The end of 2023 meant an exciting move up for Laura Vinci O’Neill, our latest Qwoted 100 PR superstar. Already a vice president at FINN Partners, she became a partner herself in December as the New York Health Media Lead. In her new role, Vinci O’Neill builds and maintains strong relationships with national and regional healthcare reporters.
An MBA graduate of Virginia Tech’s Pamplin School of Business, Vinci O’Neill spoke to Qwoted about how she handles the volume game and has used X/Twitter to leverage the work she’s doing to build strong relationships with reporters.
Qwoted: What do you see as the future of PR—technologically, strategically, or in any category you’re passionate about?
Laura Vinci O’Neill: I am fascinated by the potential of AI—not to replace our work, but to complement it. ChatGPT can be a thought partner, assisting us in shortening our pitches and brainstorming quippy headlines: a built-in proofer as we prepare media materials. However, the foundation of the public relations industry is, and will continue to be, relationship-building and fostering authentic connections with journalists. Strategically, PR will continue to evolve as a discipline that plays a pivotal role in brand reputation management and communication.
Qwoted: What do you do that other PRs could learn from?
O’Neill: My favorite thing about PR is that I’m constantly learning—whether it be it a smart, new pitching technique or different media practices in other countries. I’m constantly exchanging information with my colleagues. Something I enjoy doing that others could learn from is finding scrappy ways to connect with journalists beyond emailing and liking tweets. It’s my aim for the reporters I pitch to know me and feel confident that I have something valuable to share when they see my name in their inbox or at events. Unique ways I’ve done this lately include reading a book [New York Times reporter] Margot Sanger-Katz led a discussion on (Hi Margot!) and maximizing my client’s on-site presence at ASPEN Ideas: Health.
Qwoted: What’s your toughest challenge with reporters?
O’Neill: I think the toughest challenge in public relations is sheer volume. If every reporter had the time to respond with feedback to our pitches, we wouldn’t have a job! It’s challenging to have emails go unanswered, especially when we know we have the perfect spokesperson or that fantastic news hook.
Qwoted: How do you approach breaking through the noise floor to get effective coverage?
O’Neill: PR professionals need to focus on authentic storytelling that resonates with the journalist, their beat and their target audience. It is critical to thoroughly review every reporter before sending pitches. This not only ensures that the pitch topic is right and that the spokesperson would be of interest to the reporter but also confirms whether the reporter is on vacation or switching beats. By getting these table stakes items right, you can break through the other, mismatched emails that reporters are getting and hopefully secure effective coverage.
Qwoted: How does PR in 2024 square with the future of journalism?
O’Neill: In 2024, PR has evolved to be more insightful and technologically advanced. We can instantly slide into a reporter’s DMs or see their latest tweet (are we still calling it that?) about what conference they’ll be attending next week. [Editor’s Note: As long as I’m around, tweets and Twitter will always be the preferred names, with X as a quasi-footnote.]
Digital tools help us analyze coverage and predict trends in the news cycle: opening opportunities to authentically insert our clients into headline-making conversations. The future of journalism is on the same track. We’ll continue to see how AI and analytics enhance reporting. How much of a role will SEO keywords play in a reporter’s prose? How will digital newsrooms evolve to entertain and yet still deliver the experience of the Sunday print newspaper? PR professionals will need to navigate these unfolding changes and support our journalist colleagues throughout this evolving media landscape.
Qwoted: What advice would you give to those seeking to find an effective PR person?
O’Neill: Find someone who’s passionate about the industry you’re in. PR professionals are the conduit between a client and a journalist. You want someone who is authentically passionate to tell your story.
Qwoted: What is your golden rule of PR?
O’Neill: Authenticity. Building and maintaining authentic relationships with journalists, being authentic in our storytelling and conveying genuine communications with our audiences—all through earned media relations.
Qwoted: Anything else to add?
O’Neill: I am honored to be part of the Qwoted 100. Qwoted is a fantastic tool that has helped me forge new relationships with top-tier media and unlock new opportunities for my clients that I may not have discovered elsewhere.
You can connect with Laura Vinci O’Neill of FINN Partners via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Lou Carlozo is Qwoted’s Editor in Chief and the Editor/Publisher of Talking Biz News. Email email@example.com or connect on LinkedIn.