Pitching PR Services to Embassies and the Diplomatic Community
But how do you make it happen?
Of course it’s best to have some connection to the country you are approaching if you want them to take you seriously. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to be a native or have family ties, but if you have visited or lived in the country, can speak and write the language and are enamored with the art, cuisine, etc. you are in a much better position to sell yourself and skills.
Matt Francis is Government Relations Manger for Tourism Australia, and he served as the Counsellor of Public Diplomacy for the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC from 2002-2006. He offered these tips for approaching embassies to carry out public relations work.
Be Flexible There may well be project-based opportunities rather than ongoing consultancy arrangements for public relations practitioners. Many embassies in Washington are small in terms of staff resources, and not all have a designated public affairs or communications staff. So they may require public relations services on an ad hoc basis for particular publications or campaigns. Their needs will differ from country to country so it’s probably worth being flexible in your approach and expectations, and tailoring what you have to offer for each different country.
Pitch the Ambassador’s Number Two. When approaching embassies, try pitching to the Deputy Chief of Mission or most senior official after the Ambassador. Some may have designated press or information counselors. A good guide to consult is the Official Diplomatic Directory, which includes listings and contact information for all diplomatic missions in the United States. Also, look out for the Washington Diplomat newspaper which covers the diplomatic community in Washington. It’s a good way to keep up to date with the names and movements of key embassy personnel.
Stay Way Ahead of the News Curve in Both Countries. One thing I tried to do when I was working at the Embassy of Australia was to keep ahead of the news curve in terms of placing media about Australia. Try and get a sense of the issues these countries are dealing with in Washington and ways in which you could perhaps offer your expertise to help them meet their objectives whether it’s through the publication of printed materials, newsletters, media releases etc. My experience has been that a lot of embassies are not very well plugged in to the communications and public affairs business in this town, so if you take a proactive approach you may well get results. Visits by government leaders, major international meetings and other events may provide a good platform to pitch a proposal (ie. country x’s national day / anniversary of relations with the US / major political, economic developments in that country etc.)
Research the Country’s Key Issues. It’s crucially important to do you research before approaching the embassy – show that you know something and understand their issues or circumstances. I was always amazed at the number of pitches I received from people who should have know better but failed to do their basic research on an issue involving Australia before they came to us and tried to persuade us to spend money with them.