A Midwesterner’s Guide To Polite Persistence In PR

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By Emily Labes, Associate Publicist

 

I am from Cleveland. Anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes with me knows that. Typical of most Clevelanders, when people ask me where I’m from, I’m most inclined to talk about the erratic weather, the fact that our river has caught on fire multiple times (and how we pronounce “fire,” which is “fie-yur”), and/or Lebron James.

However, I have recently added a new talking point to my roster of Midwestern small-talk topics – the fact that, for the most part, our manners are beyond reproach. I may curse like a sailor when I’m in the company of family and trusted friends; but I always say “please,” and “thank you,” I always chew with my mouth closed and keep one hand in my lap while I’m eating, I never place my elbows on the dinner table, and I always, always look people in the eye when I am speaking to them.

Supposedly these are traits that are inherently present in most Americans who are over the age of five; but Midwesterners approach manners with an Emily Post-like reverence. I don’t know whether it’s more of a ritual or a compulsion, but it is as ingrained in us as our all-American accents.

Although I do not needlessly apologize nearly as much as my mom does, after almost two years at MEDIA CONNECT, I still find myself blurting out “Sorry to bother you, but…” upon entering my coworkers’ offices – even when I am there by appointment. Then I inevitably apologize for apologizing, and the cycle continues.

Aside from my penchant for verbosity, the reason I disclose all of this is so that you can understand my horror when, upon starting here as an intern, I discovered that a huge portion of my day would consist of barging into peoples’ inboxes and voicemails, often as an unwelcome pest. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, but I still don’t think I realized how uncomfortable it would make me, until I was pitching my first Radio Tour. Naturally, I eventually got over that discomfort, but I still find myself airing on the side of caution when doing outreach to the media.

Although my initial fear of imposing made it difficult for me to get acclimated at first, I truly feel that it has made me a better publicist in the long run. In a field where everything is terse and rushed, a little common courtesy can go a long way. In fact, it can often make the difference between a one-time booking and a lasting professional relationship. Though there are certainly times when it is necessary to be a bit more forceful as well. Really, it’s all about finding the balance.

Everyone has his/her own style and technique, but here are a few tips from this cordial Midwesterner:

 

Know Your Audience. The first step to civility with the media begins before you even interact with the media. Whether you are pitching print, online, or broadcast contacts, the most important thing to do is CAREFULLY vet your outreach list. Journalism is a field with a lot of turnover, and it is not uncommon to accidentally pitch a contact who is no longer appropriate, whether because he/she has switched positions within his/her outlet, or whether he/she has moved to a new outlet altogether. It’s a very forgivable mistake.

But when you’re sending a pitch about someone who recently invented a new kind of sock that can never smell bad to a journalist who has only ever written about artisanal cheeses, you’re doing something wrong – even if your sock inventor is the most interesting human who has ever walked the earth and his invention is the key to world peace. It is inconsiderate, and if the journalist happens to remember you, it will not be fondly.

If you’re working off a sizeable outreach list, go through it at least three times before you start sending out pitches. It helps to do ample research on each and every contact on your list as well. Look up his/her past stories, so that you know his/her stance on what you are pitching. I like to reference past articles that a journalist has written in my pitches as well, to add a personal touch. Although nothing ever came of it, I once had a six or seven email exchange with a journalist, just because I mentioned that an article she wrote about the movie, “Working Girl,” really made me want to see it (I still haven’t, but I should. Really, everyone probably should, if this columnist’s article was even halfway accurate).

The bottom line is: make sure the people you are pitching actually cover the topic you are pitching to them.

 

Call Me, Maybe? Most journalists will tell you that they prefer to be contacted via email. Yet there are some contacts – predominantly in radio – who you simply will not be able to reach if you do not call them. If and when it comes to that, there is a right way to phone pitch and a wrong way to phone pitch.

The right way to phone pitch involves doing your best to know a producer’s schedule. If the producer with whom you want to speak handles a morning show that airs from 6:00 – 9:00 am ET, you should not call him/her during that time, unless you want to wind up on the air. That’s fine if you’re a “longtime listener, first-time caller,” but if you’re a publicist trying to pitch a guest opportunity, wait until the producer’s show ends before reaching out.

