Karma, Connections, and PR Success

So I'm sitting here in Miami International Airport, that a) doesn't have wireless, and b) doesn't have a President's Club, and c) is just really annoying. I'm waiting on my flight back to NYC, but after getting to the airport REALLY early, hoping for a shot at getting standby on an earlier flight, it doesn't look like that's gonna happen because the earlier flight is overbooked by 13 people. So looks like this rent-a-seat is my home for the next seven hours. Oh, happy day.

Anyhow... I wrote a letter last week. I sent it out to a lot of journalists. The results surprised even me.

The letter wasn't a pitch for any of my clients. Rather, it was an introduction. I told them how I ran a PR firm in NYC, and because it was cold and snowing out, I decided to sit on my couch with my two overweight cats, and compose a letter of good PR Karma. I told reporters to come to me when they needed a source, or were trying to find a specific person in a specific industry. I wasn't offering myself up, mind you, but rather, my clients, and more importantly, huge amount of friends/colleagues/contacts that I've accumulated over the years.

Basically, I was being nice.

The response blew me away. Over 400 reporters emailed me back—most thanking me and telling me they'd file me for when they needed me. Others, though—and I'm talking seriously major players—emailed and called me within 5 minutes of my sending the email, not only to say thanks, but to ask for sources. Some examples included, "I need someone having a covenant marriage. Do you know anyone?" Or, "Peter, great email. Who do you know who can talk about the latest in men's tuxedo fashions?"

And this is where friends came in. Covenant marriage? Would you believe, my friend Alan. Men's fashions? Well, I used to date the lead buyer at Calvin Klein Men, she might know someone.

So I went to work. And, shock of shocks, with the exception of one, I was able to find 14 sources for fourteen different reporters. In the process, I got one client into the Associated Press, and another one into Newsweek.

But you're thinking, "2 hits for clients? That means 12 hits for non-clients. What did that get you?"

That, my friend, got me stored Karma.

That's exciting. What's stored Karma?

Simply put, stored Karma is exactly as it sounds. I helped out a bunch of reporters. Why? Because I could. What did it get me? Nothing, right away. Or did it... In fact, it got me a TON. I now know over 400 reporters—not personally, mind you, but I'm in their heads—mostly as "the weird guy who they can go to for sources," or "that guy who sent the weird email that made me laugh about his overweight cats."

In other words, stored Karma. I can go to these reporters sometime in the future, and instead of having to pitch them blind, I can pitch them with "Hey there, I sent you an email a few months ago about sourcing me and my overweight cats. Would you mind terribly if I sent you a pitch? I think I might have something up your alley."

It's an "in."

"OK, I get it now. So why are you telling me this? I work in Marketing, or Advertising, or electronic media, or some other field where I don't talk to reporters all day. What does this have to do with me?"

I'd say, from a bigger picture, everything. When was the last time you called a client to say "hi?" Or just to shoot the breeze? "Hey, how's everything going? Was just thinking about you, thought I'd say hi." Send a client a freshly packed pound of Arctic Salmon. Why? Because you can. Don't wait to sign the next big deal, just do it now. For kicks.

Or what about sending them an email? "Hey, I was reading Ad Age, and saw this article—thought you might find it interesting."

We're so involved with our day-to-day crap, that we don't stop and realize that with the random exception of the few people who get up from their chairs when a lady sits down, cordiality is pretty much dead. Somehow, we've all gotten into that "every man for himself, gimmie, gimmie, gimmie, I got mine" mentality, and we rarely look up from it.

I take this psychotic Navy SEAL's workout 4 times a year, for two weeks at a time. (www.shankman.com/sealpt.htm). During the first class of each workout, Instructor Jack Walston, a former SEAL, tells us that the "I got mine" attitude won't cut it. And he makes us pay dearly when someone tries to do less than everyone else.

Maybe that's something to consider. Maybe.

Or maybe my cats just need to lose some weight.

Peter Shankman is a freelance publicist, handling everything from entertainment, to consumer, to tech. Peter is still CEO of The Geek Factory, an agency he started a few years ago, and sold in June of 2001. Peter spends a good majority of his time on planes, and is a big believer in both the trusted traveller card, and the INS PortPass. When not working or travelling, Peter can be found running the loop of Central Park, or marathons worldwide. Peter lives in midtown Manhattan with his two psychotic cats, Karma and NASA. This article originally appeared in Geekspeak, Peter's occasional newsletter. To subscribe, geekspeak-subscribe@topica.com

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