PR is all about people. The name itself — public
— is enough to give you that impression. The gig is all about connecting people (your clients) with other people (the media) so their story can reach even more people (the audience). Relationships, at every step of the way, are critical to getting your story shared — and with the right people at that.
One type of relationship that is particularly important to your success as a PR agent is the one you have with editors. Editors are the gatekeepers to the media, and ultimately your intended audience. Building a strong relationship with the people who play a key role in your story getting told is an essential part of any good publicist’s job. So what’s the best way to do it?
After years in the industry, as both a publicist and a story-blocking, all-powerful producer for a TV station, I’ve experienced these relationships from both sides, and I have a few tips for forging genuine, powerful connections.
Focus On The Work First
Relationships are incredibly important. But before you spend time networking, perfect your craft. I have dozens of friends and close peers in the media, but if I pitch them a bad story, they won’t run it out of social obligation. It’s their job to make sure the news they share is timely and relevant, so make sure that the stories you pitch to editors follow suit. Familiarize yourself with the type of stories different outlets share. Angle your content to align with their overarching tone. Make sure your pitches are fresh, dynamic and interesting — the type of work that even a complete stranger would be interested in learning more about. From there, start building out your connections. Stellar work usually speaks for itself, but having a direct line to the editor in charge can be the best way to ensure it doesn’t get lost in the clutter.
Respect Their Time
As a producer, I was always incredibly busy. Think of the busiest you’ve ever been, multiply it by ten and then keep going at that pace for months at a time. That’s how busy I was. When you have so many high-priority things on your plate, as well as hundreds of pitches coming at you every single day, there comes a point when the path of least resistance is the only choice. Pitches that are disorganized or require additional research almost always fall to the wayside. The stories that I picked up always had clearly written, concise and organized pitches. After a while, the PR agents and firms who delivered this material stood out to me. While I might not have had a traditional relationship with these people, I recognized their work and knew that I could trust it. This organic, remote relationship building can be invaluable. It’s also something that I strive to create in my PR firm today. We aim for punchy, well-thought-out and creative pitches. We use them as tools to both tell our stories as well as represent ourselves to editors.
When it finally comes down to getting to know editors, my advice is really simple: The secret is that there is no secret formula to getting every editor to fall in love with you. You’ll vibe with some and might have to keep things purely professional with others. Consider these relationships just like any other. Do what you’d do when trying to connect with anyone else. Ask to grab coffee, drinks or lunch. Get to know them better. A display of humanity outside the context of work can go a long way. It’s a nice gesture to show that you’re genuinely interested in them as a person, rather than merely as part of your job.
The relationships you build in PR are only as strong as the work you’re doing. The secret to a successful agency lies in dovetailing the crystal-clear storytelling you’re doing with the authentic, caring relationships you’re building. Use one to bolster the other and remember that just as every story you pitch has a person behind it, every media outlet you pitch to has a person behind it as well. Our business is defined by the people in it, so stay true to your humanity, and you can stay on the right track.