Are you seeing all the angles?

Posted: June 6, 2010 in Marketing, PR

(Please note: This post was originally published on 3/31/08 in a PR blog)

“Keep breathing Matt!  That’s it, don’t give up!! There is 1 minute left, keep up the pace!”

I can hear what’s being shouted at me, but its all happening so fast that the words and my actions are just not jiving.  Damn it.  That’s when it happens…I’m caught.

I didn’t see my opponent shifting his position ever so slightly and the monster of man locks my arm and sinks in the arm bar, tight.  That’s all she wrote folks, my choice was tap out and try again or try to be tough and hear some god awful snapping sound.  Tap, tap, tap.

I could hear my instructor as I lay there trying to figure out where I went wrong (and as I desperately tried to regain my breath) “Great job, Matt – now get up, let’s go again. This time when you see his hips shift, be sure to counter him. ”

As I realized it was time to “get back on the horse” I also started to draw comparisons of my jujitsu class to that of the art of pitching.  Both require a certain degree of training, skill and patience.  You’re not going to hit the mats and beat the best person in the room, and you’re certainly not going to hit the phone the first time and start nailing down business briefings.

So how do you get better?

  • Learn from those around you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  On the mat, I’m constantly looking around the room to see what people are doing and just ask, “Hey, how’d he do that?”  It’s no different in PR.  Keep your ears open.  How are your peers speaking on the phone, what techniques and tips can they offer you?
  • Do your homework. How does this person like to work?  Does he tend to lean toward a particular move?  Do some digging so you know what types of stories a reporter likes and those he doesn’t.  Also, be sure you know how they want to be contacted (phone, e-mail, Facebook, etc.)  This step can make all the difference in how a conversation begins.
  • Know the difference between giving up and hitting a wall. You won’t get every briefing you set out on, you just won’t.  It’s a statistical impossibility.  But you should ask yourself:  “Did I try everything I could?  Did I offer every potential angle or did I just hear ‘no’ and walk away?”  As long as you did all you could, there is no shame in your efforts.  There is no shame in having to tap out every now and again.  In pitching, if you don’t “tap” its not a broken bone you have to worry about, but a severed relationship with that reporter.  Ultimately, this is a relationship business.  You need to know for your sake as a PR pro and the reputation of your client when its time to back down.  Some of the strongest relationships I’ve built haven’t been with reporters that I’ve “strong-armed,” but those I’ve been able to speak with and say “hey, I can see this isn’t something you’d be interested in now, but I appreciate you hearing me out.  Hopefully we can work together some time down the road.”
  • Get back on the horse. The only way to get better, is to keep at it.  You may not have received the hit this time, but its coming…

Good luck out there.

**The photo at the top is not me, but a good friend of mine slapping on a very painful submission to an opponent.


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