Three cheers for Ashley McCormick

This week’s post is an open letter to a junior PR pro in L.A. named Ashley McCormick. My message to her applies to you, too, because Ashley is all of us.

Dear Ashley,

We don’t know each other, but I wanted to reach out with some words of encouragement. Last week you experienced what had to be one of the weirdest PR reversals of fortune ever. Your pitch “landed” as the lead anecdote in a New York Times article that was shared more than 1,400 times. But the article was about PR pitches the writer thought sounded inappropriate during a pandemic.

Ashley, that could have happened to any one of us in the PR world. It could have been my name in that article. Or the name of anyone else who has even taken the risk of pressing “send” on an email to opinionated strangers with digital megaphones. Sure, in hindsight we would probably recall some of those pitches, or rephrase them. But we were doing our jobs, just like you were.

And I was pleased to see that the writer eventually realized that – if people read far enough in the story, they saw that his takeaway was that this thing we refer to abstractly as “the economy” is actually you and me doing our jobs for our clients and employers, and marketing is a huge part of that.

I liked the way your boss responded when the writer reached out (although it was a bit unfair that he buried her comments so far down):

Most of our clients are small businesses and are really struggling from the pandemic, as most companies currently are, so now more than ever is it important for us to pitch. We’ve actually seen a dramatic increase in responses to our pitching efforts. We’ve chatted with many close editor contacts who let us know they still want us to keep pitching. They understand this is our job, and we’re just trying to keep our company and our clients’ companies afloat.

To be sure, our problems as PR pros are not journalists’ problems. We have a responsibility to figure out ways to tie what we’re promoting into meeting their needs. Clearly you and your agency colleagues are doing that with the editors who are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer. A pitch to a fashion influencer sounds way different to a NYT reporter. And he noted that your pitch got forwarded to him, so you weren’t even targeting him. He just happened to pick yours for his first example.

Others quoted in his story talk about “saying nothing for a while.” And some large organizations do have that luxury. But like your boss hinted, most organizations don’t. Companies don’t pay us to “say nothing” for long.

To me, Ashley, you represent every earnest PR pro out there . . . grinding away in an unfamiliar environment where it seems like everything has changed . . . hustling to tell your clients’ stories . . . doing your part to help your employer book the revenue she needs to pay you.

To you, and to all the rest, I have one thing to say:

Thank you for doing what you do, and keep pitching :).

This article was originally published on April 15, 2020

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