The Distance Between “No” and “Yes” in PR

PR and Communications are not for the faint of heart, nor those lacking in patience. As a professional communicator, your life revolves around promoting the good work of others. You spend hours crafting the perfect story concept to pitch a client, researching the reporter or producer most likely to be receptive to your client’s work, then more time still waiting on a response from the media.

Even when you get the “yes” you want, it doesn’t mean your story will be published or aired immediately, or that there aren’t additional hurdles to climb. It simply means you are much closer than when you started. So what is the distance between a “no” and a “yes” in PR?

I recently listened to Drew McLellan’s “Build a Better Agency” podcast interview with Andrea Waltz on the importance of embracing the word “no.” Andrea and her husband, Richard Fenton, are the authors of “Go for No: Yes Is the Destination, No Is How You Get There.”

Waltz encourages small-business owners to be enthusiastic about hearing “no,” because each no placed them closer to hearing “yes.” I began reflecting on the practicality of going for "no" in a career field such as public relations.

Let me first acknowledge that I am the queen of relentlessness in media pitching; I can usually muster the courage to go back to reporters for different story ideas, even if they’ve turned me down for other pitches. In fact, I devote a whole chapter in my book, “Extraordinary PR: Ordinary Budget,” on the importance of persevering when it comes to media pitching.

But even I admit that sometimes the space between a “yes” and “no” is so lengthy that it can breed discouragement. I got to thinking about Waltz’s advice and realized that her encouragement is not only admirable, but an imperative for people in my line of work. If we do not reframe how we think about the word “no,” we will have trouble getting in the ring, relentlessly pitching our clients for media interviews, stories and features.

Since a “yes” is sometimes hard to come by, I increasingly advise clients to invest for the long haul. Success does not always happen overnight, and prior success is not an indicator of future victory. Just because you have had a string of good luck with a particular reporter, media outlet or TV show, doesn’t mean that the reporter or outlet will be receptive to covering your issue in the future.

I also urge prospective and current clients to look for what makes them unique. Each of us has a gift to offer in the world and people who focus on identifying and honing their gift, or outside-the-box thinking have an advantage when it comes to breaking through in the media.

Similarly, sensing the time investment in representing clients well, PR professionals have two options: They can elect to take on fewer clients or only work with clients with whom there is a mission match. This may result in fewer clients initially, but those clients will be satisfied clients, and satisfied clients generate strong referrals.

“No” is par for the course when it comes to generating favorable media coverage, but by using the strategies above, you can close the distance between a "no" and a "yes."

Jennifer R. Farmer, aka The PR Whisperer, is an author, lecturer and strategic communicator for organizations, leaders and celebrities committed to social and racial justice. Follow her on IG/Twitter