Robin Olsen from Honey Communications and Guadalupe "Lu" Gonzalez from Inc. Magazine have been working together since 2017. For many PR pros, it's a dream to pitch a journalist and get them to immediately want to write about their client or brand. The reality is most relationships take time to build and nurture - like any other type of relationship. This one is no different.
How did your relationship start?
Robin: In the summer of 2017, I pitched Lu to attend an event the company I was working for was hosting in New York that was being led by Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. Not only did she RSVP, she showed up! We were thrilled. It really all started from there. We have been in touch - and I have been pitching, connecting, following, reading her work and sharing information - ever since.
Lu: Robin actually sent me an email to introduce herself on behalf of the company she was working on in 2017. A week or two later she invited me to an event with Chelsea Clinton in New York, which I attended.
How long did it take you to write your first story together?
Robin: Honestly, I think we are still working on it. I see this as a relationship, versus input in, input out or merely transactional. I am not seeking a singular story, rather a long-term, two-way interaction that provides value to both people. I make sure to keep an eye on the stories she is writing or looking for sources for and pitch stories I think will be of value to HER and her beat. In my opinion, media relations is building relationships versus scoring a story for one client.
Lu: Well, we haven’t yet, so going on nearly two years? But I’ve kept in touch with Robin as she moves from one place to another, and we connect about once every two months about opportunities to work together. She’s very direct and responsive, which I appreciate. I like PR folks who understand that journalism is always in service of the reader, not a company.
Why did you pursue Lu vs another writer?
Robin: Lu is curious, responsive, kind and professional. She is a rare breed that will get back to you - even with a polite, “No thanks, but keep sending me good stuff.” She is a terrific writer and is passionate about journalism and storytelling. She makes my job fun again!
Why do you think Lu wrote about your client?
Robin: We are still working on our first real story together, but she is one of the first journalists I think of when I have a great story idea. I think: “Would Lu think this is interesting … and does it fit what she is focused on?” I also know I can bounce story ideas or trends off of her and she will take the time to be thoughtful, honest and responsive. So rare these days!
How did you know Lu was a good fit for your client?
Robin: Lu is a good fit for a variety of my clients because her interests and curiosity run deep. I have also pitched her companies that were not MY clients, rather a good fit for inquiries she shared online. It is a reciprocal relationship - or should be!
It is all about providing great journalists value - even when it is not about YOU and YOUR clients. (And remember, it is really never about you …) We are all storytellers and we must work together to share information, be transparent, honest, work with integrity and bring these stories to life.
What advice/recommendations do you have for other publicists?
Robin: Do your homework. Do your homework. Really, just do the homework. Please only pitch journalists that cover the beat, industry or trend you are pitching. Don’t clutter up their inbox with irrelevant pitches and then wonder why they don’t respond to you. It takes 10 seconds to go on Twitter or check a thier online bio to see what really matters to them.
Also, learn how to take “No” as a perfectly acceptable answer. It is not personal, it is business. Take the no and move on. Sometimes the best answer a publicist can get is no … so we can move on. In my experience, if the story is of value, you can find a home for it … but it has to be the right home.
What was so interesting about Robin and her client?
Lu: Robin takes the time to craft a pitch tailored to you, your beats and the publication. She actually listens to your feedback if she pitched something before that wasn’t a fit, which is great. A lot of times I tell publicists exactly why I’m declining their story idea and they’ll just pitch me more of the same at a later date, which is annoying. It’s disappointing the timing hasn’t been right for us to work together, but I’m sure we’ll get there. Also, I’ll tell you this, I get a lot of emails, and my inbox these days is pretty wild these days. It takes me longer to get back to people, and the subject lines tend to blur all together. But when I see her name show up on my inbox, that’s a message I’ll read and reply to.
What was one thing Robin did well to pitch you?
Lu: She actually took the time to write her emails, rather than copy-pasting the same blurb that still has someone else’s name on it. She’s thoughtful. She connects with you on a human level. She doesn’t try to shove a story down your throat that is clearly not a fit for you or the publication, as some other pitches do. Also, she’s good at making herself known and getting journalists to remember her. If she read one of my stories, she’ll tweet me her thoughts or share an anecdote of her own.
What are some common mistakes most publicists make pitching you?
Lu: I complain about this all the time on my twitter. Please do your research. I get pitches about celebrities starting a new tv show or starring in some indie film. We’re a business publication focused on entrepreneurs and small businesses. The only way I’m going to follow up on those pitches is if it relates to entrepreneurs and small businesses, which is rarely the case (I did interview Eva Longoria once). Don’t pitch the same story to more than one reporter in one publication, or at least tell them you did. Don’t claim something is an exclusive when you’re shopping the story around to multiple outlets at once. Please, please, for the love of God, please keep it short and to point. I don’t have time to read your 800-word pitch. My name is Lu or Guadalupe, not “name” or “pitch.”
Any advice advice/recommendations for other publicists?
Lu: These are my super condensed bullet points:
- Keep it short (less than 2 paragraphs)
- Lose the jargon and superlatives (show me how your business is amazing, don't tell me it is)
- Highlight real metrics (sales, revenue, no. of customers—and no, market size doesn't count).
We’re a business publication so financial info is pretty important, though many companies are very reluctant to share it. I’ll add a fourth: Don’t take rejection personally, because it’s not. I gave a workshop about this last year. Here are the cliff notes.
Many of us are familiar with relationship building and connecting in a relevant and mutually beneficial way. Robin and Lu are human, just like you and I, and their insights above shed light on what it's like to work within the media relations space. If you enjoyed this series, drop us a line or feel free to share by clicking the social icons on the left side of the page. Until next time, #StartGreatStories and #EndBadPitches!
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