Lessons from Bridgerton on Sharpening a Pitch

Scene with colin and penelope from Bridgerton season 3 on Netflix

This week marked the highly anticipated release of the second half of the third season of Netflix’s hit show "Bridgerton;" a sumptuous, romantic tale of relationships, society and a writer who chronicles it all.

The show, adapted from a provocative book series by Julia Quinn, is set in Regency Era London and revolves around the high society lives of the titular Bridgerton family, their friends and foes. A secretive author narrates the series, publishing, essentially, a gossip column under the nom de plume, "Lady Whistledown." A few lines of Whistledown's text can make or break a person’s future.

So, could public relations professionals sharpen their game by taking a few tips from this Bridgerton show?

Yes. Yes they can.

Similarities Between the PR and Bridgerton Worlds

After observing the social damage Whistledown’s writing can create, this author got to thinking about PR professionals' relationships with the media.

We build intentional, yet thoughtful, connections with clients—yet it's ironic in the way that the industry treats reporters in the opposite. Communicators get busy, so it’s not surprising how easy it is to send a brusque, perfunctory message to a reporter. Sometimes there is not ample time to make it nice, especially during crisis PR deadlines. But whenever possible, it is good to remember that media relations is a mutually beneficial relationship for clients and reporters so they should be treated equally.

In Bridgerton’s high society a simple misunderstanding with Lady Whistledown is all it takes to turn someone into a social pariah, relegated to hovering alone by the soiree’s punch bowl. It’s not that different for present day comms folks. Slight a reporter and one runs the risk of getting blocked, sent directly to spam mail, or worse—having your pitch tweeted as a cautionary note.

So, how can we prevent such a terrible fate? Well, gentle reader, here are three media relations tips with which we are all familiar, but might need a reminder.

Charm and consideration go a long way.

Sincere flattery—when truthful and warranted—is worth including. Most people appreciate getting recognized for their hard work. Much like the ladies on the show who brighten up with a charming bouquet from an earnest suitor, compliments help sweeten that pitch.

Reporters are overworked and inundated with pitches. So, if time allows, pausing to draft a thoughtful note rather than a blanket email will make a significant difference in how it is received.

And what if you’re late to the party? A Bloomberg editor once stated, “If the story broke in the morning, and you’re pitching at noon, that’s too late.” That might be true, but communicators can consider the newsroom's immediate needs. A PR pro can certainly attempt to brainstorm a useful angle where the pitch is not an announcement, but rather an email providing additional information to build on an existing story.

Get to the point.

The marriage mart of 19th-century English nobility consisted of a short courting period followed by a quick trip to the altar. Getting straight to the point is the name of the game for communications as well, especially with breaking news.

Understandably, there are die-hard enthusiasts for a formal press release, but reporters are slammed with work, and realistically do not have time for a lengthy tome. Providing a quick list of bulleted points, formatted quotes to drop into a story, or creating a subject line that can double as a title is easy and advisable. It’s always important to quickly share your valuable news.

Share relevant information.

For Bridgerton characters it’s gossip about a scandalous love triangle. For some of us in the real world, it’s a trial lawyer’s take on a breaking case. Communications professionals are highly skilled at disseminating information, and reporters need that information. However, some PR folks occasionally believe they are bothering reporters, so they ask them to cover clients as a favor.

Truly efficient communicators can actually help reporters by sharing critical data to help them convey stories to the public most thoroughly and efficiently. Journalists do not have time to delve deeply into niche areas for an assignment due in a few hours. Connecting them with a client’s expertise or offering updates on existing trends makes their lives easier and can occasionally get your client coverage.

Nurturing Relationships

Let’s not forget to maintain these relationships. Promenading and attending festive balls are the top social activities for our Bridgerton friends. Ultimately, if you look past the show’s façade—including those silly jeweled feather headdresses—you’ll find they are simply methods of connecting with one another. For public relations professionals that’s taking a reporter for coffee or checking in with them periodically.

However, Hank Grezlak, former ALM Editor-in-Chief now Communications Director at Kline & Specter once said, “If you schedule a coffee or conversation with us, bring something to the table” in the form of information or expertise.

Today’s communicators are savvy, adept at juggling multiple projects and swiftly extinguishing client fires. All that work sets a frenetic pace that is often hard to slow down (and sometimes you cannot). But Bridgerton is a great reminder that it’s helpful to be intentional and stay gracious when pitching people who can wield great power over your client’s news presence or lack thereof.

Juliet Di Frenza is a media relations consultant for Haj Media.