Even if you are somehow positive that the producer will be free at the time you choose to call, it’s still good form to ask if it’s a good time to discuss a guest opportunity. If you’ve ever received a phone call from a telemarketer during dinner, you innately understand the importance of that one small gesture.

 

When there’s No Follow-Through, Follow Up. This was by far the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in my professional life thus far. On more than one occasion, I have reached out to a journalist, that journalist has expressed interest, and then that journalist has gone silent. In this situation, it is not only appropriate but necessary to follow up.

A quick email or phone call to remind the journalist that you exist might do the trick (I suggest including your original correspondence in the body of the follow-up email, for reference). But more often than not, you will have to reach out multiple times. It isn’t necessarily because the journalist is no longer interested in the topic you’re pitching; it could just be that something else arose. I know reporters who have tens of thousands of unread emails in their inboxes at any given time. It can be easy to get lost in the void.

If you are pitching an event (or a story idea that is in conjunction with a specific date or event), you may find that you have to send several follow-up emails in a short period of time. There’s no two ways around it – this can be profoundly uncomfortable. When I find myself in situations, I like to include some sort of explanation for my persistence, usually to the effect of: “I don’t mean to bombard you with emails, but ___ is coming up, and we’d really like to confirm whether or not you will be (attending/conducting an interview/reviewing/etc.).” I would also recommend that you throw in a refresher on some of the more exciting aspects of your pitch. This will help substitute confidence for what otherwise could appear to be desperation.

 

Afterthoughts. If you successfully hit with a journalist, it is common practice to send a thank you email. If you’re really industrious, you could also send a handwritten note instead. In truth, there is no guarantee that these practices will help you successfully book an interview, review, etc. There is also no guarantee that you won’t get ignored, hung up on, yelled at, or told to shove it somewhere that is not appropriate to mention in a public blog post. However, you have absolutely nothing to lose by practicing cordiality, and everything to gain.

 

Related: What’s On Associate Publicist Emily Labes’s Desk?

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MEDIA CONNECT Deskscape Series: What’s On Senior Partner David Hahn’s Desk?

The following article is a part of our Deskscape Series. Many of us spend up to eight or nine hours at our desks per day, making our “deskscapes” a creative reflection of the book publicity work we do for our clients every day.

Senior Partner David Hahn shares some of his favorite parts of his deskscape:

 

My 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Schomborg, always greeted us with a boisterous “Happy Friday!” each and every Friday of the school year. I never quite understood the energy or broad smile that accompanied that statement at the time. But today – today being a beautiful summer Friday in the Big Apple – I fully appreciate that sentiment, having put in 2,000 or so (who’s counting) working Fridays since that time.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 11.05.51 AMAnd as such there is a carton of munchkins on my desk to be shared with the MEDIA CONNECT staff. Nothing pleases me more at work than a nice simple surprise, especially when it’s food. So assuming that everyone else feels the same way I do (don’t they?), I try to help relieve the weariness sometimes felt at the beginning of a Friday workday with this simple gesture. And isn’t that a very satisfying feeling when you pop one of those munchkins in your mouth, especially a fresh jelly one!

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 11.06.08 AMAlso on my desk is a mug created by the talented Arden potter, Alan Burslem. It serves as a fine pen and pencil holder. But it more importantly serves as a reminder of my roots, coming from this idyllic, unique pastoral small town to be found just north of Wilmington, Delaware.

Like most other boomers I know, I have an extremely fond memory of my childhood, especially in terms of the unfettered freedom we had to simply play. And playing in Sherwood Forest, on the Arden Greens, and riding bikes playing cops and robbers up and down Sherwood Road, Lovers lane and Miller Road will forever define who I am and what I hold dear. The mug reminds me of the importance of finding some sort of artistic grace in all that we do as well as the wonderful energy and creativity that can be found in simple play – as elusive as that may be.

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Business Book Authors: Every Business Event You Need To Know Thru December 2015

The following business events calendar appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

Every business author should be anticipating certain annual events during the year for possible tie in interviews. Bylined articles and op-eds could also be submitted around these events. Examples are Labor Day, the annual Berkshire Hathaway Stockholders Meeting, and the annual issue of Fortune’s Best 100 Places to Work. In addition, you can create your own tie in. While it sounds artificial, the media does respond to specific days and/or months that been given a specific theme. For instance, February is “Time Management Month”. April is “Workplace Conflict Awareness” month and so on. If you create an event with a specific theme and message and promote it properly, you may be surprised at the media attention you are able to garner!

