I’ve Been Married for 10 Years, but I’ve Been Actively Dating the Entire Time …
After all, a PR career requires strong courting skills, from making the perfect first impression to building long-term committed relationships.
As a 21-year-old fresh out of college, I was surprised when on day three of my first PR job, a superior asked me if I had been in many long-term relationships. I wondered if these kinds of personal questions were common in the working world but not wanting to be rude or unprofessional, I answered truthfully that at the moment I was more focused on building my PR career than dating. She then explained that forming lasting relationships is a critical PR skill that would enable me to find the success in the industry I so single-mindedly sought. Since then, I’ve gained significant experience fostering different types of PR relationships and the parallels to the dating world are undeniable.
With media engagement at the heart of public relations, it can be easy (but lazy) to cast a wide net and impersonally send out pitches in the hope that something will stick. As with dating, finding media contacts who are compatible and receptive to client content, then dedicating time to get to know that subset more deeply is more likely to generate the desired results than winking at every eligible editor. Writers and producers are being wooed by countless publicists and breaking through requires the same skills as fostering other relationships: be invested in their work and interests and identify commonalities; follow and connect with them through email and on social media (but to breed familiarity and not to pitch them); enjoy the relationship and get to know them before making demands on their time and attention; and be enthusiastic yet authentic. The publicist/media relationship cannot be one-sided with PR professionals expecting coverage without providing value. Publicists need to put themselves out there, create engaging conversations and offer memorable experiences that will stand out.
Building meaningful relationships with clients is equally challenging, rewarding, and deeply rooted in personal connection. When getting to know a new client contact a strong first impression can go a long way; showing how you will work toward common business goals is important, but so is finding out about their individual interests, what makes them tick and what pushes their buttons. Lasting client relationships are built on trust and communication, which will sometimes include difficult conversations and pauses to evaluate what is working and what isn’t. The most successful relationships are those in which publicists find ways to make life and work easier for their clients, support them and learn, grow and strive together with them. Like many relationships, after a while and without constant work and evaluation, things can start to feel stale and like the parties involved are going through the motions, so it is crucial to continually reinvent with new ideas and creative solutions to maintain positive forward momentum.
In any business liaison, honesty and loyalty are crucial, as is being genuinely interested and invested in making it work for the long haul. Care and passion keep both sides connected and fakeness is obvious and off-putting. Expressing appreciation goes a long way and solid relationships shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially given the effort they take to build and maintain and the fulfillment they can provide.
While my relationship with my coworker did not last beyond the few months we worked together, if I were to run into her now after 16 years in the business, I’d tell her how right she was and that between my job at Coyne PR, clients I’ve worked with over the years and media connections I’ve formed, I’ve been lucky to have been a part of numerous enduring relationships that were essential to my career trajectory.