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.
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.