By Jenn Eastman
When I first graduated college, I was dead set against going into any kind of sales position. For some reason, I had preconceived notions that I wasn’t cut out for the sales world—despite lacking any kind of experience. The obvious (ahem, or not so obvious) second choice was of course PR.
Six years later and I’m starting to realize just how wrong I really was. The key to sales is usually less about selling and more about relationship building. Turns out, PR is pretty similar. There is of course the obvious—our job is to sell our clients to editors across all different kinds of publications. It requires creative angles, research and a lot of time on the phone. To a certain extent, you do have to be good at finding unique trends and story ideas—but you could also craft the most novel pitch idea in the world and still not get a reply.
One of the most crucial parts of “selling” any pitch idea or getting good coverage is based on the relationships you build. I’d heard this many times over but wasn’t really convinced until I saw it starting to come to fruition. A little over a year ago, I was pitching an editor at Real Simple—she was interested in a few clients but they weren’t a fit for anything immediate that she was working on. Instead of trying to cram the information about my clients down her throat every other week, I asked her to grab coffee—I wanted to hear about what things she was working on, how she likes to best receive information and how we, as a PR agency, could be most useful to her.
The coffee meeting was very insightful and I was able to introduce her to a broader spectrum of clients across the agency. Even better, she now had a face to my name, and I could get her the information, in the way she wanted it, that best suited her needs. The meeting opened up the door to more opportunities—as a result of the relationship, I was able to get a client featured not once, but twice, in the publication’s holiday gift guide. In addition, it was selected by the editor to appear in a segment they were producing for The Today Show.
Similarly, I came across a freelancer who covered all kinds of home décor trends for various blogs and publications, and asked her to meet up for a quick coffee. We had a great conversation and she got some good ideas for Good Housekeeping—a publication she had just started to work with. As it turns out, she ended up being hired full time at the publication shortly after and we were able to work on a number of opportunities together. It’s resulted three print opportunities and more in the works—and because not everything is a fit for her, she’s happy to pass things along to other editors internally.
At the end of the day, real success in PR truly does come from the relationships you create and foster—it’s a business of relationships. So while all this time I thought I wasn’t cut out for sales and was avoiding it, turns out I was quite wrong—we’re not so different after all.