Media relations is like… dating?

In the March issue of PR Tactics there is an interesting article written by Rob Lynch that compares media relations to dating.  Now I must admit, when I first read the title I was skeptical- I mean MR like dating? Come on.  But after starting to read I realized that Rob was not insane, he was exactly right.  This comparison seemed enlightening and made the world of MR that much more clear so I thought I would share some key ideas I found especially relevant.

  • Most reporters want a monogamous relationship, or the exclusive.  So true and yet so hard to pull off.  I am not saying that I am against this idea, on the contrary I completely agree and would want an exclusive myself if I were writing the story.  But from a pr perspective, how do you find that perfect reporter to have this relationship with?  Do you pitch the idea to a number and may the first and best man win? Or pitch one by one and risk not getting any placement or not enough feedback to your client in a reasonable amount of time?  I, in my short time in this field, do not have the answers to these questions yet, but I constantly question them and hope to eventually find the answers.
  • Uninterested reporters will not respond no matter how often you contact them.   I don’t even think this needs discussion, I just loved it and thought, how true.
  • As the same pick up lines do not work on every person, the same pitch will probably not work for every reporter.  This may be one of the very first things I learned when beginning to contact the media.  That extra step of doing your research and personalizing your pitch to each RELEVANT reporter makes all the difference in the world.  Another analogy I think fits well with this idea is an un-researched pitch is like getting spam in your inbox-  No one reads spam so why would reporters be expected to read it either?
  • Placement may provide immediate gratification, but relationships are often built over time.  This point is what I am most excited about as I become a more seasoned PR professional.  I love every day learning more about the people I pitch and finding stories or ideas that truly help and fit their coverage.  It is frustrating to have a media list and know no one, but even in my short time at this internship I am already familiar with many reporters and can’t wait to continue our relationships in the future.

Now although I think Rob did a great job, I wanted to add a few insights myself.  As a participant in the dating world there are a few things that have helped my love life and I think will help me strive in MR as well.  So here is my additional list of tips for the dater or PR professional:

  • You must have genuine interest in the other person.  You can go through the motions of dating or PR, but if you don’t truly care about the person on the other side, 9 times out of 10 you will fail.  Both in dating and PR I genuinely want to get to know the person on the other side, build a relationship and help them succeed.   I believe this sincerity is apparent in my pitches and I hope is apparent in my pick up lines too 😉
  • Kindness and Confidence.  Confidence mixed with friendliness I think is the key combination to getting past that initial introduction phase in the dating and media world.  When someone exudes confidence, it is apparent and attractive and who can turn down someone who is kind?  I know I have a hard time of it and in PR I think the same is true.

Now of course you will still receive exceptions to these rules and like in dating, not every relationship is meant to last, but I think this analogy is a great one to keep in mind.  My parting tip?  Draw understanding from the one you know better to help you out in the other, equally important, part of your life as well.


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Photo of the Day

National Geographic

National Geographic

I thought my blog was in need of some visual elements and therefore decided to share this photo from National Geographic’s Week in Photos depicting the collapse of the Cologne city archives building on March 3.  I feel a special connection to Cologne after living there last summer and therefore was immediately drawn to this photo.  The building contained centuries worth of archives, housing works by such people as Karl Marx.  No one knows as of yet why the building collapsed.  This photo reminds me of looking into a dollhouse, especially with the bed and painting in the wall still fully intacted- eerie for sure.


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A penny for your thoughts??

At the start of my internship in the wonderful world of pr, one of the first things I learned about was billing time.  Essentially, time is broken into .25 increments and you must record each day who and what you are working on in order to bill clients.  Although initially annoying, I have learned to love the idea of billing time because it forces you to be responsible for every moment of your day and to use your time wisely.  Now of course there is never enough time in the day (especially in the pr world) so I thought an appropriate topic for my second intern insight would be… time management.

