Do PR Pros Just Need a Hug?

PR professionals refresh their inbox in the same manner in which singles obsessively check their mobile for a text from that person with whom they locked eyes while waiting in line at Starbucks. They constantly obsess in search of electronic affirmations from the journalists they’ve pitched. In the dating world, this sort of behavior is classic “needy.” You know what I’m talking about. It’s that person who appears easy going when you first strike up conversation and no soon after, you have yourself a stage five clinger.

So, if the world of media relations is like real world dating, are PR professionals “needy”?

An unclear answer to a story pitch often sparks an emotional reaction similar to going on a great first date and then never hearing back. At first there is excitement after receiving a reply that shows initial interest until you notice the journalist didn’t provide any concrete next steps. Ambiguity sets in. Questions arise. Where do we stand? Is this going somewhere?

After a follow-up email that goes unopened and a polite voicemail, frustration starts to rise and you resort to calling several times a day. Your boss or client corners you and asks if you have an update and you analyze every detail of the email looking for signs that the reporter really is interested after all. You begin making excuses such as maybe that last email didn’t go through or perhaps aliens abducted their mobile? After several unanswered emails and calls, your boss suggests you move on but deep down you know you can’t until you know where things went wrong. After all, you just want closure.

As you are about to pitch the next journalist on your media list you receive the reply you have been waiting for. On the screen, the phrase every PR professional fears, “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.” And there it is: the PR equivalent of “It’s not me. It’s you.”

Regardless of what medium you might use to communicate with journalists, media relations is likely to stir up the same emotions as dating. While there is no fool-proof method to media relations (or dating for that matter), try following these recommendations the next time you decide to interest a journalist in your story idea… or you might just find yourself wondering what went wrong as you reach for that pint of Cherry Garcia at your desk.

  1. Do Your Research

At some point, we’ve all considered what ideal characteristics we want in our ideal mate. Identifying the right journalist should require the same concerted effort. Make sure the journalist you are targeting is indeed the writer for the job—is open to receiving story ideas and shares your interests. Research their previous articles to ensure this is the case. The more aligned your pitch is with the journalist’s needs, the closer you are to creating good chemistry and securing that coverage.

  1. Be confident

Whether you want to grab the attention from that person at the bar or you want a journalist to take a meeting with your client, act with confidence. Even if you are not a subject matter expert on the topic, use this to your advantage. Answer what you know and suggest they speak with your expert for further information. Tell a story.

  1. Know when to follow-up

Ok, so never calling to get feedback is not going to get you anywhere, but 50 phone calls per day is just plain creepy. Know when a journalist is on deadline and how they prefer to communicate. Understand that they aren’t monogamous. They’re working on other stories and interviews. Be respectful of their time and the favor will be returned.