When I was first starting in PR, still green, I made a classic mistake.
I had a story to pitch, and I was hell bent and determined to get the cause I was working for some great press.
So there I was, going down a list of journalists, giving them all the same pitch about all the wonderful thing this group was doing.
Some of the hang ups were polite. Some not so much. Any way it went, I was getting nowhere fast.
My eye jumped on the list and I accidentally called a tough cookie at a scandal sheet.
She didn’t answer the phone so much as she did grunt. I was a bit flummoxed but I launched into my spiel anyway.
She didn’t hang up.
But when I’d finished, there was a momentary silence, and then the strongest New York accent I’d ever heard barked back at me:
“Come on kid, you can do better.”
In truth, I wasn’t sure I could do better, but I launched into even more amazing things the charity did, employing the same logic as people who tell an unfunny joke louder, hoping it will get funnier.
“No kid, come on. You’re telling me about a good cause. And a good cause is not a good story.”
The penny dropped. I’d worked my career to that point bringing stories to life for the screen and the stage as a performer, a writer, and a development person.
Suddenly she was speaking my language.
So I took a deep breath, and up floated the story behind the campaign, inspired by a letter we got from a little kid named Katey who sent in her allowance of $4.27 in cash and coins, all taped to a piece of paper with instructions to “do good with it.”
I stopped speaking to the reporter like she was a reporter and I just talked to her like she was a person.
I told her how that letter inspired us to ask kids what “doing good” would mean to them and to vote on what they wanted to support. And how we then ultimately created a program that let kids engage in a cause that they had helped define.
I was excited, she was excited. And she and I were bouncing things off of each other as we got deeper into the story. And yet, when I had first called, I had been so focused on the big things that this organization did, I’d missed the story.
At the end of it all, the hardened reporter said: “Wow, that’s a great story.”
“Really? You like it?”
“You going to run with it?”
“Can it involve aliens or a celebrity sex scandal?”
“Then no. But someone will. Let me give you a few names.”
She did. And we got national coverage.
Since then, we’ve grown and have worked repeatedly with some of the top media outlets in the world, including The New York Times, The Today Show, The View, The National, Canada AM, The Globe and Mail, etc.
But it was a tabloid writer who taught me that it is sometimes the smallest stories that throw the most light.