At Dix & Eaton, interns are treated as employees.   Therefore I do not sit around and make coffee all day, but rather I am treated as an Assistant Account Executiveand have real, billable work for a number of clients.  I learned very quickly that I will always be busy and need to prioritze and therefore I learned some pretty good tips and have gotten some great advice to help manage my time.  Here a few of my favorite pieces of advice:

Triage your work.  In pr, there are always stories to be pitched, media lists to create, follow-up calls to be made- the list goes on.  The trick I have found to organizing what to do when is to organize by urgency and immediate importance.  An event for a client in a week that has no press coverage of course must be completed ASAP, while the media list for outreach you are just beginning can probably wait.  It is not always that simple to gauge the importance of projects compared to one another, but you can always ask the advice of your collegues and when someone says something is urgent, by asking more questions you can find out how truly “urgent” it really is.

Block off time in your schedule.  Is there something on your to-do list that you never seem to be able to check off?  A colleague of mine suggested that for times such as this a good option is to block off time in your calendar dedicated solely to whichever task it is that you are hoping to accomplish.  By scheduling time into your calendar people won’t think you are free and you will have a better chance at avoiding interruptions.  It will also help you mentally plan to complete that task when you see it planned into your schedule.  Along those same lines, in order to not forget something you can plan a reminder into your schedule as well.  I have found this especially helpful for completing follow-up calls when pitching numerous clients.  When you see on your calendar that you must contact Joe Smith at 3 p.m., you will be much less likely to forget to make the call.

Finally, when overwhelmed…simply take a break.  In a world where every 15 minutes matters, it can be hard to justify taking a break to relax and refocus.  But that mental rest is probably just what you need to re-assess and be more productive when you are feeling like your work is controlling you.  Trying to work through it rarely works and means you are probably less focused and completing work that is not up to your best standards.  My favorite way to take a break is a Starbucks run (since there is one conveniently located in the lobby of my building), but even a walk around the office can do wonders for your sanity.

Of course, there are many more tips to managing you time, but these are a few that I have found especially helpful and think can add sanity and productivity to anyone’s job/life.

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Blog I’m LOVING- Mashable

Since I have chosen to immerse myself in the world of blogging, I decided I should share the love, explore this world and see what I find.   Well, one of the very first blogs I have stumbled upon is Mashable

Mashable is a great site for getting into the world of blogging or if you are interested in becoming more familiar with the web and social media in general.  I would describe it as a “one-stop-shop” for everything you ever wanted (and maybe didn’t want) to know about the web and social media. 

To get a feel of what types of posts you can expect from this site here are some of my favorite recent posts:

As you can see from these examples Mashable offers fun pop culture, social media tips, new happenings on the web and everything in between.  This blog was listed by Time Magazine as one of the top 25 blogs of 2009  and once you subscribe to its feed it is easy to understand why.  Mashable, with its vast offerings, makes me a more knowledgeable social media consumer each and every day.

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Intern Insights… Media Pitches

This week marked the beginning of my second month at my internship.  After four weeks in I finally feel less like the new girl and more like a pr professional who has a perspective and view on the field, no matter if it is still a small one 🙂  That being said I thought it would be beneficial to myself, other new pr professionals and people looking to get into the field to hear my thoughts- me being a bright, fresh new face to the profession.  That being said, I decided my first topic would be…. media pitches.

Since the start of my internship much of my time has been devoted to pitching the media.  Not only has this task taken over a good portion of my time sheets, but has also proven to be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of my internship thus far.  I have not only  pitched one story, but numerous over a variety of topic areas and therefore, although still very new at this staple pr task, I have already come up with some hints/tips for myself as well as anyone pitching the media.  I’m sure more will come as my internship and life continues but for now here it goes:

