Jumping for Joy…and PR?


Here at J. Walcher Communications, we immerse ourselves in our clients’ business – it’s key to our success in helping them accomplish their goals. Recently, we took our client research to new heights (pun intended).

For a fact finding mission last month, the J. Walcher team strapped on some parachutes and goggles, hopped in a plane, climbed to an elevation of 13,000 feet, and jumped – all for our client the United States Parachute Association.

Falling at speeds of over 115 miles per hour, before opening our canopies and floating safely to the ground with our tandem instructors, we had time to reflect on our jobs as public relations professionals, finding similarities between the thrilling sport of skydiving and our everyday work. Below are skills we found essential to succeeding at both.

When preparing to jump out of a plane, it’s important for tandem instructor and first-time jumper to be on the same page, and the same holds true when working with clients, the media and other stakeholders. As PR professionals, effective communication is at the core of what we do, ensuring client goals are understood, campaigns are effective and accurate information is made available to the public. Without proper communication, crises can ensue in both professions, with varying degrees of consequences, of course.

From properly preparing the equipment, to planning the timeline for canopy deployment, preparation is a large part of ensuring jumps go smoothly – as is the case for any client campaign. Whether planning a large-scale event with numerous moving parts, pitching clients’ complex stories to journalists or managing a social media campaign, PR pros have to be extremely organized to keep things from falling through the cracks.

Jumping out of a plane requires confidence, and so does calling the media to pitch a story. Both can be scary, but self-assurance can mean the difference between backing out at the last minute and a successful jump. And in the case of PR, it can mean securing positive coverage for clients, as opposed to never having a client’s story get off the ground, so to speak. When calling journalists, PR pros have to understand the outlet’s focus, know a client’s story in-and-out, be able to speak about it as if it were their own and have excellent reasons for why it’s newsworthy. If the person pitching isn’t confident in a story’s news value, the journalist certainly won’t be.

Just as first-time jumpers want to know the staff at the drop zones they’re skydiving at are experts at their craft, the same goes for journalists working with PR folk. Given the media’s tight deadlines and need for quick, accurate information, PR pros have to work to develop credibility if they want to become a reliable source for stories. The best way to achieve this: be transparent, timely and check in with journalists to be of assistance – even when you have nothing to pitch. Credibility is built on meaningful relationships, which are two-way streets.