How to be a Better PR Person

This is piggybacking off a list over at PR Daily. So, if you want, you can hop over to its list, “7 Traits of a Solid PR Professional” first. Or you can read this and be fine. I’m just giving props for the post’s catalyst.

As the name indicates, it’s a list of qualities a great PR person should have: Not a good PR person, but a great one. The one that stuck out to me particularly is to be thick-skinned. Here’s what PR Daily says:

“PR people get shot-down often. It’s a common occurrence and there’s nothing wrong with that. Amid great editorial success, we get turned away pitching more than our fair share of story ideas, bylined articles, and profile pieces. While we enjoy much strategic and tactical success when working with clients, we also get shot-down presenting ideas for new programs or programmatic approaches.”

I think I’ve blogged about a rise of shocking unprofessionalism this year, and I would say among the PR community, I’ve seen a giant spike in PR people taking things personally. As in, when I decline a pitch, they don’t just ask why I turned them down (which is fine and totally permissible) but being, well, irritated that I can’t see the sheer brilliance of what they’re pitching.

But the fact is, I’m seeing PR folks more and more breaking other rules on this list everyday. They are obviously not reading the places I edit to know whether their piece would even be a good fit, or if their angle even makes sense. They just know I’m a gatekeeper and I won’t let them in, and they’re desperate to get in anywhere so they’re buffeting their email lists with the same pitch. It’s akin to someone applying for jobs en masse and sending out the same résumé. Or, if they’re sending out a cover letter, it’s an obvious cookie-cutter one.

If you’re going to be lazy, you should be able to take “no” for an answer. That “no” means you can try harder or we just aren’t a good fit. It’s not the end of the world. As a rule, though, I generally try to find my own pieces and stories. Sure, there’s an SEO advantage of not glomming onto what everyone else is doing, but also, that “exclusive” you’re emailing me about? I know you’re BCCing me on it, so it doesn’t really impress or excite me, anyway.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. (He also co-runs a blog behind the DePaul class, DIY Game Dev.) He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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