Learning From Rejection – The Value of Being Told No in Public Relations

Anyone who has ever worked in public relations knows that not every pitch will get picked up. Sometimes you’re tasked with announcing something that just isn’t newsworthy. Sometimes you’re announcing something relevant and timely, but the press release gets delayed, and by the time it has final approval, it becomes old news. Sometimes you use a media database that gives you outdated information on a reporter’s beat. For many reasons, everyone who pitches to the media is going to get rejection emails from reporters. What truly makes the difference in your value as a PR professional is how you handle being told no. Rather than be discouraged and view it as a failure, there are several ways to find value from a rejection email. 

 Learn What Strategies Will and Won’t Work 

Your colleagues want to know what will get media attention and what won’t, and you’re in the best position to tell them. After getting that rejection email, you can tell them why that strategy didn’t work, and why it won’t work in the future.  For instance, if the reporter thought the pitch was too promotional, you can tell your team that the next pitch needs to be more topical or focused on thought leadership. If the problem was that the pitch didn’t have enough local tie-in. You can tell your team to make sure the next pitch applies directly to the local community. Maybe the reporter just doesn’t have time or capacity to write the story, in which case you can offer to write it as a bylined article. Whatever the reason he gives, use the knowledge gained to refine your strategy in your next approach. 

You can better understand that reporter’s beat 

Every reporter has a specific topic or set of topics they are assigned to cover, that they refer to as their “beat.” The media used to be much larger, and reporters weren’t as overworked, so they were more flexible with what type of story they could cover. Now, the media is smaller, and reporters are getting 50-100 email pitches per week, so they only have time to cover the stories that fall exactly into their assigned coverage area. Many reporters will turn down stories that would be of utmost interest to their readers if the topic doesn’t fall exactly into their assigned beat. Any communication you have with a reporter is useful in helping you understand what types of stories that reporter will cover.  

That Reporter Can Still Help You Out 

That rejection email doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation. There are several ways that reporter can still be of use to you in your public relations campaign. You can ask if he/she knows anyone else that might be interested in the story you pitched. If so, he/she can either forward your email to them or give you their contact info. You can ask if that reporter has any other similar stories they might be working on and offer your client as a source for those stories. That reporter might not be aware of your client’s expertise and may not know that your client can speak on thought leadership topics that align with their upcoming assignments. The media is always looking for expert sources, even ones who they aren’t able to use for the topic originally pitched.  

We all have times in our lives where things don’t go the way we planned. Making the most out of an unappealing situation is key to getting anywhere. Public relations is a good practice to keep that resiliency and perseverance that you need in other parts of your adult life. Once you find success in the face of rejection, you will remember that success and brush aside the rest. Don’t ever let rejection feel like failure, or else you will miss out on your best chances for success. 

If you would like help with public relations, marketing and advertising, feel free to contact us. We offer a variety of services like digital marketing & analytics, marketing & brand strategy, and more to small and large companies.

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