Are you saving your PR skills for the wrong editorial contact?

November 16, 2013

By: Elizabeth
I have written before about my roommate, an editorial assistant for a major magazine. I often pick her brain to learn more about what works and what doesn't when it comes to PR people calling with a pitch. The other day, over our customary post-work glass of wine, she was the one to bring it up. “You know what you shouldn't do if you want to get your story to an editor?” she said. “Snub her assistant.”
I told her that seemed obvious, and she agreed. However, the amount of people who make the mistake of doing so suggests otherwise. If you're guilty, consider these points:
Assistants have a lot more power than their titles suggest. They are the gatekeepers. You want in? Be polite and respectful when you get them on the phone. Otherwise, their boss might often be “in a meeting” when you're on the line. And remember, it takes years to build a reputation and seconds to destroy it. Your name with the word “rude” attached to it will spread through the editorial department like wildfire.
It's part of their job to remember EVERYTHING. And they will remember you if you do not abide by the above.
They can catch their boss at the right time. If an editor is unavailable and you give your pitch to his assistant instead, she can pop into his office and run it by him when he has a few moments to really think about it. If you have a habit of refusing to discuss story ideas with assistants, you're missing out on coverage.
They might just favor you a little bit. I'm not talking bribery or corruption here, but, come on. These are people at the bottom of the company food chain to whom no one sucks up, ever. If you try a bit of schmoozing, they'll definitely know what you're doing, but they most likely won't mind. In fact, they may be flattered. And if they like you, you might just find your pitching efforts more successful.
Has an editorial assistant ever helped you out in the past? Share your stories in our comments section.

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