Persistence and PR

By Peter Nasca

Perhaps the third time’s a charm?

Several years ago, while I was pitching a story to a writer/editor, I was told I was persistent “to the point of not being obnoxious.” I took that as a compliment.

During my career as a public relations practitioner, I’ve probably crossed that imaginary line a few times because of my passion for a client and his or her story.

No doubt you can assign “persistence” to virtually any endeavor. But when it comes to dealing with the media, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell nails it when he says “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence.”

I know some of my fellow PR practitioners have run across clients who think the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC News and other big news organizations are just waiting around for our calls. Spoiler alert: They aren’t. Quite the contrary. Harried journalists usually are weighed down with deadlines that allow little time for chitchat.

This doesn’t mean they aren’t approachable. On rare occasions, you might hit the right button on first try, but don’t be discouraged if your “hot story” doesn’t demand an immediate response. If you really believe in what you’re selling—and pitching a news story is just another method of selling—then keep at it. I believe that if someone doesn’t tell me never to contact them again, or block my email address or Twitter account, then they are fair game.

I also believe that the third time’s a charm. Several years ago, I represented a small manufacturing company based in Tallahassee. It had a DIY product that, at the time, was exclusive to the company. The founder, who hired me, died unexpectedly and his daughter took over. She is a nice person but was ill-equipped to run the company. In stepped a dynamic new president and CEO who happened to be on the company’s board. The company was struggling, barely doing $2.5 million in sales. However, in just a short time, the new CEO turned things around.

I thought this was a perfect story for Inc. magazine. In my email pitch, I used this subject line: “perhaps the third time’s a charm.” It piqued interest. The reporter responded, saying, “You obviously read the magazine and know what it’s about.” (Keep in mind, I shuffled through several writers and editors at the publication before I got that positive response.)

The result was an eight-page story in a national magazine. (Email me at pnasca@persistencepr.com for a link to that story, “Real World Reengineering.”) I represented the company for 14 years before it was sold to a large conglomerate. The best result for me, however, was becoming great friends with the CEO. By the way, it took nine months from that first email to when the final story hit the newsstands. It was, and still is, one of the best examples of persistence I can pass on.

Peter Nasca is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and a past president of its Miami chapter. A former journalist, he has practiced public relations in South Florida for four decades.

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