I know you’re busy 🙂 I just wanted to reach out and hopefully offer something that might help . . .
Insert screeching-to-a-halt sound. Does my title and opening sentence feel right to you? If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you noticed a difference. Or at least felt a difference from how I usually approach you.
It’s true – I do know you’re busy. And I do want to help. But I’ve learned – over a long period of time and through lots of emotional growth (even occasional anguish) – that the best way I can help is to not devalue what I have to offer by quasi-begging you to read it.
That’s what subtle words like sorry, just, hopefully, and might communicate. That I’m not sure of myself enough to expect you to pay attention based on the value of what I’m about to give you.
That previous sentence was hard to write because if you go back to my original pitches, and even to the early days of me posting these articles, that’s exactly how I used to express myself. I was basically bleeding insecurity all over the page.
And that’s precisely how most PR pros write pitches today, and especially follow-up emails. Many unknowingly do it in their regular workplace conversations as well.
As I’m writing this, I’m on my way to give a keynote about this very topic. In preparation for the speech, I sought input from friends I respect about their transition from “pleaser” to “value-deliverer.”
One of them in particular nailed it. Here’s how Natalie Ipson responded to my inquiry (she didn’t know I would share it, but has since graciously granted permission):
I read an article once about how people tend to use diminishing words like “just” to hedge their requests, and it changed the way I communicate, especially through email. I like the message you’re trying to convey because journalists expect that PR professionals are going to contact them. In most cases, they want you to do it. That’s the relationship. So don’t apologize for doing the job you’re expected to do.
That being said, there’s another point of view that “just” can be a polite gesture that says you know you’re asking someone to do something they don’t have to, which is where PR pros get tripped up. They want to be polite, because there’s no obligation for the reporter to cover their story. But that’s why it’s important for the PR pros to believe in themselves and believe that their content is truly valuable. You should only be apologetic if you have poor content. And if that’s the case, you need to do more digging to find the value before you reach out.
Couldn’t have said it better myself – thanks Natalie!