Most of the publicists began the conversation by asking something like, “Did you receive the press release I sent last week?” (Yes, I’m ancient. These incidents were in the 1980s, predating email.) Although I’m a polite person, I always answered: “I receive several hundred pieces of mail a day. If you sent it to me, it’s probably sitting in my in-basket.”
The retort was not only true, but it also usually silenced the PR agents. This meant I was able to get back to my real job—supervising a large and talented group of reporters and filling my section of the broadsheet paper with interesting stories.
In addition to the regular callers, there were also a few PR professionals. How I loved talking to them. Instead of telling me their woes—and outlining what they demanded of me—they thought to reframe the issue. They anticipated my problems, and, best of all, they came up with solutions.
In other words, they took the time to explain how they would help me. There was no “You owe it to My Theatre Company to support our new show.” It was: “Here’s how this story will help/entertain/inform your readers.” They didn’t expect that I owed them anything. They always sold me.