Media Professional Development

The PR POV: The Media RD and the Manager

In my day job, I connect RDs and commodity foods with branded opportunities. As a senior vice president of a food and wellness-focused PR firm, we link our clients with the most influential, knowledgeable, insightful, media-savvy RDs. Needless to say, there are many of you. And some of you have managers to help you deal with the number of inquiries you receive, negotiate your compensation, and help you stay true to your brand. While there are many reasons why a media RD may hire a manager, I want to give you the PR perspective from my experience and that of my esteemed colleagues. To understand the intricacies of working with a manager, I asked my team for their insights. Here’s a summary of their feedback that you may want to consider when making the leap to work with a manager:

Q: When attempting to work with RDs as spokespeople or for paid opportunities, do you prefer to work through a manager or directly with the RD? 

Top response: directly with the RD. If they’re not celebrity status, it’s easier to make a personal connection with the RD. One main reason is that we tend to work with RDs that we know and trust. Also, by speaking directly, we can convey messages and have a dialogue to ensure that the RD is comfortable with the topic and aligns with the brand. It’s also a great way to come up with new ideas, angles, or opportunities.

Q: What are the pros and cons of working through managers or directly with dietitians?

One downside is that with a manager, the personal connection can be lost. It also can be challenging for us to determine what the real demands or concerns the dietitians may have and meet and solve them. It’s better to know exactly what the RD is thinking so we can make changes that suit the relationship and have a richer experience. Thus, sometimes, the manager feels like a barrier.

Similarly, working with RDs directly can be much easier when communicating campaign goals and brand messages, while also making sure the dietitians agree with the messages, feel comfortable, and can communicate them accurately and effectively.

The upside is that managers tend to have a better understanding of contracts and the legal or technical aspects. Their assistance can be very helpful and move the process along more efficiently (with both sides equally protected).

Q: How about for negotiating the scope or the compensation?

Working with a manager is great for talking numbers. It can be awkward negotiating someone’s financial value directly with them. That said, it’s important for RDs to be clear with their managers about what they’re willing to do. It’s important for RDs to weigh all factors in an opportunity before negotiating their rates. Will this lead to more work in the future? Are you passionate about the cause and would like to be involved at any price? These are important conversations dietitians should have with their managers in advance. Help set your worth but find the balance between market value and personal passion.

For scope of work, RDs tend to bring more ideas to the table. They have new concepts or thoughts to add based on other work they’ve done or their own knowledge. Negotiating the scope of the relationship can be quite advantageous to RDs if they can share their thoughts directly.

Q: Do you think RDs are well served by having managers? Who should have a manager? 

From the PR point of view, it depends. A popular dietitian with several offers on the table may need help juggling them. It could be helpful for RDs to have a manager take on certain projects, such as communicating with brands to determine relevant projects and campaigns. But for other dietitians, they may get more of what they want by creating relationships directly with the agency and brand. Fostering trust, building a rapport, and being approachable can go a long way. It’s business, but especially when it comes to food and wellness, it’s personal, too.

— Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD, is senior vice president and director of Food & Wellness at Pollock Communications, a food, health, and wellness public relations agency in New York City.

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