Q I do media relations for a wireless telecoms company, and I've developed a very good relationship with the tech editor of a national magazine. After successfully pitching him several times, we started an e-mail dialogue and became friends. Now we have lunch a couple of times a month, and sometimes we play golf or watch football on the weekends.
He has always been honest with me when he knows that my client isn't right for the magazine, but lately his reasons for turning down pitches haven't been well substantiated. He has also turned down several of my lunch invitations. He told me that some of his colleagues give him a hard time about being friends with a PR guy - they sometimes call me "the enemy." Maybe the jokes finally got to him, or perhaps I got too comfortable and stopped putting real effort into the professional relationship. What do you think? And what should I tell my client?
Mr. G, New York
A I doubt that getting "too comfortable" would be a reason for turning down pitches, assuming that you are putting in the right amount of effort.
My hunch is that your friend thinks your client is overexposed, and is keeping a low profile as a hint. However, your theory that his fellow journalists gave him a hard time isn't unrealistic.
I hear many complaints from PR pros about the way journalists react to pitches. The biggest one is that many simply stop responding for no apparent reason. You are in a better position than most, and can (hopefully) ask your friend to be honest and explain his weird behavior. If he still acts strange, tell him that your client wants to know why a pitch was turned down. Hopefully he'll respond to that. If not, you should be honest with your client, no matter how badly they may take it. Until we can convince journalists that PR pros are an asset and not "the enemy," working to create stronger, more honest relationships is the best that you can do.
Q My coworker is a procrastinator. She has some brilliant ideas, but often waits until the very last minute to do an important project. At times, she misses deadlines and stays at work until late at night just to hand something in to our boss a day late. As a result, her work is sometimes rushed and not as good as it can be. Her talent lets her pull it off, but when she gets very stressed, she complains to me. How can I help her without seeming bossy?
Ms. L, Chicago
A I must admit that I have fallen into the evil procrastination trap on occasion, Ms. L. I've done a bit of research to try to correct my bad habits. Your coworker might leave tasks to the last minute because she is afraid of starting large projects. Maybe she is confused about priorities.
Sometimes it is easier and more rewarding to do many small tasks than to concentrate a lot of energy on a bigger, more time-consuming project.
The next time your coworker complains about procrastination woes, tell her what you do to complete projects on time. Perhaps she'll take your advice and finish things sooner. This way, she can leave you out of it.
If you are looking for some help, a simple Google search pulls up dozens of websites devoted to procrastination tips. Many are simple lessons in time management. They recommend giving yourself more time than you think a project will take, breaking down big projects into smaller steps, accepting that the project will not be perfect, and keeping a list of backup projects as incentive for completing tasks that need to be done. Most importantly, you need to be patient and understanding. If you suggest ideas the right way, you won't seem bossy at all.
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