake off the loss.