Don't be an angry PR pro: why attitude matters in media relations
Media reject your pitch? Don't throw a temper tantrum!
You refined your pitch, wrote, proofed and sent targeted email pitches and WHAM! The first few reporters and editors to which you sent your story idea reply they’re not interested.
You go ballistic! Not in your office or in the restroom stall, but on the phone, in an email or if it could be worse, on Twitter.
Wait–you did WHAT?!
I’ve heard too many instances where PR people or their clients have launched loud and obnoxious tirades when reporters or editors turn down pitches. (Tap on the shoulder…that’s NOT the way to create positive relationships with the media, which is the basis of our business.)
Regardless of the size, format or reach of a media outlet, a public relations person is way out of bounds if he or she goes off on a reporter, editor or freelancer. Even if you sense that said reporter had a bad day, you’re best to say “thank you for your time, hope you think of us in the future” and move on. If you don’t think that an extenuating circumstance is an issue, politely ask what would make your pitch more appealing and tweak it if they say they may reconsider.
Keep in mind that media don’t owe you anything. Nothing. You may have (hopefully) spent time researching, writing and editing, but in this case, you’re not buying space. You’re suggesting a story.
There are several reasons why media may reject what you think is a perfect pitch. Let’s look at some and how you may be able to turn a “no” into a well-earned story:
- Breaking News: Media may actually love your story and plan to report it, but breaking news, some of which you may not be aware, just bumped your story off the schedule.
- Been there, done that: The outlet just covered a story that is similar to the one you pitched. You may avoid this barricade by researching each media source on your list and the stories they recently reported. Links to most of them may be located on media websites. Conduct thorough searches for your story topic.
- Your product is the BEST?: You’ve embellished and glorified elements in your story that stroke your CEO’s ego, but read to media like blatant promotional copy. Buy an ad instead.
- It’s not news: Your story angle provides no new or relevant information about a story. Know current events and trends in your industry, or general news, before you pitch.
- OUR guy rocks!: If you really want to enhance the chance a media outlet covers your story, focus on the story and not an individual. Be open to offering others in your industry in addition to your own personnel, because multiple sources stand a better chance at coverage.
- Do Not Disturb -DEADLINE- don’t go there!: You’ve got several hours of each day to contact media when they’re not pressed for time-at least schedule-wise. Respect the hours during which they are. If you call a TV station during its traditional morning or afternoon planning meetings, or a lifestyle editor the day prior to his print or online feature deadline, you may not be a favorable source for any story. And it goes without saying – don’t call a reporter minutes before they go on live television unless it’s critical and breaking news. Bloggers have deadlines, too. Ask about and adhere to them.
- Courtship: Public and media relations are all about, well, relationships. You may find yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t take time to develop trust and camaraderie with reporters in your geographic area or industry. There are always instances when you may have to “cold call” but in our time-crazed world, relationships matter more than ever.
- Word of your short fuse has gotten around: The tirade you blasted the last time your desired media reporter turned down one of your pitches gets you negative-nowhere! If you’ve responded nastily once, you may as well write off that media outlet for a long time. And others. Word gets around.
The bottom line is that there’s never an appropriate time to throw a two-year-old-like tantrum toward reporters or editors. Demonstrate respect for their business and time and they will for yours.
Gail Sideman is a sole proprietor and owner/publicist of PUBLISIDE Personal Publicity. She thinks the word "veteran" seems old, so she'll just say that she's been in the business for awhile, working with sports and athletes at all levels, including retirees, nationwide. Her roster proudly includes on-air talent who call those games. Check out her website or connect with her on Twitter.
Photo: Temper tantrum via Shutterstock