In-Depth Coverage: Hacks with Benefits

Businessman and woman smiling at each other in officeI am now single again, after more than a decade of marriage, and am realizing the benefits of being a single gal publicist in a tech PR world (the majority of these reporters being men). After all these of years of marital life, I had forgotten how much easier it is to pitch a story with a hint of flirtation in your voice. But do you let those flirtations go any further?

When I first began doing public relations, I was not at all comfortable on the phone pitching. Those were the days before email. We would fax out releases and were expected to follow-up every fax with a call. Those first stiff, wooden calls would be painful to listen to now. With time, I got better at the pitching and was soon very comfortable, so comfy that I let down my guard and even flirted.

But here’s the funny thing. I wasn’t always flirting. Most of the time, I was just pitching but it didn’t always come across that way. Once, I managed to score a lunch with a reporter from Rolling Stone, only to realize later that he may have been confusing our working lunch with a date. (I knew my client’s product wasn’t that great, but I guess I overestimated my pitching skills.) While that was a bit awkward, I did continue to call and pitch him products after we met for lunch. I never did act on his lunch flirtations so it wasn’t as awkward as it could have been. He never did write about that client and I’m not sure I ever did get a hit with him, however, we both kept our reputations intact.

Another time, I developed a full-on, reciprocal phone flirtation with a reporter. He worked at CMP’s ComputerLife magazine (now defunct). At the time, ComputerLife was both in print and online on America Online. The great thing about that, is that his column had a photo so I even knew what he looked like. I pitched and flirted with him for months, scoring several hits for clients when we decided to actually meet. He lived in San Francisco and I am based in Los Angeles but I decided to take the leap and fly up for the weekend (a risky proposition because if you don’t get along, you’re stuck there for 2 days). While it wasn’t a Love Connection, we still both had a decent weekend and decided to go back to a business relationship. Luckily, we were both adult enough to handle it respectfully afterward and we both continued to work together well.

So, would I advocate this move for everyone? Well, I have heard of some publicists marrying reporters that they have met on the job. And I have also heard horror stories of situations going bad. I think it probably depends on the two people involved. Also, if you are planning on going further than flirtation, you probably want to discuss the possibility of it not working out with the person beforehand. Discuss how you might handle things if one or the other does not want to continue the relationship. I am not embarrassed easily so I could handle it when things didn’t work out.

One last thing, I don’t advocate selling yourself just to get a story. There’s another word for that and it ain’t publicist.

What do you think? Is it okay to flirt with or date reporters that you are pitching?

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