Wednesday, November 12, 2014
“I want you to think of me as your news release ‘gym buddy.’”
4 Things I Learned about Media Relations from My First Triathlon
#1 Help from others is strength, not weakness.
What I learned: Over the years, I had many false starts and failures on the road to better fitness. “I know how to work out,” I told myself. But, I could never stick to it. I learned that lasting success is much more than knowing the right moves and putting in time on the treadmill. The truth is, nobody gets as far alone as they do with a team. And you can get help from many different people, in many different forms. A gym buddy can help encourage you when you want to give up. A pro can give you new challenges and make sure you don’t get injured. And family and friends embody the commitment you make to yourself - you aren’t just getting healthy for you any more, you’re also doing it for your loved ones.
How this is like media relations: Sure, everyone in media relations could work in a vacuum. You know how to write a news release and send it to your contacts, etc. Why ask anyone for help?
The power of asking for help is about what it awakens in yourself. It’s not about getting the “right” answer from someone else, or the shame of admitting the “right” answer has eluded you. It’s about changing your perspective, opening your mind to something new, and with the right collaborator, discovering more powerful ideas than you can come up with alone. Because you chose to put yourself in a different position, you are as much responsible for the results as the person you asked for help. You both win.
Practice: Say your pitch out loud in 25 words or less to someone that doesn’t know the story. The trick is to stop at the end of your 25 words. Don’t keep explaining. Now, when you fall silent, do they want to know more, or did they lose interest? If you go over 25 words, try again, getting shorter and shorter each time. Just like running, biking, and swimming for a triathlon, it takes practice!
#2 We keep promises to ourselves when they are also promises to others
What I learned: It’s been almost a week since my last rest day. I signed up for a cycle class in the morning and yoga after work. Yesterday, I had an hour session with my trainer. My legs feel like stone, my shoulders are in knots, and all I want to do is stay in bed.
But, I promised a friend I would meet them at class. We are in the last stage of training for a bike ride to raise money for a local charity. I don’t want to let them, or myself down. I find the strength to get up and go.
How this is like media relations: If you only make a commitment to yourself, you only have yourself to hold you accountable. That makes it easier to give up, and give in. When you make commitments to others, you externalize the commitment. Objectively, someone else will know when you don’t follow through.
We all face challenges with time management and “bandwidth.” And the things we let slide are usually the things that no one else sees. Avoid this pitfall by talking with others about what you’re doing. There doesn’t need to be negative consequences - no judgment or punishment. Just vocalizing your intent, and knowing subconsciously that someone else knows about it, is your ticket to keeping that promise.
Practice: If you aren’t ready to make a promise to a person, try putting your commitment down on paper. Trainers and nutritionists know that clients are more likely to succeed when they write down every workout and every meal - even without a conscious decision to change anything about their exercise schedule or eating habits. Simply the act of writing it all down helps forge the path to better behavior. So, if you’re putting off writing that news release, or posting it to Newswise, write yourself a post-it, schedule a reminder on your office calendar, or drop me an email about it. I’m not going to punish you if you don’t do it - I’m not your boss! - but saying you’ll do it may help you follow through.
What do you think? Can I be your news release “gym buddy?”
#3 Acknowledging difficulty is not a precursor to defeat
Knowing how far the run is or how big the hill helps know how hard you have to work. And if you’ve done the training, you know what it feels like to go all out, with your heart racing and your blood pumping to reach the top as fast as you can.
Same thing goes for your news. It’s hard to get media attention. It’s hard to make time to pitch it to all of your contacts and upload it to Newswise. But, knowing that it’s hard isn’t an excuse not to do it - it’s a reason to try harder. And the next time, you’ll be a little stronger, and it will be a little easier.
One of my favorite yoga teachers always says, “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I’m saying it’s going to be worth it.”
#4 Not winning is not the same thing as losing.
Everyone who competes in a triathlon gets a temporary tattoo on the back of their leg of their age group - e.g. M30-34 - so that anyone coming up from behind you knows if they are about to pass someone in their own group. And if you’re the one getting passed, you can see if it was someone from your group, and it’s up to you whether to run harder and try to catch them.
In Media Relations, you can’t control the competition, you can only control how hard you try. You never know when there will be a major disease outbreak or a terrorist attack to bump your news out of the media cycle.
If you get passed by a bigger story, you haven’t lost the game. You can still try harder next time, follow up your pitch with an update after the news cycle settles down, or regroup and strategize how to target your pitch to a different audience.