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How Getting a Placement is Like Getting a Date

Jennifer Mulligan

It’s been said before, but we’ll say it again: navigating the treacherous waters of romantic relationships and media relations have a lot in common. The best PR pros are charming, loyal and seem to really “get” their clients and reporters, just like the best romantic partners. So how do you ensure that your client and a reporter are a perfect match?

The answer is not a mass pitch to the entire NYT masthead. That’s about as effective as a blind date. Sure, you hear the occasional success story, but oftentimes, it’s a real dud. Instead, you need to court reporters one-on-one, so when a client has a truly great story to tell, they’re ready. Here’s what that looks like:

Step 1: The First Impression

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In dating, this could be the introduction, pick-up line or OkCupid profile. In media relations, it’s the email subject line. This is the crucial moment when your potential date or reporter decides if they’d like to know more about you. If you blow this chance, it doesn’t matter what great insights your client has, what the new product is or why this is a good fit for the reporter. No pressure.

Dating Tip #1: don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone in dating or in media relations. Of course, you have your tried-and-true publications and best friend reporters, but don’t smother them with too much affection. Instead, give someone else a shot with your pitch. Or better yet, get creative with your topics and consider how your client could appeal to a different audience altogether.

Step 2: Playing Hard-to-Get?

Much like dating, media relations is a bit of a game as well. Reporters (and potential dates) like to know you really want them. If a reporter doesn’t respond to your first pitch, try again. Tell them why this topic is a good fit much like you’d tell a date what you have in common.

Unlike dating, you should tell a reporter that you want to be exclusive right away. PR pros should never be aloof or play hard-to-get. Make your intentions known.

Dating Tip #2: understand the three-day rule. In dating, you wait three days to call once you’ve gotten the number. In media relations, you wait a few days to follow up on an email if you don’t hear back from a reporter. It’s as simple as that!

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Step 3: Know When It’s Time to Move on

They say that persistence pays off, and it usually does. But sometimes “no” does, in fact, mean no. For both dating and media relations, if you spend too much time trying to connect with one person, you could miss out on finding a real connection elsewhere. Follow up once, and then move on to other prospects.

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Dating Tip #3: there are plenty of fish (or reporters) in the sea. With enough effort, you will find the perfect reporter for your pitch. Sometimes it just takes more looking than others.

Always keep the end game in mind. For both dating and media relations, you want a relationship, but don’t want to scare them away. You would never propose to someone on a first date, so you shouldn’t ask for a cover story about your client’s business model at first either. Get to know your reporter first, and let them get to know you. And with time, you’ll be a match made in heaven.