All posts by Marie Baker

E-mail, I hate you

Communication IconI was on the phone with a friend of mine the other day. She works at home and completely relies on e-mail and virtual communication. She let out this huge groan and states “I am hella annoyed right now. [She is from California, hence the usage of hella] Everyone always replies to my e-mails but NEVER actually answers any of my questions. Instead, they ask questions that I already answered in that e-mail. DOES ANYONE READ ANYMORE?” Continue reading

Dear Facebook…

Thinkstock Single Image SetDear Facebook,

Seriously, we broke up awhile ago remember? It was right after I met Twitter. Even though Twitter and I are currently having our ups and downs, it doesn’t give you the right to try and rekindle what we once had. Granted, we had a lot of good times together, especially after my AWFUL relationship with MySpace, and don’t even get me started on Friendster (man, he just tried way too hard).

So, sure we hang out at work (because we have to) and the occasional evening – it’s a strictly platonic relationship. Now just when I thought we were developing an understanding, you have gone TOO FAR this time. You know what I’m talking about – you got my parents involved. Continue reading

Can Publicists Be Friends?

Tension Between CoworkersIn a recent post, fellow PRBC-er Kate, posed the question: “Can publicists and journalists be friends?” It is an interesting issue that elicited a number of responses from our readers. It also made me question if publicists can be friends with other publicists.

During my former life within the music industry, my particular job was extremely competitive and we were all fighting over the same client pool. I met my very best friend on the planet while we both worked at competing agencies. We hit it off right away and we were able to relate to each other because we had the same job. Continue reading

Dear Twitter….

Dear Twitter,

I am writing you this letter because I have noticed our relationship has changed in the year plus we’ve been together. When we first met, it was exciting and fun getting to know each other. We shared jokes, discussed interesting topics, met mutual friends and even kept each other in the loop about music. Those were the days!

Then month by month, our relationship began to change. I know it’s not all you, some of it is me. I think it took a turn off the deep end when we started working together. Rather than see each other at night or during our lunchtime at work, now we are around each other every single day. It’s getting to be a bit much.

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Dear Flack….Leadership Skills

Dear Flack –

I’m currently at a very small agency with no departments or divisions. The boss handles all new business pitches and project management and has for years (decades). It works for her so I don’t really blame her. Even when something is “delegated” it’s still micromanaged.

The problem is that with the number of years I’ve been here all the openings at other agencies seek demonstrable PR (or related) leadership skills and/or business pitching skills. That, of course, makes sense.

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Am I too emotional for PR

Ugh, remind me again why I check my blackberry at 10:00 o’clock at night? I know that I am running the risk of encountering a work e-mail, which likely will result in another restless night and a step closer to my bottle of sleeping pills.

But, I did it; I read the e-mail, a very nasty e-mail at that. A segment I pitched for a client went terribly wrong because, as you know, the media has creative license to produce whatever type of story it wants. Sometimes this works in our favor, sometimes it doesn’t.

The client was very unhappy, and boy, did I hear about it! I cried. That’s right, I cried a lot. I know as a publicist, you aren’t supposed to take things personally, but I do.

In fact, I guess you could say I’m an overly sensitive person.

Whether it’s screaming reporters, rude clients, shouting bosses or the general frustration of pitching, as a publicist you are expected to put on your brave face and just grin and bare it.

But at the end of the day, when I’m at home, behind closed doors, that tough façade breaks down. I am left confused, upset and wondering to myself: is a job in public relations right for me?

Granted, on the scale between one and ten (ten being a total emotional wuss), I place myself at a nine. I envy those publicists that aren’t bothered by the stress, the yelling, the segments gone awry.

Here today, I admit that I am affected by those things, and I think that there are others out there like me.

Crying isn’t a popular topic amongst the PR discussion circles. Why? Perhaps it’s because we are embarrassed, or it is the fact that we don’t want our employer (or future employer) to think any less of us. Maybe we are just afraid that others will assume we can’t handle our jobs.

I know it’s easy to tell someone “Hey, just shrug it off,” but that is just another case of easier said than done. I always thought that my emotions would be the downfall of my career, and it has definitely not been an easy battle to fight.

However, I think the fact that I care so much, maybe too much, means that I am a good publicist. If my client isn’t happy, I want to find out why and work towards a resolution.

I want to do the best job I can possibly do. If I accidentally send an e-mail to the wrong person, I get mad at myself and then vow to never make that mistake again. What I’m trying to do is be a better publicist than I was the day before.

