There really is one thing that separates a decent publicist from a rock star publicist: the ability to build real, offline relationship with clients and press contacts. Being able to make authentic connections will set you apart from your peers and setting up desk side meetings with your media contacts is a great way to do that. A desk side, or desk side meeting is basically where you make an appointment with an editor to meet them at their desk, often to discuss story opportunities, introduce client news, and give editor's a chance to see a new collection or samples in person.
I try to meet one new press contact every month or so. This could mean just having coffee with a local blogger or going to NYC to meet with national editors at their offices. Not only do I believe that these one-on-one meetings are even more necessary in our over-digitalized world, but as a publicist I spend the vast majority of my time planted in front of the computer. Sometimes it is nice to have a reason to step away during the workday without guilt!
So, why exactly should you be making desk sides a priority?
Desk Sides put a face to the e-mail address
In PR, half the battle is getting your e-mail pitch opened. If someone knows you and has met you in person, they are more likely to open your e-mail. This is the first step to getting a placement. It drives me insane when publicists solely rely on e-mail to get their pitches noticed. It takes a lot more to get a busy editor of producers attention. PR is a communications based industry, and nothing replaces the value of connecting in-person.
Desk Sides make a publication come to life
My favorite thing about desk sides is that they are an opportunity to learn more about the publications you are pitching. It's hard to get a real sense for how a publication runs from looking at website or masthead. In-person media meetings allow you to gain insight into what a publication is looking for and how things are set up.
For example, the last time I was in NYC, I met with an editor at a political news website. I naturally thought she was only looking for political op-ed pieces. However, after meeting with her, I learned that everyone was obviously pitching her political experts, so they were actually in need of more lifestyle, fashion and beauty contributors. I would have never known that by just looking at the website.
In-person enthusiasm is infectious
If your client is truly creating something new, innovative or social cause-related, it can help if they personally introduce their products to the press. Their excitement will be infectious. It can also be quite powerful for an editor to experience the passion you have for your clients as well. It's always more fun to work on story opportunities when both parties are truly engaged.
That said, I am on the fence about taking clients with you to desk side meetings. As a publicist, it is our job to objectively determine if a client's new launch, collection or program is newsworthy and if they are the best representative of that story. Media contacts will not be interested in setting aside time unless your client is offering something game changing and you don’t want to set your client up for failure.
Finally, involving clients in these meetings can be a disaster because you can never 100% guarantee that editors will keep their appointments. Even if you have confirmed meetings, they can get canceled due to breaking news or unexpected deadlines. Then, you are left with an angry client, which is never fun.
Gain instant feedback
When at a desk side, pitch your clients at your own risk. What do I mean by this? Gauge how the conversation is going before you start rambling on about your clients. You are trying to build a solid relationship, so don’t become a pushy salesperson. However, chances are the contact you are meeting with will ask about the clients you work with. This is your opportunity to showcase your roster and get instant feedback.
You already constantly updating your media contact database and pulling new lists, so setting up desk sides should be part of these regular routines. Meetings are just another way to keep your Rolodex fresh and current. If you are pitching the same contacts on a regular basis, try to sit down in person every once in a while. For 2014, make it your goal to meet one new press contact a month. I promise you, the more people you meet, the more placements you will get!
Photo Credit: lanuiop