If the incredible high of landing a great piece of press coverage is akin to spinning straw into gold, then our own personal expectations (not to mention those of our clients) are like Rumpelstiltskin, demanding that we continually work our magic to churn out more more more!
And yet, sources say that “on average, the media rejects 95% of the pitches they receive,”
and so it is nigh impossible to always be one of the 5%. With rejection such big part of the PR gig, how can we develop a better response to or plan for dealing with the inevitability of hearing “no?” After all, we are all miller’s daughters – shrewed and clever, we can figure this out.
1. Be honest with yourself
If you take a moment to listen to your gut, you can probably sense a few reasons why this pitch didn’t work out. Perhaps you didn’t get images from the client until after the ed-cal deadline, or you still don’t have clear shots on a white background. Maybe you got a little too wordy, misspelled the editor’s name, or were in a rush and blasted a release without a custom introduction that explained exactly why the product was a great fit for that publication. Take a full inventory and do what it takes to make sure you are in a better position next time.
2. Remember it’s not you, it’s the pitch
Even though there are always improvements we can make in media outreach, there are so many outside forces that we cannot control. Yet because we tend to invest so much of ourselves in our media hits and because our professional value is often tied to the coverage that we land, it can be incredibly easy to feel that “no” – or worse, that utter lack of response, like a punch to the heart. Please don’t take the no, or the silence, personally. Most often, it has nothing to do with you – perhaps your editor has marching orders to write twelve different articles this week, none of which are a fit for what you sent. Maybe what your pitching is expensive, and they’re looking for items at a lower rice point for this particular spread. If you’ve never worked with this editor before, you’re fighting not only to cut through the clutter of hundreds of pitches, but emails from PR pro’s this editor knows she can trust. Whatever it is, keep your head high. It’s so not about you.
3. Ask someone you admire to read your pitch
While you shouldn’t go home, pull the covers over your head and watch a few episodes of Parenthood to cry it out, do swallow your pride and ask someone to read what you sent. We all can use other people’s eyes on our pitches. Share your pitch with that guy in Consumer Products who seems to be landing stories left and right, or, gulp, your boss. Rejection is part of the game and client coverage is a team effort. Perhaps there is a strategy or subject line that’s really working for someone in your office that you can try next time. Maybe you are so deep into the client brand that you missed a crucial key message that an intern will help you spot when she asks an (obvious to you) clarifying question. I love giving pitches to my PR friends to look over – they are each so talented and have a unique way of organizing information – I learn so much every time I am willing to let them take a peek.
Working in public relations guarantees rejection on an almost daily basis. Hey, if you’re not being rejected, you are not reaching far enough or asking for enough. – Leah Scherschel, SAE, The Alba Group
4. Ask for feedback directly from the editor
After graciously thanking the editor for her time, tuck in a line that reads something like, “I really appreciate your consideration of this story idea and that you took the time to write me back. I’d love to know what about this pitch/idea/brand wasn’t a fit for you, so that I can bring you better opportunities in the future. I don’t want to waste your time. Any feedback you have will be invaluable to my client as we move forward together.”
5. Explore different types of media opportunities
So your broadcast pitch isn’t getting any pick-up – where else could you look? Perhaps there is a video segment for a lifestyle website or an influential beauty vlogger who might love the idea – and possibly offer an even more targeted audience. If you are tasked with pitching swimsuits in the winter, try publications south of the equator or change up your story angle to be about top celebrity winter getaways. There are always multiple threads to each story and all sorts of media opportunities outside of Vogue and the Today Show. Work those angles.
6. Let it go
In order to be rejected, you have to put something out there. Just by trying your best and doing something that might feel a little bit scary, you are in fact, already winning. Of course it’s not easy to “stay calm and keep pitching,” when feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. But whether you are sending out email pitches, calling up editors or putting the pressure on a client to do something differently, each time you get a no, you get valuable information that you can use to become a better publicist. In fact, try and be a tiny bit grateful for the experience, because it forced you to grow and get better. So let the experience go, shake it off and move ahead toward your next great pitch.