Why PR peers should play nice

Opting to shut out your competitors can be detrimental. Instead, join a community of PR practitioners, and everyone, including you, will benefit.

When I first got into the PR biz, I had a lot of ideas about my fellow publicists. I figured they were somewhere between Samantha Jones, Kelly Cutrone, and Shauna on “Entourage.” I saw them as power women, wearing power suits (or all black, in Kelly’s case), bossing others around, and acting self-important. I thought publicists were pretty much the mean girls.

When I started my PR company, I wanted to be different. I wasn’t a mean girl. I was a storyteller, someone who helped clients become visible and helped their companies grow. However, as people heard the news about my new company, they immediately began saying, “Oh! You should meet X, she’s in PR too!” I didn’t understand the point of these introductions. Why would I want to meet with X in PR? Weren’t we all vying for the same business anyway?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that my assumptions could not have been further from the truth. Three years later, here’s my realization: PR friends have helped me more than anyone else along the way. Yes, they are competitors. Yes, the nature of the business means they are more likely to be charismatic and attractive. But a surprising portion of my success and new business leads, has come from other PR pros. Here’s why:

1. They give good advice. When I first started out, my friend Cliff set up a lunch for me with two of his favorite PR friends. The other ladies also owned small firms and were eager to lend a hand. We talked about what I should be charging clients. We talked about the dos and don’ts of fashion week. We talked about the importance of having contracts that extended beyond a month-to-month basis, which could potentially leave me high and dry. They even directed me towards EPPS, an educational PR group in LA, where I met other amazing people and learned new trends in the industry.

Now, with a little more experience under my belt, I try to help my PR pals too. Whether it’s discussing options for buying media lists, sharing contacts at a specific publication, referring job candidates, or brainstorming strategy, we are there for each other. We know that two heads are better than one, and maybe it also has something to do with the networker in us. PR is very much about cultivating relationships and making connections. It’s no wonder this quality would affect how we treat one another.

2. They send their peers business. I can’t tell you how much of my business has come from other PR pros. This manly happens two ways: PR friends will loop me in to work on a project with them or they’ll send me accounts that aren’t a fit for them but may be a fit for me. A lot of firms specialize in advertising, technology, local news, or entertainment, so if my tech friend comes across a fashion account, we’ll split it or she’ll just pass it along entirely, and vice versa. One of the most amazing resources I’ve come across for new business is Air PR (now known as PR Marketplace). The company was started by a publicist with the goal of sending PR pros new clients. It works like a matchmaking service for top pros, connecting them with amazing new leads. Just another example of PR practitioners helping each other bring in accounts.

3. No one understands like they do. A few weeks ago I followed up with a reporter and he snapped at me, saying “I don’t appreciate when publicists tell me what to write about.” That was not my intention at all. I was frazzled, and after the call I turned to my Rolodex of PR friends. They immediately picked up (because obviously we keep our phones handy at all times). They listened to my story and assured me I didn’t do anything wrong. They shared their own funny stories from the field, and soon I was feeling back to my usual self.

No one else understand the business like they do. When I complain about clients who want to be on “Good Morning America” or journalists who flake at the last minute they know the agony. When they call me to talk about how excited they are about their new article in the New York Times, I know how truly amazing that is, how hard it is to get that hit, and how much she or he deserved it.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the PR biz. One being, why should I bother befriending my competition? However, without the love, support, and opportunities my fellow publicists have sent my way, I wouldn’t be here today.

Sarah Rose Attman is founder and principal at Sarah Rose Public Relations, a boutique agency that works with a variety of clients nationwide. Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn. (Image via)

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