With all the new technologies and information available, from e-mail to IM to databases to online contact forms, it’s easy to take a passive approach to connecting with people. Send something out into the ether and wait for a response. I understand why people do it, it’s safe, low risk and you don’t run the risk of having “no” said directly to you. It’s also the completely wrong approach if you want to have a long-term, successful career in PR. If you were a doctor, could you be effective if you only diagnosed patients over e-mail? Not any doctor that I’d want to see.
Some comments posted on an earlier blog post about relationships made the point that with a good database, relationships don’t matter anymore. I find the opposite to be true. First, most databases struggle to stay current with shifting beats, and certainly do nothing to capture reporter interests, preferences or interview styles. Secondly, if more people have access to any given reporters information, the amount of contact received each day goes up dramatically. If the reporter is now getting 100 pitches that are all part of his or her beat coverage, having a relationship with that reporter becomes even more important.
While I understand and agree that the quality of the pitch, and how well you’re telling a story is critical, lots of strong PR people are good at writing pitches. If a reporter knows you as a person, and you’ve shared kid photos, had coffee or helped him find a source for a story, the likelihood that he responds to your pitch first goes up. You also need to make sure that you are getting or staying engaged. There are lots of ways to accomplish this. A simple place to start is following and interacting with influencers on Twitter. You should also take the time to compliment reporters, bloggers, analysts, etc. on articles, posts or reports you read and enjoyed. Even better is when you post their content on social media sites to help expand the influencer’s reach. Remember, none of these people you’re trying to reach are creating their content in a vacuum, they are creating it so others can read it, process it and form an opinion.
Where this passivity or lack of engagement can get you in trouble is when you rely on only one way to reach someone important to your company or client. This can be a reporter, blogger, analyst, conference organizer, or any number of others that can have an influence on your company or clients success. You send an e-mail and wait. You have no idea what else they have on their plate and they are busy so your e-mail is easy to ignore. You send a follow up with no new information and again are ignored. You can then pretend they weren’t interested, and maybe they weren’t, but could be they just didn’t see it or that the pitch didn’t register as something they’d be interested in.
I’m not suggesting that you become a stalker, or continue to bombard someone that has said “no.” But your job requires you to get your company or client in front of people and to do that, you have to take an active, engaged approach.