I have spent over 20 years as a public relations consultant in Boston. I didn’t go to school to learn PR as my philosophy is, you can’t. Yes, you can go and learn the basics in terms of the overall premise of public relations, you can learn how to write and the basic tools of the public relations industry but my honest opinion is you cannot learn the soft skills needed to do well in PR. Not to mention the public relations industry changes daily as it has over the past ten years.
I made quite a few mistakes in my earlier years in the public relations business. And I’ve always said a PR professional only gets better at their job when they have been yelled at by a journalist or reporter. Or worse, treated poorly. Sometimes it’s for good reason and in many cases, it’s just a tired and what I would call a seasoned journalist; someone who has had their share of unprofessional PR people nag them endlessly.
In the past year or so, I have entered the world of being a journalist, writing my book Overcoming Distractions and working on more books as I write this. While I believe I always had a good handle on what reporters and journalists liked and disliked about PR people, I now have experienced some of this firsthand.
I write this not as a tool to complain but as a guide for others as they try to get press coverage for themselves. I have had many people, including those who work for PR agencies pitch me to be in my books. Most have been on point but a few stick out.
Here are a few things that will NOT help you get any type of press coverage.
I have used a service called HARO, which allows journalists working on a project to find the resources they need to finish their article, news piece or in my case, a book. I feel as though I have explained exactly what I am looking for when I send out queries. Here are some of the responses I have gotten that will get you nowhere.
I need more information on what you are looking for. No, I gave you what I’m looking for. Can you help my readers?
Not personalized. I’m not arrogant but a Dear Mr. Greenwood or Hi Dave would serve you well to establish a relationship. Some journalists like a formal introduction.
Having your PR person send over a list of demands. Is that a dial tone I hear?? Oh, did I delete your email? Gee, sorry about that…
Taking days to respond. One of the first rules of public relations is to be available. If a journalist contacts you, respond immediately. Even if it’s at night or on the weekend.
Pitching something else other than what was asked of you. Delete…
Being difficult. If a journalist asked for a FEW times you are available, don’t just give them one timeslot you can talk. Give them what they ask for. Don’t make them go back and forth endlessly.
I now know even better about what journalists like and dislike about working with PR people having entered the role of book author. Please take my advice and you’ll be much better off when it comes to trying to secure any kind of press coverage.
More tips to come… I’m not done yet…