What We Can All Learn From XYZPublicist

by

So.

Each month, I edit a relationship column for a national, women’s lifestyle publication. Sometimes I write the column myself. If I’m extremely swamped, I assign the story out to another freelance writer.

It’s one of my many hustles. And I like that I have to think like an editor. It helps me when I’m trying to pitch articles to other editors.

In my line of work as an editor, I deal with publicists, usually for authors who have written books about relationship issues or therapists, professors and other folks who are experts in relationship stuff.

There are many times that I find myself staring at a deadline and I have all my interviews completed for a story–but I haven’t found a relationship expert to interview. So I’m scrambling like mad, emailing folks to try and secure someone for my column.

(I’m getting to a point here.)

It would make sense to prepare for this in advance and line up interviews with several authors, professors and therapists.

But I don’t do that. I scramble at deadline time. Most editors do.

So. November 4th, I get an email.

Hello Aliya,

How are you? It’s XYZ Publicist with XYZ Public Relations in NYC. I wanted to speak with you about the editorial direction of and submitting a client for the “Self Love” for the February “The Love Issue”. Please give me a call.

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Much Success,
XYZ Publicist
XYZ Public Relations

I didn’t know what this woman was talking about. Self Love? February issue? Huh? Yeah. Right back at you. I didn’t email her back. I should have. I could have dropped her a quick line. But I didn’t.

Why?

Because I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about. She wanted to submit a client? For what?

She had been forwarded my information from an editor at Upscale, so I assumed she was a relationship expert and I made a mental note to call her back when I was time-strapped for a therapist for one of my stories.

Six days later, another email:

Hello Aliya,

How are you? It’s XYZ with XYZ PR in NYC. I’ve been trying to reach you to speak with you about the editorial direction of and submitting a client for the “Self Love” for the February “The Love Issue”. Please give me a call.

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Much Success,

I didn’t email her back. I know, I know. I’m a horrible person. But I have 76 unread emails in my InBox right now. 20 of them are urgent. And I still didn’t know what she wanted from me. If she’d written a bit more detail, I might have dashed off a quick response. But she was still trying to “reach me” so she could “speak to me” about her client.

In the back of my mind I was thinking, Lady, you did reach me. Through email. Now what you want? Who talks on the phone?

A few days later, there was another email from XYZ Publicist, gently reminding me to please give her a call so we could talk about her client.

Now I’m annoyed. And I respond.

Hi: I am on deadline and super swamped. Can you please shoot me a quick email outlining what you’re looking for? Thanks!

XYZ’s swift response:

Hello Aliya,

Sorry to interrupt you. I am inquiring about the direction of the Self Love, in the February issue. I have a client that I’d like submit for inclusion in that issue. She is a young single African American woman, (model/TV personality) who has a national platform about self love. Please contact me at your convenience. I’m always available between 7am to 10pm EST.

Thanks for your time and consideration!

XYZ Publicist

So now I’m more annoyed. Why won’t she just tell me what she wants from my life? I’m not calling her. That’s just not happening. You shouldn’t pitch a client to a magazine without telling me the woman’s name. Like, no. Don’t do that. State your piece in your very first email. I have a client named ABC, she’s an expert in blended families and her book is called Blah Blah Blah.

But homegirl was still trying to get me on the phone? No.

I dashed off a quick email:

I’m gathering ideas for the Love issue. Will be in touch soon. In the meantime, can you send along more details about your client. Does she have a website?

Another immediate response:

Hello Aliya,

It was a pleasure speaking with you this afternoon. I would love to further discuss how we may include my client, [NameRedacted], in Upscale’s February Issue, regarding Self Love. [NameRedacted] is a model, TV personality, and speaker to women and girls. She’s been doing beauty segments for NBC and FOX for nearly 5 years. She has traveled the country speaking to women and young women about self love and self esteem for years. She is a young single woman who speaks to them from her own personal experiences and her experience working with women. I have attached a headshot and bio for your review. However, If you include her in an article, I can pull you some unpublished photos for use in your publication. For additional information, please visit her website at  http://www.[NameRedacted].com

Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. Except I’m still annoyed. I Googled her client and I knew within seconds that she wasn’t someone I would use as an expert for my relationship stories. Done. Can’t help ya. Nice knowing ya.

