“Leverage” THIS

Back in the old days, I was unconsciously obsessed with protecting myself from failure. I thought a lot about “leveraging” my media lists or my relationships with journalists to convince them to cover my story ideas. How do you do it? How do you do it effectively?

These days, I realize that a perspective like that actually built a wall between me and the people I should have been trying to help.

When you realize we're all the same… that everybody has relationship angst or family problems or worries about their weight or whatever – even journalists! – … things change. When you get to that view, then you're able to develop a good understanding of what life might be like in the other person's shoes.

The word for this ability is empathy.

But I don't mean the empathy they teach in the marketing books. That's the version they tell you to “turn on” so you can sell something to someone. I'm talking about the real empathy. You can't fake this one.

It means that you don’t just know the checklist of attributes that makes something newsworthy. You know what it’s like to be a journalist or blogger tasked with meeting her quota for content that earns a certain minimum of engagement online and meets a certain standard of interest for her primary audience.

You don’t just learn a template for writing a good pitch email. You can put yourself into your target journalist’s ergonomically correct chair and feel what it’s like to process 150 emails at 4 p.m. and still leave enough time to get another post up before he has to go pick up his son at daycare or meet that woman he’s anxious about for drinks.

You've either done the work to have that kind of empathy or you don't have it. People can feel the difference. Doing the work to have it is worth it. Because once that work is done, you wake up and realize that you've outgrown words like “leverage.”

Do YOU want to be “leveraged?” Of course you don't.

I think the best kind of media relations, and the most effective kind of media relations (long term), is the kind where when you actually explain everything you're doing out loud, right to your media contacts, and they keep coming back for more.

This article was originally published on February 25, 2016

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