This wasn’t meant as a “woe is me” post. My intent was to spark the conversation, to say, “Hey, it’s okay to cry and not be ashamed.” While you may feel humiliated and others see crying as a weakness; just know that you aren’t alone.

No matter how many tissue boxes I go through, I march on. At the end of the day, when I’m sitting behind my closed doors, my eyes filled with tears, I can’t think of another job that is as challenging, as exciting and ultimately as enlightening as public relations.

So, I want to hear your story. Are you an emotional publicist? Do you think that it helps or hinder your ability to do your job?

Dear Flack (Volume 1)

Dear Flack,
I am just starting out in PR and need a few tips for phone pitching. Can you help out?
Phone Home
Dear Phone Home,
There are a lot of differing opinions on telephone pitching these days. Some PR pros are for it, and some treat the device like a disgusting carton of sour milk. Whatever side of fence you’re on, chances are you will need to pick up that phone and pitch every now and again.
With that being said, here are a few pointers to get you started:
·         Relax, get to it.  As a rookie phone pitcher, it’s perfectly acceptable to feel a bit nervous on your first calls out. In addition to the phone call itself, you might also hesitate because you think a co-worker or boss is listening in on your conversations. This is nothing to be ashamed about—most of us have been in your shoes at one time or another.  Try asking your boss if there’s an empty office that you might be able to use. If that doesn’t work, just try to focus on the task at hand and tune out your surroundings. Also remember that if your boss is eavesdropping, that he/she may just be trying to help you out.
·         Think before you pitch.  It is imperative that you know your pitch inside and out. You do not want to get caught on the phone with a media outlet without your facts straight. If you lack the confidence in your spiel, the journalist or producer will sense it right away. I suggest writing out key points and facts ahead of time and keeping them by your side. Just beware of sounding like you are reading from a script—keep a natural and conversational tone.
·         Pitch to the right person. You are now relaxed, confident in your pitch—but do you know who you are calling? Make sure you are contacting the right person that would cover your story. If you are publicizing a new digital camera, don’t call food editor. Cover your bases and search for the latest stories the reporter has written. This will at least ensure that your pitch has a chance of scoring some interest.  Additionally, sometimes there are multiple people covering a beat or no one specifically at an outlet.  It’s simple enough to ask – “I’m not one hundred percent that this should be on your desk so I’m hoping you can point me in the right direction.”  Works great – seeking advice makes people feel knowledgeable and most people want to be helpful, acknowledging that you may be wrong makes them realize you’re human, and it’s often more time effective to pick the close person (not banking–>food but at least in the right ballpark) and ask than to spend hours researching only to discover the right person is on maternity leave and the beat is being handled by a general assignment writer for the next few months anyway.
·         Ask permission.  It’s no secret that time is precious commodity in the newsroom. If you get someone on the phone, introduce yourself, and then ask if it’s a good time to talk. This person could be on deadline or in a meeting.
·         Ready, set, pitch. So you have their attention, maybe for a minute. You need to make your case fast. Be succinct, clear, and conversational if time permits. Anticipate questions the press might ask you in advance, and have your answers ready to go. If you get a question that you absolutely do not know, be honest and say that you’ll get back to him/her.
·         Phone pitching is like dating. Sometimes they say yes and want to keep seeing you; other times they don’t want anything you got. Don’t get upset if the journalist is rude or uninterested in your pitch. It happens to the best of us. Brush it off, pick up the phone and keep plugging away. It’s the unfortunate truth that rejection is part of the public relations field, so don’t get discouraged. If you are getting nowhere with your pitch, take a step back, and see if anything needs tweaking.
However if you did score a “date” and the reporter is interested in your pitch, follow up. Don’t wait five days to circle back around with him/her. Get the individual the information, interviews, hi-res images—all the materials requested—in a timely and reliable fashion.
Do you have a question for Dear Flack? If there’s something you’ve always wondered about, or wanted to ask about public relations and social media world, e-mail . We take privacy very seriously and all names, companies and locations will remain confidential.
Dear Flack is written by Marie V-B, a seasoned public relations professional. Advice is based on both personal experience and input from members of PR Breakfast Club and outside expert sources.

[Editor’s Note: Got a PR question you’ve been dying to ask, but don’t have the right person in your rolodex?  Keep reading…]

Dear Flack,

I am just starting out in PR and need a few tips for phone pitching. Can you help out?


Phone Home

Continue reading