I was struck by something as I watched Jon Stewart’s address to Congress to urge them to pass permanent funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. At times bubbling over into naked anger, Jon Stewart’s passion for the plight of first responders faced with stalled funding came through as loud and clear as a bell, and his message landed–the full House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to send the bill to the House floor for consideration the day after Mr. Stewart’s address.
In the competitive world of PR, where megaphones outnumber outlets, I want to discuss the importance of passion. PR is a tough business–there are now six PR professionals for every journalist. To hit the bullseye, you need to marshal passion. A guy I used to play football with would say “Get on your horse, and get after it.” In remembering that, I am reminded that there are no substitutes for determination–a pitch without passion is doomed to fail.
I once represented a self-made millionaire insurance salesman. He owned his own insurance business in Philly, without much to differentiate it from similar businesses. Try after try, I was rejected. No one saw the story I did. I was getting turned away so many times I thought there was no way I was going to sell the story. There simply wasn’t anything truly unique about the business or the story I wanted to tell about it. Come to find out, the subject was dying of cancer.
His insistence on greeting every day with enthusiasm no matter how he felt motivated me and reignited my determination to sell the story. It was quite literally his dying wish to be featured in his city’s newspaper. It lit a fire under me, and I was determined to get his incredible story of phenomenal success despite living with terminal cancer placed. That determination helped me to buckle down and redouble my efforts. After reframing it as a human-interest piece and bringing my passion to the pitch, a local reporter for Philadelphia Inquirer loved the story. I found the right connection, and we earned the coverage. That Sunday, my client’s story was lead story above the fold of the Local section.
I could have given up on that project at any point. But in order to break through, it’s all about passion. You need to get really pumped about your client’s stories. That will get you through the media clutter in an industry with more megaphones than ears.
There are three key aspects concerning passion we need to remember:
- Passion penetrates. The stories that are pitched and told with passion hit their mark with resonance and impact, from the journalist hearing the pitch to the reader seeing the news segment.
- Passion differentiates. In a crowded field, the PR agencies who have not lapsed into complacence win the day.
- Passion excites. If no one, including you, is excited about the story you’re telling, then you haven’t really found the story yet.
With increased competition and challenges, and yet no lower expectations from clients, you’ve got to be passionate about your client’s stories. That’s the juice that gets you through and over all these obstacles. When the story is not particularly exciting, it’s not part of a trend, and it’s not meaningfully differentiated from their competitors, passion will carry you through to find the point of impact. From a business perspective, it can also help you gain business from prospects who may not be setting the world on fire or are simply quietly leading successful businesses.
If you want to be represented by a firm that cares as much about your story as you do, contact us.
Tony DeFazio is an accomplished public relations professional and entrepreneur who has led three agencies. He bootstrapped his first business, growing it through the Great Recession to achieve an exit. He excels at developing narratives and delivering them with resonance and impact to influencers and media around the world. DeFazio is a respected thought leader who has served in leadership positions of industry associations, and was elected President of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Philadelphia Chapter and Heritage Region Board of Directors, representing 17 states in the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West.