When Instinct, Intuition and PR Rules Collide
At LT Public Relations, our team spends a lot of time reading and researching PR best practices, tips, rules, common mistakes, case studies, and so on. We enjoy digging up new suggestions and ideas, sharing and debating, and ultimately putting the lessons learned to good use for our clients. We strive to never rest on our laurels and always seek to learn more and improve our skills.
One topic I don’t often see discussed amidst all the great tips, rules, and guidelines widely available on the Internet are the two things I think are essential for all good PR pros; Instinct and intuition. It’s understandable as those ideas are not as easily quantifiable as “Ten Words to Never Use with a Journalist” or “AP Decides to Drop the Oxford Comma.” While hard to define and offer a clear rule or top ten lists to illustrate their value, instinct and intuition are every PR pros best allies. They are what set us apart from someone who does good PR, and someone who does great PR.
But what to do when your PR instincts and intuition conflict with industry best practices? What about all the tips, rules, dos and don’ts swimming around in your head? My advice is to trust your gut. It’s what makes you a unique PR professional and what will make your efforts stand out from all the rest. My personal example of intuition and instinct overriding PR rules and best practices involves a pitch I once did on a hand written Post-it note. Surely you all know the PR rule regarding Post-it note pitches? I’m pretty sure it resides on the top ten list of things you should NEVER do. But I did it anyway. I was at a previous employer and had a book to pitch about a young boy dealing with the loss of his mother. I had read the book and it was fantastic, but the topic was a hard sell. Now of course standard PR practice told me to mail out sample copies, include a press release and not to forget the follow-up phone call. I knew if I followed that standard procedure with this book it would never cut through all the other titles clamoring for the editor’s attention. This book needed something different. Something personal. So, I ignored all standard PR operating procedures and grabbed a pen and a Post-it and wrote a short note on it that said “Probably the best thing you’ll read all year.” I stuck the Post-it on the cover of the book and mailed it off to an editor at a national entertainment magazine I had spoken with a few times. And that was it. No press release, no summary or author information. No phone pitch or follow-up call. This was a risk but I knew I had done the right thing. I just knew. (Instinct! Intuition!) A few weeks later I got a phone call from the editor. Not only did he love the book, but so did the west coast editor. It ended up being featured prominently in the magazine over two consecutive issues. I asked him what made him take notice and he mentioned the note. He said he it was the only book he’d ever seen me take that approach and knew I wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t something special.
Was it risky? Yes, of course. But every PR professional will one day face a scenario similar to mine where they know standard operation procedure is NOT the best way to go. Maybe that AP rule you’ve been following doesn’t apply this time around. Maybe a press release is the wrong approach for that particular journalist. In PR we have to be flexible in order to grow and be successful in a constantly changing industry. Read the rule book. Know your AP or Chicago style. Don’t use those top ten words journalist hate to hear. But also don’t forget to be human and remember that person you’re trying to reach is human too. And with humans, sometimes the rules don’t apply. Trust your gut. And keep a packet of Post-it notes handy. You never know when you might need one.