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Dating Advice for PR Pros

I was joking with some friends recently that media relations is a lot like dating. Like most things in life, there is a right and a wrong way to do everything.

While the conversation was good for a few laughs, there is an element of truth to the comparison. With that, here is my first installment of dating advice for media relations professionals.

The Best Pickup Line is a Basic Introduction

Are your legs tired? You know, because you’ve been running through my mind since you walked into this place. That’s an example of a bad pickup line in dating circles. You know what the most effective pickup line is? Hello, my name is [insert your name].

The same goes for media relations. A fancy opening line, no matter how clever you think it is, will only result in a reporter rolling their eyes at you. Introduce yourself professionally, let them know who you are and why you’re calling and you’ll get things off on the right foot. Don’t use a cheesy pickup line when introducing yourself to a journalist.

Don’t Seem Too Desperate

I’ve witnessed public relations professionals begging journalists to write about a story. People lose interest when you’re desperate. Just like dating, you need to create genuine interest in the exchange. The other person should want to continue the relationship as much as you – this means you have to bring something to the relationship too. What do you have that the journalist wants? Avoid being too needy, it doesn’t work in either scenario.

Don’t Be a Player

Dates and journalists like exclusivity. If you’re playing the field, the other party will lose interest. You might think you’re hedging your bets by pursuing more than one relationship at a time, but you’re not going to build anything meaningful or sustainable that way. Pick one person at a time to develop a meaningful relationship with. Focus on quality over quantity and that’s what you’ll get.

Stop Trying to Hook Up

Don’t expect to get everything you want on the first date. If it’s the first time you’re talking to a journalist, don’t expect them to write about the story the first time. The first time you interact should lay the groundwork for a longer-term relationship. Just like dating, the good stuff takes time. Invest the time and energy in building your relationship and you’ll get more out of it.

Don’t Underestimate Confidence and Humor

Two of the most attractive qualities in a potential partner are confidence (not overconfidence) and humor. If you can communicate with confidence, and make the other person laugh a bit, you’ll establish a much stronger connection.

This will serve as the groundwork for a more meaningful relationship, because you’ll be seen as the type of person somebody wants to be around more.

If you doubt yourself, come across as boring, or otherwise offend the other person, you’re not going to get a second date. Be real, be funny and be the type of person people want to interact with.

Have a Game Plan

Don’t ask for a date and then have no game plan. People like it when you take the initiative. In dating, you should have a plan for your first date. Pick the spot, set the time and make it convenient for the other person to meet you. The same holds true for PR – have a plan. If a journalist agrees to talk to you, make the best use of their time. Have a plan and don’t waste their time.

Dress to Impress

Appearance is everything in dating and PR. If you’re meeting in person, don’t dress like a slob.

The same goes for the written or visual materials you provide to a journalist – they should be impressive. You want to make a good first impression and invite further interaction. If your appearance or materials are sloppy, you’ll send the wrong message and jeopardize your chances of making a meaningful connection.

Have a Friend Set You Up

Blind dates can work in PR. If you’re having a hard time connecting with a journalist you really want to meet, maybe a mutual friend can ‘set you up’.

Social media is the dating service for the digital age – particularly for PR. Have a mutual friend introduce you through LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. This will lay the groundwork for trust, since you’re mutually connected. Just don’t blow the ‘first date’, since your friend stuck their neck out for you.

Follow Up is Key to the Second Date

If you want to build the relationship, you need to follow up after the first date. Talking about PR, if you meet a journalist for the first time, follow up to close the loop on your connection. Provide any additional information you talked about, or at least make sure the other person has your contact information if they want to connect. And no, you don’t have to practice the three-day rule with this one.

Offer to Pay, But Be Open to Going Dutch

It’s always acceptable to offer to pick up the tab when you meet with a journalist, but keep in mind that many can’t accept meals, drinks or gifts from PR people. If they want to pay their own way, respect their position. This goes for dating as well, but you knew that already.

