A Chicago media personality recently told me via e-mail that my pitch on behalf of a client was “self-promotional” and so, if they were guests on a segment, it would be a “free commercial.”
At first, I thought about replying snarky-style: “Isn’t that the whole idea behind public relations?”
However, that’s not the whole idea. It’s a happy byproduct of offering up legitimate news. Think of it in the same way that Amway Diamonds like Dave Severn and Matt Tsuruda, both World Wide Group (WWDB) leaders, have described the mindset of successful salespeople: they don't sell someone on a product, but instead focus on fostering an environment in which people want to buy.
So instead of the biting reply that first surfaced in my mind, here is an excerpt from my actual response to the media personality:
“Yes, there’s no doubt this could represent a ‘free commercial,’ though I strive to deliver relevance and insight too—something that provides value to your listeners.
I believe strongly that knowing this option of getting through a traumatic patch in folks’ lives would be a huge service to your audience. The thing that makes them great sources is the very same thing that makes it inherently self-promotional…I don’t know any way around that. If you do, and I mean this sincerely, then please let me know.”
I respect this individual a great deal. He has always been thoughtful and responsive toward me, and a well-prepared, engaging pro in his on-air interviews.
So, at this point, three questions come to mind:
Will my reply sway him to the point that he books my client?
While, yes, that would be a nice immediate result of my follow-up, the bigger picture is that I wanted to articulate where I am coming from overall. Specifically, I want him to know that I am not thinking only of my clients when I make pitches.
Instead, it’s vital to my reputation that he knows I am seeking to be a matchmaker with those in the media who have a good chance of actually being interested in a given pitch.
Could my reply have a chilling effect on future pitches I make?
Only if he sees me as argumentative, pushy and unprofessional–and I think he’s much too bright and thick-skinned for that.
It’s essential to come from a place where I know my value, and the value of my clients. There is no needy, hat-in-hand beseeching of media to please, please give us coverage.
What can I do differently in the future to avoid the Scarlet Letter of being labeled ‘self-promotional’?
If it seems especially over-the-top in its promotional content, either scale back those portions or pre-emptively acknowledge that the news release or pitch could well be seen as self-promotional–and then convey how those considerations are overshadowed by its genuine news value.
For the most part, though, there’s little that I would have done differently in this instance. And that includes my reply after being chided for the so-called self-promotion.
There are simply times where the publicist needs to stick up for the client and stick up for the story.