One of my favourite Michael McIntyre jokes is the one about the bullsh*t production of drinking wine at a restaurant, where we pretend to be experts. The waiter offers the wine list, which may as well be a book of gibberish. We ignore all wording, and focus on the prices. You pick the wine, the waiter says it is a fine choice, but probably knows as much as you do. The part of the production then comes where you stare at the bottle. The only part of the meal where they show you the source; they don't show you a photo of the cow before they serve you a steak. They then open the wine, asking who wants to try the wine...who will be brave enough to take the lead role? You taste it, and confirm that it is indeed wine!
All this reminds me of the process we go through when selling in a press release to journalists. It's the dance we must all go through, the PR leading, the journalist in toe, each has a role to play. It starts with the email pitch, sending the pitch to as many people as possible, casting a wide net, as to hopefully get a few catches. Then following up with calls, which is where the performance takes it's expected turn. Asking the journalist if they've seen the release you've just sent. Their reply "No I don't think I got that, do you mind sending it through again?" When you both know full well they received the email but chose to ignore it, and now it's buried under a thousand more. So you send it again, still no reply, follow up with another call, and what's the verdict? "Sorry not interested".
It's the performance that every young PR professional entering the industry must learn. But if you stick with it, it can often lead to outcomes you could never have expected.
If you ask any PR practitioner what their least favourite part of the job is, I can guarantee a large majority – especially junior practitioners – will answer, selling in. The tactic that forces publicists to call a long list of journalists to tell them about a story or product launch on behalf of their clients. A lot of the time it’s cold-calling, and done by way of follow-up call from a press release. It is a long-winded, sometimes soul-destroying and laborious process that often yields minimal or no tangible results. So why is it still such an integral part of the coverage process?