Working The Media: The Coward's Gambit

I always like to say, I didn’t find PR, PR found me. Before I even pitched, it was in me. State appointed psychologists said that my childhood mischief such as tricking my cousins into hurting each other at Thanksgiving demonstrated a personality suited for public relations. My adolescence told a similar tale. I was always spinning and putting people in contact with each other. However, I realize that most people aren’t born with my level of acumen to the game. The focus of what I do here is more or less to get you on your own two feet so you can play with the big boys.

That’s why today, we’re focusing on a crucial aspect of the business: media contacts. Your relationships with the media are the fisherman’s pole to the fisherman. They’re the soldier’s tank. They’re the clown’s red nose. It doesn’t matter how charming you are at parties or how good your client role is, you’re nothing if you can’t cultivate real relationships with people in publishing, podcasts, and TV.

Journalists have to know you respect them. That’s why every pitch should start out with an admission of their power. If you must email them, your subject line should start “I beseech you”, or “Please respond sweetheart”.

Ideally, though, you’re seeing them in person. Then, you’re going to want to forgo a handshake and immediately bow. The most important thing is to get your head below theirs. For lady journalists, kneel to the ground and kiss their hand. Only the ultimate submission gets credit.

Fill their minds with childlike wonder. Once you’ve broken past their defenses with your Peter Lorre charm, it’s time to tell them what’s good for them, their careers, and what their beat is. If there’s one thing journalists love, it’s instruction.

You may face rejection. People may tell you “I don’t just reword press releases” or “I don’t give a shit about your dumb fuck app”. Remember those begging skills you worked on earlier? Double down. I cannot tell you how many deals I’ve closed with writers by just bursting into tears and exclaiming “I can’t go back to them like this. Please, please just give me a write up”. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once said “people just like to be asked”. Well, that may be true in politics, but in PR, people just like to be groveled on pathetically.

After a few years, you should have built up your reputation as an obsequious, manipulative worm. That’s when the payoff comes. All those journalists who you now blame for making you look weak years ago, you get to threaten and bully into writing your clients’ story, which is really why we all get into this: spreading terror into people’s hearts. This is the circle of life. It’s the natural life cycle of all good business, starting off a lowly peon and working hard for years so you can threaten people with some real force behind your words.

So next time you think about addressing Gessica Anne-Gould or Sheth Hamm from the New York Daily Times Feed, don’t see a human: see an objective that you will later dominate. Till next time, pitch away!