Let me let you in on a dirty little secret. Sure, I’ve built up a good book of business and take my networking seriously, but I’m not even close to knowing every reporter on a first name basis – nor do I feel inadequate for this (cue gasps of PR professionals everywhere).
Now I’m not saying that having connections doesn’t mean anything, I’m just saying that it doesn’t mean everything. In fact, a lack of connections is the one thing you can compensate for with a solid strategy, on-point content and polished presence. The other way around? Not so much.
You know that old adage “It’s not about what you know, but who you know”? Well, I’d like to dispel this myth once and for all with five compelling reasons why having connections isn’t enough for successful public relations. Humor me, will you?
- Your story still has to be newsworthy
You might rub elbows, share jokes and sip coffee with a good variety of local reporters; however, if you expect them to repeatedly publish non-newsworthy stories as a favor, you will quickly drain that well dry. Everyone answers to someone and even their best attempts to sneak in your promotions will be vetted out by a check and balance somewhere in the hierarchy. Besides, it won’t do anything for preserving their reputation as a respectable reporter.
- You need to understand the outlets and what they are looking for
Continuing to pitch a variety of clients’ stories to the same outlet where you have your connection is putting on blinders to all other outlets that may be far better suited for a particular topic. People who rely too heavily on their connections often push clients to use that outlet, yet it’s not always in the best interest of the client. A lack of such connections leaves you with the unbiased freedom to pursue outlets solely on their reach and relevancy.
- It takes strategy to select the right angle
As I mentioned above, even the best connections won’t make up for the lack of a story’s newsworthiness. So often what makes a story newsworthy is the angle you take when writing it. This requires a good understanding of what makes the media tick and a strategic mind to align that with how you pitch your story. Simply writing the facts, even if free of any grammatical errors, is not enough to make it to the front page.
As far as having connections, even your own uncle or brother who works for the Wall Street Journal will need to decline an article that is overly promotional or self-serving. The ability to select the angle that will grab a reporter’s (and readers’) attention is worth so much more.
- Your content needs to be polished
You may have fostered some pretty solid connections in the local market; however, if you continue to provide them with crap writing, you can expect your emails to start getting “lost” in their inbox. The best connections will not outlast press releases and articles that are strewn together haphazardly and laced with elementary grammatical errors. A knack for creating captivating content and an eye for catching spelling and grammar mistakes is worth far more than the ability to name drop. Before you place any more emphasis on stalking reporters, first dedicate your time to polishing your basic writing skills.
- Connections can come and go
Finally, if your entire public relations strategy is built around your media and business connections, you are playing a dangerous game. Connections, as with any relationship, come and go fluidly. Even when you dedicate great amounts of time and energy to fostering them, it takes two to keep a relationship going and a connection or two may decide they need some space. If this should happen and you don’t have quality communication skills to lean on, you will most certainly fall down.
What additional skills or strategies have you found to be more effective than simply relying upon personal connections? Share your thoughts by commenting below!