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 11.51.07 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 11.51.21 AM

Related: MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Matt Holt, Publisher at Wiley

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Author Q&A: New York Times Bestselling Author Discusses the Miracle of Freedom

 

Chris Stewart, Co-author of the New York Times bestseller, The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World, has set out to help us understand the history of democracy, and to see that many historical events that led us to the freedom we enjoy today are inextricably linked.

The long march to freedom revolves around pivotal events spanning over thousands of years, which Stewart explores in his book, and discussed with us in the following Q&A:

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 11.00.01 AMMEDIA CONNECT: What is your book about?

Chris Stewart: It’s about the long and incredibly hazardous road that the world had to march in order to get to the day when many of us are able to enjoy the blessing of freedom. It’s about the long string that runs through word history that ties all of these events together, as if there was a sense of purpose to it all. It’s about the amazing conflicts and sacrifices that had to take place in order for freedom to develop and survive. It is an exploration of some of the most important events in world history – epic and world-changing events – which were indispensable stepping-stones toward the expanded freedom and democracy that we have today.

 

MC: Your bestselling book is now being released in paperback. Are you surprised at all of the positive attention your book has thus received?

CS: I don’t know if I’m surprised, but I’m certainly honored. At its core, this book is about freedom. It’s about the incredibly long and dangerous road that the world had to march in order to get to this point where so many people enjoy the miracle of freedom. That’s something that, on a gut level, many people understand and relate to. I think that helps explain why the book has done so well.

 

MC: When you originally published it a few years ago, you were not a member of Congress at the time. What inspired your recent run for office?

CS: People ask me that all the time. I was an air force pilot, successful writer and business owner. I’d never thought about running for office. But I felt like our nation was in trouble and I wanted to get into the fight. Writing this book reminded me of what an incredible blessing freedom is and how fragile that blessing is. That led me to want to get involved in a way that I hadn’t been before. It’s much like what happened to me when I was younger.  As a senior in college, I was on my way to law school when I suddenly decided that I wanted to serve in the military instead. I decided to run for congress for much the same reason. I thought I could help and I wanted to try.

 

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Matt Holt, Publisher at Wiley

HoltQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MEDIA CONNECT: Do you mind being approached by an author directly instead of through an agent?
Matt Holt: 
Direct communication with authors is welcome. Everyone is connected, it’s easy to get to an editor through another author, LinkedIn, or just an internet search.

 

MC: Do you need to see a whole book or do sample chapters work for you?
MH: 
We rarely need to see an entire book, unless it’s designed or visual or packaged in a way that helps us understand the project better.

 

MC: What types of business books do you specialize in?
MH: 
We specialize in mostly in books written by practitioners, books that teach something to someone, solve a problem and deal with a pain point.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Ellen Kadin, Executive Editor at AMACOM

KadinQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MC: Do you mind being approached by an author directly instead of through an agent?
Ellen Kadin: 
Not at all.

 

kadinquoteMC: Do you need to see a whole book or do sample chapters work for you?
EK: 
Sample chapters work well. I usually like to see the introductory chapter and at least one chapter from the meat of the book. In some cases though, it’s actually better for the author to have completed only sample chapters; if, say, we have a different vision for the structure or contents of the author’s book, and the author ends up publishing with us, it’s better for the author not to have invested all the time and effort it would have taken to complete the manuscript.

 

MC: What types of business books do you specialize in?
EK: 
In addition to publishing books on General Business and Entrepreneurship topics, I specialize in Business Self-help; Career; and Marketing.