Now, it would have been nice for me to send her a quick email back. And tell her: hey, you need to start over. If you’re looking for press for your client, I’m not the right person. Try ABC editor.

But I didn’t do that. Because I’m awful.

Well, really I didn’t do it because I was annoyed by XYZPublicist. She didn’t seem to know the PR game well. And I felt like she was being slightly stalker-esque. And yet, her emails were always so gently demanding that I was somehow sucked in to responding to her.

(I swear there is a point here.)

So I put XYZPublicist out of my mind completely and went on with my life.

That was yesterday.

Today, I get up, take Junior to the dog park so he won’t chew my shoes to pieces. Then me and Junior head to my office.

We’ve talked about the office, yes?

I love my office so much it hurts. I exhale deeply as soon as I walk inside and I want to kick my heels together in the air. Sometimes I actually do.

So this morning, I open the door and my phone is ringing. I hardly ever use the landline. I make the occasional outgoing calls but I don’t get many unexpected incoming calls.

I pick it up.

“Good morning Aliya,” said a chipper voice. “This is XYZPublicist. Did I catch you at a bad time?”

I sighed. And yes, I rolled my eyes too.

“No, you didn’t catch me at a bad time. What’s up?”

She launched into her pitch. I sat in my office chair and opened my mail, half listening to her. I gave her an occasional “I see” and “Uh-huh.”

When she was done, I sat up in my chair and cleared my throat.

“I’m not the right editor for you,” I said. “There’s been some misunderstanding. I handle relationship stories. And I have an expert give me quotes each month. But I don’t assign profiles on people.”

I took a deep breath and raised my voice just a smidge.

“I. would. not. be. able. to. assist. you. in. getting. coverage. for. your. client.”

ABCPublicist asked me a few more questions, which I answered quickly, even though I wanted to hang up on her. (How dare she ask me questions about the magazine when I just said I can’t help you?!)

And then she thanked me for my time and hung up.

If I wasn’t writing this post, I probably would have never thought of her again. Ever.

But today, when I hung up the phone with homegirl, I thought about how determined she’d been.

This chick was no freaking joke!

She didn’t care that I might be annoyed. She didn’t care that I was rolling my eyes at her constant emails. She didn’t care that I wasn’t about to call her. She had a mission. Get in touch with Aliya S. King and see if she can get my client covered in the magazine. Period.

And guess what? She got in touch with me.

My office number is at the end of all my emails. She used it. Go figure.

On my to-do list today, I have to start thinking about marketing and promotion for my novel. I want to do a lot of the legwork myself and not expect my publisher to handle it all.

One thing I want, I’ll just put it out there: I want to promote my book on The Wendy Williams Show.

It’s the perfect audience. I think Wendy would like the book. And it’s national.

I want to go on Wendy and dish about my book.

If I attacked this goal like ABCPublicist attacked hers, I have no doubts I could make it happen. Do I know who books talent on Wendy’s show? No. But I could find out. What if I sent them an email? Maybe they’d respond. Maybe they would not.

What if I emailed them again, gently reminding them about what I was looking for?

And then what if I called them? And then called again?

I haven’t hustled like Miss Publicist in a long time.

I’m blessed that I haven’t had to. The work has been there for me. For the most part.

But today, I’m reminded of how much that inner hustle needs to be on point for all of us.

Dear Readers:

What could YOU accomplish if you were as tenacious–bordering on annoying–as XYZ Publcist? Are you on your grind? Do you follow up? And then follow up again? Should you?

I’d love to hear from you.

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12 Responses to “What We Can All Learn From XYZPublicist”

  1. Noirist Says:

    The reason why she didn’t write too many details is simple. She was probably pitching multiple columnists that she didn’t bother customizing the one she sent to you thoroughly.

  2. Alicia Says:

    Follow @cthagod on twitter. Stalk Wendy! You will pitch the book on there! Persistance pays off, we all know that.

    “It is what it is” @msgibberish2u

  3. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Noirist: That’s possible. And I’ve covered this faux-pas here before. But she sent me more than one email with little to no info on what she wanted.

