How to Make Anyone Like You as a Publicist
BY Ed Zitron
Give reporters a story they can use and make it clear to clients what you can do for them.
You like to run. You "love media." You adore your iPhone. You liked an article on the Huffington Post. You're a banal collection of factoids and retweets. The comedian Louis C.K. describes you as the "first-date guy"--a "mishmash of dudes for a couple of seconds each--just anything...hoping to find pay-dirt." You're a publicist, and you just want people to like you.
It's a crime of desperation. You either need more stories written about your client or you need new clients. Your boss--who might not have done your job in a while--has vague perceptions of how it should go. You have to impress a lot of people. The result is an email sent to a reporter including words like "revolutionary," or "disruptive," or bizarre acronyms with the desperate plea at the end--speak to the CEO, write about this product.
The truth is, being liked--as a person, as a product, as a company--is about relating to the other person. You don't have to be a media maven. You don't have to schmooze yourself into people's lives and trick them into making you love them. You don't have to drink heavily and go to every party.
The key to all last professional relationships is this: You don't want anything from other people. At least not immediately. As a PR person, you can split these people into two categories: the reporter and the client.
Reporters will like you if you get them a story they want to write.
Reporters are human beings with beating hearts, emotions, and lives. They have a job that they do for eight or more hours a day. And yet they’re treated (or at least their emails) are treated as open vessels by a publicist.
Some publicists send 100-300 emails a day. One I recently spoke to claims that he receives more than 1,000 emails daily. I send no more than 50 a week. Some days I'll send 10. Or 3. For very serious releases with lots of potential people, I'll hit up 15 people. Each time I write it up from my head. I think, "Hey, who is this person, what are they up to today?" If I know them, I apply what I know in how I write. Around 70 percent of my emails are read (I track using a former client's software--Toutapp.com), and reporters for the most part don't seem to hate me.
I have become (quasi) likable to a lot of reporters because I am, in the end, a human being that cares when they don’t like something. Not (just) because they didn't want to write about it, but because I wasted their time. Remember that these people have jobs, lives, families, pets, and more. It would behoove you to take more care in trying to understanding and build your work around their needs, not yours.
Journalists will like you if in the end you are focused more on getting them to write a story that they want to write. If they feel cajoled, nudged, or (worse-still) annoyed, that piece is probably going to suck. And they might just end up hating you.
Clients will like you if you focus on what you can do for them.
This one is far simpler than anything above. You are walking into a room or onto a phone call where somebody is about to spend thousands of dollars on you or on your company. The way to make them like you is to excise a few useless things from your pitch:
1) Meaningless angles to make you sound intelligent.
2) Case studies that don't stand up to any level of questioning.
3) Inane reasons why you are more important than another agency.
In the end, what a potential client wants to hear is what you can do for them.
Find out exactly what they want--is it funding or new users? Or do they just want someone to make the CEO feel important?
Tell them how you'll do it. Don't say, "Here are some angles we can pitch." Try: "These are the people we think will like this story, and how we would approach them." Don't talk about "leveraging," "deep diving," or meaningless data. Do talk seriously about what you--not your direct reports, but you--will do to make the client get what they want. Be honest about what you can do.
You may feel very special when someone signs on because you put together a deeply beautiful presentation, but just remember that person doesn't really like you. They like what you're pretending to be.
Build a relationship on reality and it will grow beautifully.
ED ZITRON is the founder of EZ-PR, a PR and media relations company based in New York City and Raleigh, North Carolina. He is also of the author of This Is How You Pitch: How to Kick Ass in Your First Years of PR. He has worked with Target and the Nature Publishing Group, as well as smaller startups and tech figureheads. He covered the technology and video games industry for seven years for Future Publishing and Eurogamer. @edzitron