 

MC: What are some of your recent successes?
EK: 
We just came out with the paperback edition of one of my all-time favorite books, Mark Goulston’s JUST LISTEN: Discover the Secret to Getting through to Absolutely Anyone, whose hardcover edition has been one of our best sellers for years. The book recently passed the 100,000-copies-sold mark.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Tom Miller, Literary Agent with Sanford J. Greenburger Associates

millerQ&A

 The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

MEDIA CONNECT: What information do you need from an author on their initial contact with you?
Tom Miller: 
I prefer to get queries by email first. In that query, the author should briefly include the proposed title of the proposal, the subject of the book, the main audience/s for the book, the author’s credentials, and the author’s marketing/publicity platform. The author should also say whether or not he or she has a full proposal and/or a partial or full manuscript. By the way, for an agent, having a proposal and one or two sample chapters is preferable to getting a full manuscript.

 

millerquoteMC: Do you consider content or platform first?
TM: Business books are business propositions. Content is crucial, and it’s very important that the author’s proposed book has a clear subject, a sharp focus, a defined market and audience, and, ideally, a strongly articulated promise and benefit for the intended audience. The book should have a fresh new hook — something that seems new and different from what’s already on the shelf.

Regarding platform, the most successful business authors are regarded as thought leaders in their fields. Thought leaders almost always have big platforms. With all commercial nonfiction, which business books almost always are, an author’s platform is just as important as the content. When a project’s author doesn’t have a good platform, a publisher will often turn down the project even if the content is excellent.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Donya Dickerson, Executive Editor At McGraw-Hill

donyaQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

MEDIA CONNECT: Do you mind being approached by an author directly instead of through an agent?
Donya Dickerson:
 I do take unsolicited manuscripts as long as they are in the business category.

 

donyaQuoteMC: Do you need to see a whole book or do sample chapters work for you?
DD: 
Definitely sample chapters but the most important piece is the proposal. People will sometimes send a whole book without an actual proposal. I’m not going to look at any sample materials before reading the proposal first.

 

MC: What types of business books do you specialize in?
DD: 
High-level business books that cover topics such as management, leadership, strategy, and culture. They need to be books that help people be more successful. I’ve worked on several books about leading global companies, like Starbucks, Caterpillar, The Ritz-Carlton, and more. I also acquire books on sales and marketing as well as critical business skills.

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MEDIA CONNECT Deskscape Series: What’s On Digital Publicist And Social Media Strategist Anna Patrick’s Desk?

The following article is a part of our Deskscape Series. Many of us spend up to eight or nine hours at our desks per day, making our “deskscapes” a creative reflection of the book publicity work we do for our clients every day.

Digital Publicist and Social Media Strategist Anna Patrick shares some of her favorite parts of her deskscape:

ME1

I like to think of my office space as a creative and productivity haven – somewhere I can feel at home in and draw inspiration from, somewhere that’s fun to arrive at every morning. For that reason the vibe is consistent, in many ways, to my home environment – black and white, cozy but with a creative element, candles, flowers, photos of family and friends, and – of course – overflowing with books.

ME2

I love to add a little light to my spaces, and I’m a firm believer that Christmas twinkly lights are appropriate indoors at any time time of year! I always keep a candle lit in that corner as well. Both highlight the beautiful painting that Mr. Finn made, which has a calming deep blue that sets the tone for the rest of the office.

The quotes above my computer say: “Life is better with a book,” “Good vibes only,” and a Gandhi quote that says, “Be truthful, gentle and fearless.” The latter is a card my mom sent me back in college, I’ve hung onto it ever since. It’s my digital PR strategy mantra of sorts.

ME3

One of my favorite parts of my office is, of course, my bookcase. I love looking over and seeing all of the books of the authors I’m working with, and ones from past publicity campaigns as well.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Jenna Goudreau of Business Insider

GoudreauQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MC: How do you prefer to be contacted? Phone, fax, email? Are there specific days or time of days that you prefer to be contacted? (i.e. What are your cut-off times before and after the show?)
Jenna Goudreau:
 E-mail is best. Mondays are rough with e-mail, but any other time is fine.

 

MC: What do you want to see and when? Catalogs? Galleys? Finished books? Do you want to see all books or only select titles? Please be as specific as possible.
JG: 
Galleys and finished books are great. I like to be able to flip through them and identify main ideas, themes, and interesting lists. I want to see books associated with my sections: Strategy, Careers, and Your Money. That means I’m interested in career and leadership books; business strategy and advice; memoirs of high-profile entrepreneurs, CEOs, celebrities and politicians; and personal finance.

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