  4. fayemi Says:

    Moral to the story: Keep it simple and get to the point. We are all on deadline. After the second or third email with no response after stating your request that means “sorry, thanks but no thanks, I’m busy, don’t take it personal”. People should know this.

    You’re not awful. Cute and admirable but def not awful. I liked this. :)

  5. Eunice Says:

    Most times, a publicist wants to make sure you go through them for their client. If they give too much information, you might make an end-run around them thus invalidating their services. Eventually, the question will arise “why am I paying you when folks are burning up my blackberry or my assistant’s blackberry.”

    I will admit, she could have given more information and still proved her worth to her client. I will also admit that I have been guilty of dodging the middle man myself for not other reason other than just not wanting to be bothered with the extra phone calls or emails. So I can see why they do what they do. Lately, I’ve tried to be more diligent about actually contacting the publicist/pr flack because, hey, we all gotta eat.

  6. Alisha Says:

    Yes, I have e-stalked editors and most of the time it’s worked. I may not have gotten the assignment or the pitch accepted, but they did get back to me. A few times they’ve completely ignored me and contacted me a year later for a story.

    Persistance pays off, but only whe it’s practiced the right way. I’m sure if XYZ Publicist had said, “Look, chick, email me back or else!” you would have hung up on her then. She was sweet though. Strategy is everything.

  7. Alisha Says:

    @Noirist YES! Customizing emails is key. I learned the hard way to never take the easy way out. You’re bound to use an incorrect editor name, column, etc. How dreadful.

  8. la negrita Says:

    Aliya,

    You are a stand-up gal for the way you responded to this person. Your cup shall always runneth over because of things like this! In a perfect world, every editor will take the time (even if it’s a 15 second one-liner) to respond to people. Courtesy and kindness goes a long way!

    The last time I won with persistence is when I won my Jay-Z tickets on the radio. I rarely say this…but it was definitely earned! I stalked them everyday until I won, and I am convinced that the night I won, they picked me because I got through twice before actually winning. I know they got caller ID!!! LOL, but I wasn’t going to give up. I feel that if I put my mind to something, there’s no way I can’t get good results.

    As for pitching…I think I’ve had pretty good luck. Haven’t done so in a while, but I got fantastic responses considering my portfolio is seriously lacking. I did the opposite of what everyone told me to: I shot for the biggies and if they rejected, I moved down the totem pole. I have a healthy deal of confidence in my abilities when I apply myself, so I wanted to challenge myself (a bit of an ego–yes lol). But I was ecstatic if I even got two words from someone at a national mag.

    Lately, I haven’t had anything worth hustling for. But it’s only a matter of time until my next challenge. ;-) BTW, I think you are Oprah material. Would you like me to campaign for you??!? I know I can do it! :-D

  9. sixfiguresister Says:

    Love this. MAKE the person tell you “no” and make sure they mean it. She obviously didn’t think you meant it until that final call (although I’m sure you did). This way she knows she pushed you as far as she could. Now she can rest easily knowing that she did EVERYTHING she could to get you to bite. :)

  10. Janessa Says:

    I can’t think of any highly respected media icon who didn’t get their notoriety without being on the brink of annoying aka tenacious about their endeavors. Not Oprah, not Tyra, not Kimora, not even Wendy! They may not have been liked at the time but they certainly are/were respected for their hustle.

    So suffice it to say, in order to launch big ships you have to go where the water is deep. Even if that means badgering and maybe “bullying” your way into the top spot.

  11. Erika Says:

    The moral of your story is so true and applicable to all of life! When we start out, we can be so determined, so dedicated, so passionate. Too often – MUCH too often – we get comfortable, we settle in, we become secure. In other words, we stop “hustling”. We loose that gusto that we first had when things didn’t come as easily to us. We mistake being busy for pushing ourselves to do better; mistake doing what we love with loving what we do.

    I’m a teacher – 7 years in. Like you and your office, I LOVE what I do! I’m passionate about it; I’m dedicated to the students I teacher. I hope I never get to the point where I stop trying to be better, to learn more, to push harder for my students. If I get to the point where I feel I’ve “arrived”, it will be time for me to go.

    Thanks for reminding everyone about keeping the passion and fire alive!

  12. Yolanda Says:

    Maybe that’s what I need to do to get my blogs more attention.

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