Don’t Be a Stalker

It’s nice to let a journalist know you’ve read the recent articles they’ve written. They might not want to know that you looked at all the pictures from their kids’ birthday party, or that you live across the street from them – at least not until it comes up in conversation.

We have unprecedented access to information about each other these days, but use that information with a decent level of sensitivity. Respect the privacy of new connections, even if you do know where they ate lunch yesterday.

Save Something for Later

Don’t pour everything into your first encounter. It’s easy to be too anxious and want to make the best possible first impression with somebody and want to tell them everything on your mind.

Try to save something for future encounters. Even if you know there’s a big announcement coming up next month, save it for follow up in a couple of weeks. Don’t try to do everything in the first exchange.

Don’t Get a Bad Rep

If you do something weird, act unprofessionally, or violate trust, it’s going to come back to bite you. People talk and word will get around. In dating, this can affect your chances of going out with other people.

In PR, you don’t want to be the one that spams reporters or breaks embargoes. We’ve all seen examples of how that can harm your reputation. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to read about yourself in a blog post.

Manners Matter

Say please and thank you, be polite, and if you’re meeting in person, don’t be afraid to hold the door or take their coat. Manners matter in this day and age, and people notice whether or not you have them.

To this point, don’t gorge on food, talk with your mouth open or wipe your hands on your shirt. You might want to avoid talking like a sailor too – no offense to the sailors out there.

Put Yourself Out There

Obviously a lot of this advice is tongue and cheek, but there’s an element of truth to it all. I’ve seen plenty of desperate PR people try too hard to win the love and affection of a popular journalist, only to be left sitting alone on a Saturday night with no press mentions to speak of. People are people, whether you’re trying to date them or get them interested in a story you’re pitching.

Maybe you can be the most eligible bachelor or bachelorette on your PR team? The one every journalist wants to spend time with. Then again, maybe this whole comparison is completely crazy. You be the judge of that.

What do you think? Are there other similarities between dating and PR that I overlooked? Do you think there are lessons that can be learned here? Let me know.

About Jeremy Porter

Jeremy Porter is co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a lively blog about public relations and journalism topics.

  • http://www.aribadler.wordpress.com Ari B. Adler

    Great post Jeremy. I’ve often had to teach people that media relations, public relations, government relations — they are all about relationships. Having a solid relationship with someone is invaluable. If you know they’ll read the email you’ve sent them or answer the phone when they see your number on Caller ID, that is going to help you, your employer or your client tremendously.

    If there’s one thing I’d add to your list it’s, “Relationships are a two-way street.” After you’ve started “dating,” keep in mind that it can’t always be about you and your needs. For example, you need reporters to cover your news, but sometimes reporters need a little help discovering the news or finding a resource. It might even mean talking to them on background to help them understand an issue better. And you shouldn’t do it because you are expecting to get a quote or a mention for a client. You should help them because at some point they will help you. Who wants to stay in a relationship where your partner is always wanting you to give but is never willing to give back?

    ~ Ari
    @aribadler

    • Jeremy Porter

      You make a great point about the two-way street Ari. While it’s advice directed at PR people, many journalists need to realize this too. If your a journalist, and you think all PR people are the same, you might miss out on your soul mate by ignoring their calls.

  • http://www.twitter.com/tressalynne Tressa Robbins

    An excellent post, Jeremy! The importance of the “relations” part of media relations cannot be stressed enough. And, Ari’s comment “Who wants to stay in a relationship where your partner is always wanting you to give but is never willing to give back?” sums it all up.

    Thoroughly enjoyed this post! :-)

    • Jeremy Porter

      Thanks Tressa. I’m glad you’re still reading the blog a year later. I think PR would have less of a ‘bad rep’ if more media relations professionals looked at media relationships like their other relationships.

  • http://www.crawfordpr.com Jim Crawford

    Good points, but let me suggest another that’s best in both realms: Be yourself.

    • Jeremy Porter

      That’s a simple and powerful one. Thanks Jim.

