The most essential trait for PR superstars

Writing is important, of course, and people skills can’t be underestimated, but for this author, one attribute stands head and shoulders above the rest.

That story you agonized over? You know the one: the one you rehashed, reworked, started over twice. How did it go?

Did it grow legs and run riot across the nation’s news desks? Or did it stagnate, unloved and unwanted, at the bottom of someone’s deleted folder?

It doesn’t matter how long you spend, how much elbow grease you put in or how many second opinions you seek. The real test comes only when you start sharing your story with the people you want to cover it.

For a recent product launch I massaged and massaged this one press release—gently at first, to ease out the newsworthy angles, and then more vigorously, like an overenthusiastic masseuse, to really get it singing. It was big, bold, beautiful and oh, so newsworthy—or so I thought.

I picked up the phone and dialed the editor of a national newspaper. I’ve got a great story for you, I said, before launching into my carefully honed elevator pitch.

Bravado drained from my voice in direct correlation to the disinterested typing at the other end. I tried another newspaper, then another, and then—well, you get the picture.

In an era when content is king and sparkling storytelling is in hot demand, it’s easy to get bogged down with information overload.

I took myself outside to calm down and visualize the story from another angle. After a while, something new popped to mind. I put on my thick-skin suit and called another editor. Same story, but with a different headline.

Tell me more, came the reply. Emboldened, I continued.

Distracted typing stopped; interest piqued. We had a conversation, and then it happened. There came the hallowed sound of high-res images being requested. The next day, my client enjoyed satisfying coverage across a broad selection of high-authority websites.

The moral of the story? When it comes to media relations, don’t give up at the first hurdle.

Your story might be perfectly on point. Maybe, though, you spent so much time engineering it that you missed the mark, or maybe you’d been speaking to the wrong editor, or maybe you’d been speaking to the right editor, but he or she got out of bed the wrong side or had covered that exact same topic last week. Maybe more exciting news was breaking, or another piece of news had a prettier picture than yours, or a million other intangible factors.

Resourcefulness and persistence are valuable—if not essential—skills to have in this game.

You could be the world’s most engaging writer or have an astonishingly prolific creative mind, but nobody gets it right all the time, not even the world’s most experienced PR professionals. There are unknown quantities of unknown quantities—which we’re up against daily.

What matters is refusing to give up right off the bat and being willing to think your way out of the box. With each campaign you’ll grow ever more resourceful, cultivate your problem-solving skills and improve your understanding of your target media.

Your creative writing muscles will enjoy a fantastic workout, because something as simple as rehashing your headline can make all the difference.

The one killer skill that will make you a better PR pro? Be tenacious-always.

Tam Henderson is founder of Gather Creative, an integrated communications agency in Cambridge, England. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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Topics: PR

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