The one killer skill that will make you a better PR pro

The one killer skill that will make you a better PR pro

That story you agonized over? You know the one. The same one you rehashed, reworked, started over twice. How did it go?

Did it grow legs and run riot across the nation’s news desks? Or did it stagnate, unloved and unwanted, at the bottom of someone’s deleted folder?

It doesn’t matter how long you spend, how much elbow grease you put in or how many second opinions you seek. The real test only comes when you start sharing your story with the people you want to cover it.

A recent product launch is a prime example...

I massaged this press release within an inch of its life. Gently at first, to ease out the newsworthy angles, then more vigorously—like an overenthusiastic masseuse—to really get it singing.  It was big, it was bold, it was beautiful. And, oh so newsworthy . . .

Or so I thought.

I picked up the phone. Dialed the editor of a national newspaper. I’ve got a great story for you, I said, before launching into my carefully-honed elevator pitch.

Bravado drained from my voice in direct correlation to the disinterested typing at the other end. I tried another newspaper. Then another. Then...you get the picture. 

In an era where content is king and sparkling storytelling in hot demand, it’s easy to get bogged down with information-overload.

So I took myself outside to calm down and visualize the story from another angle. After a while, something new popped to mind. I put on my thick skin suit and called another editor. Same story. Different headline.

Tell me more, came the reply. Emboldened, I continued.

Distracted typing stopped, interest piqued. We had a conversation. And then it happened. The raison d'etre, beloved by every PR pro, ever. The hallowed sound of high-res images being requested. The next day, my client enjoyed some satisfying coverage across a broad selection of high-authority websites.

The moral of the story? When it comes to media relations . . .  don’t give up at the first hurdle.

Your story might be perfectly on-point.

Or maybe, (gulp), you spent so much time engineering it, you missed the mark.

Or maybe, you’d been speaking to the wrong editor.

Or maybe you’d been speaking to the right editor, but he or she got out of bed the wrong side; or covered that exact same topic last week.

Or more exciting news was breaking. Or another piece of news had a prettier picture than yours.

Or a million other unquantifiable factors.

My point is: resourcefulness and persistence are valuable skills to have in this game. Some say, essential.

You could be the world's most engaging writer, or have a creative mind so prolific it would put Picasso to shame. But nobody gets it right, all of the time. Not even the world’s most experienced PR professionals. There are unknown quantities of unknown quantities—which we’re up against daily.

What matters is not giving up right off the bat and being willing to think your way out of the box. With each campaign you’ll grow ever more resourceful, skyrocket your problem-solving skills, and improve your understanding of your target media.

Your creative writing muscle will also enjoy a fantastic workout, because something as simple as rehashing your headline? Well, it can make all the difference.  

The one killer skill that will make you a better PR pro?

Be tenacious. Always.

Tam Henderson is founder of Gather Creative, an integrated communications agency in Cambridge, England, specialising in copywriting and PR for B2B and consumer brands across a variety of sectors.

Photo: Man rolling concrete ball via Shutterstock

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