  • http://nikkistephan.com Nikki Stephan

    Very creative post!

    I’d also add that just like it’s totally inappropriate to spew about your ex during a date (good or bad commentary), a journalist doesn’t want to hear about all the great placements you got for a client in another outlet, or all the relationships you have with other journalists. Sometimes PR people think it’s helpful to say “X reporter and outlet covered this story, so you should, too”. Yeah, not the best idea. Touting past experiences and relationships won’t gain much traction if you’re trying to build a new relationship.

  • http://@awehrmann Andrea

    Brilliant post! One every PR or media relations professional should read and ABIDE by…what a clever and true comparison.

  • David T. Staddon

    This is great information, even for those with a lot of experience — being reminded of the common-sense approach to media relations is important. But as my father used to say, “Common sense is a rare gift.”
    Public relations, just like many other business or interpersonal functions, revolves about establishing relationships. Good relationships — where each party has a level of trust and some mutual social obligations. So this information is valuable to many other areas of life and business. Thanks for this excellent post!

  • http://www.saferdates.com/ Safer Dates

    I love this comparison! Relationships are all about being REAL and enjoying the dating process not just being in it for the end result. Glad to see you added the Don’t be a Stalker point too – Safety First!

  • Dennis L. Wilcox

    Jeremy —– Excellent post. I would like to extensively quote from it in the forthcoming 10th edition of my book, Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, which is used in about 350 colleges and universities. I think the students would really enjoy these tips on media relations offered as “dating advice.” If you could give me permission to use your piece in the book, that would be great!!! Let me know if there is a specific credit line that I should use. For example: Jeremy Porter, Journalistics blog, http://blog.journalistics.com

    • Jeremy Porter

      Of course! You can quote anything you want on this blog in your next book (you know, since I owe a good part of my education to a [much] earlier version of your text).

  • http://www.keeplearning.uw.edu Alison Koop

    Another truth in dating and PR: If you try to make yourself (or your story) out to be more than it is, people will soon catch on.

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  • http://www.thedigitalists.com Greg H

    Good advice. Reminds me of the old “definition of marketing” joke: http://www.directcreative.com/blog/marketing-definitions

    Coincidentally, I got laughs in a meeting the other day when I compared my company’s job board to a dating site, but the more I think about it, the common thread is making connections. Everyone wants to make connections, from the lonely heart at the bar to the reporter looking for a source to the employer looking to make a hire, but they are also wary of wasting their time with bad connections. So to the extent that you can be (or at least facilitate) a good connection, you’ll make yourself very valuable. Everything else flows from that.

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  • http://www.ygolana.com Peter

    Great analogy! I really like it!
    Recently I started posting interestnig analogies I found on the web on blog.ygolana.com. I thought it could be a good idea to create a place where people can share useful analogies.

  • http://www.mainstreetmediasavvy.com Nancy Juetten

    Loved every word. And there is another side to this equation that is equally worthy of note. Clients seeking to engage the perfect PR firm need to put their best efforts forward, too. Sometimes, prospects say the most amazing things that actually have agencies running fast in the opposite direction.

    Here is a link to a column I wrote in December of 2008 for the Puget Sound Business Journal about what NOT to say when hiring a public relations firm that still resonates today. I hope you find it as amusing to read as I found it to write!

    ** http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2008/12/08/smallb4.html **

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  • http://pluggedingal.blogspot.ca/ Sophia S.

    What an interesting way of describing media relations to a public relations practitionner. Thanks Jeremy!

    As a PR newbie, I thought your examples were relevant and I definetly agree that confidence and humour are just as important on a first date as they are during your first interaction with a journalist. Creating a lasting first impression is key to build a long-term relationship and it’s important that it be a positive impression.

    I was also intrigued by your suggestion to have a friend set you up with a journalist. It seems simple but it could be quite effective, especially for those who have zero relationships with the media

    I never thought dating and media relations could be so similar. I am now convinced that I can use my dating expertise when I start building relationships with my local reporters.

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