When I first told my parents I would be officially leaping from the world of journalism to the world of public relations, their immediate reaction was pride. But then my father asked a question I hadn’t considered:
“How exactly does public relations work?”
Dad’s been a salesman for 35-plus years, working within New York’s Garment District to sell fabric worldwide to his roster of customers. Yet I found my response to the question was near-immediate:
“Well, Dad, think of it this way. You sell fabric to customers throughout the world on a daily basis. I will be “selling” ideas and stories to media outlets throughout the world.”
The analogy worked – Dad got what I was talking about.
In many aspects, PR is all about making the ultimate “sale” to media outlets, be they blog, business journal, newspaper, magazine, or radio/television show. If you’re pitching an expert to a newspaper on behalf of a client, you need to sell that newspaper on what specifically qualifies them to be the primary source for that day’s breaking news story. If you’re drafting a press release about a company receiving an award, stress how important the award is to the community and how previous recipients rank among that community’s most prominent/beloved figures.
In watching my father conduct business with his customers by phone and in person over the years, I find many of his distinguishable sales qualities are transferring over to me – tenacity, enthusiasm and honesty among them. These factors can make all the difference for a client to be able get their message out to the press through their PR spokesperson. For example, if you have a reporter on the line, sum up your case in 10 seconds with an enthusiasm that will make them want to learn more. In PR, the “sale” comes once the reporter utters those fabulous words, “OK, can I interview (Insert Name Here)?”
Recently, my team and I were working with a textile manufacturer in the Carolinas to create a pitch that tied in New Balance’s efforts to correct a loophole in the military-centric Berry Amendment. As I made repeated calls to print outlets in North and South Carolina to discuss this company and its fabric input in New Balance’s military sneakers, my thoughts were constantly on Dad. I was thrilled when he said he understood what my line of work was all about. Now I can honestly say that working in PR has made me that much more knowledgeable and intuitive about what he does on a daily basis at his job.
-Ira Kantor, account executive