For PR, Human Connection Still Matters in the Age of Automation
In an age of technology, automation and scale, success in PR still relies on human connection and empathy. Sure, that sounds like a meaningless, feel-good quote. But the reality is that working with PR professionals who know the value of connection and empathy makes a tangible difference in the public relations outcomes they deliver.
PR professionals are known for being good with our words—but that sometimes comes with the stigma that we’ll say anything to make our clients look good. We always want to position our clients for success, but how do we work around these preconceptions? By building meaningful connections.
That’s particularly important when working with journalists who are constantly bombarded with pitches. Can you imagine if every email in your inbox was someone asking you for something? That’s why I always go out of my way to build a personal relationship with the reporters I work with.
If I see an interesting article that they wrote, I’ll reach out with a greeting and attempt to form that connection. That way we already have a rapport if I reach back out to pitch a client story. Sometimes, a journalist will even come back to me because of that initial conversation, appreciating the fact that I complimented their recent work before making an ask of my own.
My friends at Axios are a perfect example of this type of relationship-building outreach. I caught a trend piece in my daily news scans and reached out to the reporter, telling him I loved his perspective and that I couldn’t wait for his next column. This turned into a conversation, during which the reporter asked who I worked with and if anything was timely. This resulted in a newsletter and exclusive coverage for our client. To this day, I regularly check in with this reporter to say hello or ask if they have any fun vacation plans.
Building personal relationships is just as important with clients. Getting to know clients on a deeper level allows me to more effectively work alongside them and assist in their growth and success. This can be as simple as starting a client call with “What did you do over the weekend?” or “Any fun vacations planned?” It seems simple, but these non-business conversions build relationships and, ultimately, trust.
Trust improves our work together and drives tangible results. We become an extension of the client’s team. We know the message they want the world to hear. We know what makes them excited and what they celebrate as success. This comes with time, but it also comes as we open up and have real conversations.
If you throw a dinner party with your closest friends and you know one of them is lactose intolerant, will you only be serving dairy heavy dishes? No, you anticipate their needs and prepare additional options for them to enjoy. It works the same way when you have a meaningful relationship with a client. Through emails, weekly calls and in-person opportunities, I better learn my clients’ preferences and anticipate their needs. When an opportunity comes across my desk, I can immediately gauge their interest level and how it fits into their larger goals and media strategy. Communications become quicker and more efficient.
At a previous agency, I became particularly close with the team at a luxury wellness brand. The team and I had a great working relationship and they knew how passionate I was about getting them valuable coverage. Our relationship was so strong that they moved their business to N6A after I started my new position with the agency. We continue to work together to this day, where I focus solely on top tier podcast outreach and have garnered interest from Bloomberg, Men’s Journal and Benzinga.
I view the PR professional and client relationship as a team, which stems from my decades of being on one. I started competitive cheerleading at five years old and didn’t stop until I graduated from the University of Connecticut at 22. One of the most important skills in cheerleading is called stunting, which are the lifts that consist of two bases, one back spot and a flyer. To properly and safely stunt, everyone must be on the same page and communicate clearly before, during and after the stunt. If someone doesn’t know what’s happening, they can get injured. Having had my fair share of falls, I’ve learned that communication brings the right outcome.
As AI tools like ChatGPT dominate the news cycle, the importance of human relationships are at risk of being devalued. But building relationships and trust doesn’t come automatically. Leading with empathy and compassion is—and will remain—critical to achieving PR success.
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