Public Relations: Cutting Through the Clutter


July 13, 2016


To gain traction with increasingly busy journalists, building solid professional relationships is more important than ever.

By Chris Dale

Among our many marketing roles at Turchette is maximizing our clients’ investment at a wide range of industry trade shows. For me, as Turchette’s Public Relations Director, this means organizing and often personally escorting interviews at our clients’ booths with editors of relevant consumer and b2b publications.

Recently I found myself at one such trade show, escorting an editor at a noteworthy pharmaceutical trade publication to a few interviews I’d set up with exhibiting Turchette clients. Upon noticing polite conversation had given way to that familiar “smartphone stare,” I asked an innocent yet revealing question:

“How many emails do you usually get every day?”

“Probably about 500,” she replied, in a manner that suggested she’d given that answer many times before.

It’s not exactly headline news that journalists are inundated. In addition to the e-newsletters, meeting requests, Google Alerts and inter-office correspondence with which anyone in an office setting is intimately familiar, editors like my smartphone-saddled friend get a nonstop barrage of press releases, pitch letters, interview requests, case studies and thought leadership inquiries.

But still… wow. Five hundred. That’s fifty emails per hour in a ten-hour workday.  I thought my inbox was bombarded, and I don’t receive half that.

“It’s amazing I can ever get through to you,” I replied.

“Well, I know you…” she trailed off, without looking up from her iPhone.

Those four words, spoken from the corner of a distracted journalist’s mouth, underscore what remains the most underappreciated aspect of a public relations executive’s role: Relationship building.

As business owners and high-level executives that truly believe in the premium products and services offered by their companies, the clients we service at Turchette have reason to take pride in their work. My public relations team has had the privilege to pitch any number of terrific products and innovative services.  Our clients have some great offerings, ones that deserve to be top-of-mind to editors at the leading consumer and trade publications in their respective fields.   And when good ideas are given a boost with savvy marketing positioning, they should be a shoo-in.

I said should.  Because it simply doesn’t work like that – perhaps now more than ever.

At Turchette, we pride ourselves on building durable working relationships with key journalists in our clients’ broad array of industries. It takes both time and timing, brevity and banter.  It takes not only knowledge of the niche a journalist covers, but the specific needs each editor has to best service his or her readers.

Strong relationships result from accrued reputation – a positive snowball effect that leaves editors associating “Turchette” with one word: Useful.

If pressed, our email-checking editor would have elaborated on “Well, I know you…” by explaining that Turchette has a history of sending her items that are relevant, newsworthy and timely. Through resource-driven research, frequent examination of outlet-specific editorial calendars, and extensive industry experience, we represent the antithesis of “spam artists.”

So when the email protocol appears in her inbox, she opens it, and actually reads it. Mathematically, she probably gives it 10 times more attention than most of the remaining 499 messages she’ll receive that day.

Like any busy, deadline-oriented executive, editors favor expediency, and their niche has certain nonstarters. An overtly promotional thought leadership piece, or press release with unsubstantiated claims?  Deleted – this is journalism, not advertising.  Sending something in May for consideration in the June issue?  Deleted – that issue closed in March.  Following up Thursday morning on an email sent Wednesday afternoon?  Deleted – that’s… well… annoying.

Break these unwritten rules repeatedly, and polite rejection letters will soon be replaced with the deafening silence of being completely ignored by an important industry influencer.

The other side of the coin is, of course, far more lucrative. By consistently providing editors with the sort of information they want – when and how they want to receive it – a professional bond is built.  And these days, relationship building has become far more than putting faces to names.  More and more, it’s being visible and valued in a way that stands out in increasingly cluttered inboxes.