  1. Know the topic you are pitching, WELL.  One of the reasons I was initially drawn to PR was because of the wide range of subjects and assignments you are exposed to due to the nature of the field.   Once starting this internship I was not disappointed.  I have already worked on such wide ranging subjects as art, hr, finance, public utilities, just to name a few.  One of the very first things I learned when contacting the media though is, know your shit.  It does not matter that you may have 20 different clients in 20 different sectors because at that moment you are the pr expert on *subject a* and you better be sure to know what you are talking about and be able to answer questions if you are asked, or else how are you going to be taken seriously by anyone let alone a reporter?
  2. Know your reporter, or try your hardest to.  One of the major frustrations I have had thus far is being new and not familiar AT ALL with the reporters I am expected to pitch to.  Sure I know the reporters I previously followed in my personal time, but I quickly learned there is a whole world of journalism to navigate and it takes finesse to master.  I did not realize the importance of this tip until I began pitching for myself and realized that if I don’t know my reporter and his/her interests or beat I could end up wasting both of our time.  It is near impossible to pitch a story to someone who is not interested or does not cover that topic no matter how persuasive you are.  Therefore Lexis Nexis, Google News, and online pub searches are quickly becoming my best friends.
  3. Be persistent.  This is by far the main thing I have learned about media pitching  over the past month.  Media pitching is hard.  Media pitching is time consuming.  Media pitching is a lot backtracking.  But with persistence, you can succeed.  Now of course by persistence I do not mean annoyance, but I do mean making sure you and your story are visible, you are doing the appropriate follow-up, and you are not giving up especially with a story that is great and a pub or reporter it is perfect for.  Of course you might not always succeed, but you could.

So I realize that was only three tips, but I didn’t want this post to take up my whole page and plus hey, I’m still new and there is plenty of time for insight in the future.  But for the start of week #5 that is my first intern insight, and be sure there will be more to come 🙂

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Are you as well-read as the President-Elect?

Today’s New York Times, in preparation for tomorrow’s big event of course, featured a number of articles about President-Elect Barack Obama, the inauguration and the current political situation overall.  One article I found to be particularly interesting though was “From Books, New President Found Voice” by Mitchiko Kakutani.  

The article talks about how through books Obama learned about the power of the written word to inspire and transform our world. This strong feeling toward the power of words and speech is unsurprising considering the praise Obama has recieved for his own eloquence and ability to move an audience with his words.  It makes sense that he is an ardent reader and shows once again the importance of reading and the impact it can have. 

In addition to the article the Times included a Presidential reading list to highlight some of the books that have personally inspired Obama. This list includes:

  • The Bible
  • “Parting the Waters” Taylor Branch 
  • “Self-Reliance” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Gandhi’s autobiography
  • “Team of Rivals” Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • “The Golden Notebook” Doris Lessing
  • Lincoln’s collected writings
  • “Moby-Dick” Herman Melville
  • “Song of Solomon” Toni Morrison
  • Works of Reinhold Niebuhr
  • “Gilead” Marilynne Robinson
  • Shakespeare’s tragedies

I myself cannot say that I have read the majority of the books on this list, but I do find them inspiring and books to consider when my current book of choice is complete.  I will probably not read the entire list but I plan to hit a few and perhaps will then understand our new President from a new perspective.  And hey, who knows, maybe I will find some of my own inner eloquence as well 🙂

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Holiday Humbug

Working in retail I have had my fair share of unpleasant customers.  Sometimes justified, other times not it is something that comes with the territory.   But never before have I experienced the unpleasantness that comes with the upcoming holidays.  Holidays are meant to be a time of happiness and family, but from a retail manager’s perspective it is a time filled with unpleasant people I like to call “Holiday Humbugs.”

Although it may sound strange I was excited to work my first holiday retail season.  The busy stores, present buying and gift wrapping, it all sounded like a fun and wonderful way to work through the holidays.  What I have found instead is that the holidays bring out the worst is shoppers and workers alike.  I have yet to decide why but rather than focus the meaning behind the holiday season people focus on the negatives.  Long lines become personal attacks on customers, messy stores show disregard for our workplace and tired looks are taken for scowls.  Especially with the financial squeeze we are all feeling, now more than ever seems like a time to show common courtesy towards yourself and others.  I hate the lines and the hassles as much as the next person, but I think we all could benefit from stepping back, taking a deep breath and remembering our holiday cheer.  It may sound corny but if the holiday humbugs went away, shoppers and workers alike would experience a much more rewarding and positive holiday season.

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