PR is not about how strong your media list is on your excel sheet — No matter how strong your contact list is on your sheet, it means nothing if you are unable to convert it into a real-time relationship. The PR — Journalists dynamic is unique yet simple. It is a give & take relationship. There were times where I was disheartened for not receiving expected responses from the journalists. With time I realised how difficult and irritating it would be to receive 1000 pitch emails in a day. The first step to build a relationship is to understand and respect their schedule. Once you form a strong connection with them, you will realise that a few meaningful relations are far better and beneficial than 1000 media contacts.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rumana Lokhandwala.
Rumana Lokhandwala is a PR expert with 5+ years of experience. She started PR at a very young age and worked for leading names in the industry. She believes in result oriented work and is focused on achieving maximum outputs for her clients. She is currently working with Promotehour as a PR Specialist. She primarily represents US based Tech Startups.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
To be honest, PR was never a career option when I opted for Mass Media studies. I wanted to be a journalist and cover women issues on a global level. After my graduation, I was desperate enough to get an internship within big media houses but fortunately or unfortunately I couldn’t get in. So, I decided to give PR a shot by trying out an internship in a small agency. PR was a challenge but I enjoyed it. This is when I discovered a knack for PR and Communications. 5 years down the line, I am still in the same industry and it turned out to be perfect for me!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I doubt if it’s an interesting story but it’s surely a memorable one. My boss asked me to make my first pitch call to a top newspaper editor. I was dead scared, I prepared a short pitch note. I wrote every single word down in my diary so I don’t mess it up. She received my call on the third attempt, asked me sternly if this is urgent. Before I could reply, she disconnected! Thats it! I was heartbroken and in tears. Moments later, she texted me that she was sorry. She was busy and my constant calls irritated her and this is how I cracked my first big story!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, this is embarrassing. During my early days as an intern, while disseminating a press release, I CC’ed it to my contact list instead of BCC’ing it. My senior, who is a sweetheart came to me and laughed on my stupidity. I will never forget it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Presently, I am working on some very interesting and innovative Tech startups, Mobile apps, EduTech platforms, Dating Apps, etc.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- PR is not about how strong your media list is on your excel sheet — No matter how strong your contact list is on your sheet, it means nothing if you are unable to convert it into a real-time relationship. The PR — Journalists dynamic is unique yet simple. It is a give & take relationship. There were times where I was disheartened for not receiving expected responses from the journalists. With time I realised how difficult and irritating it would be to receive 1000 pitch emails in a day. The first step to build a relationship is to understand and respect their schedule. Once you form a strong connection with them, you will realise that a few meaningful relations are far better and beneficial than 1000 media contacts.
- Always look for different angles rather than using the same pitch note — This is the most important part of our job — to make your ordinary content stand out. If a pitch isn’t working, one should try out another approach. Make it more interesting, connect it with the ongoing or upcoming trend as so it compels the journalist. Never send a same email twice!
- A big no to mass dissemination — Not only it increases the chances that your mails are going to the spam box, it creates a very bad impression that you sending a completely irrelevant pitch to a journalist. This ruins your chance of connecting with the journalist in near future. There is a good chance that they might block you too. Hence, it’s very important to do your research before starting a campaign. Every client needs a customised target media list to achieve the expected results.
- Don’t try too hard — Sometimes it just doesn’t work, even if you have bang on contacts, great content and what not! So, don’t be hard on yourself.
- PR is may not be a 9 to 5 job, CREATE your work life balance — It took me a while to understand this and I still find myself struggling between my personal and professional life. It is very difficult to find a balance, I know if a journalist will respond to my pitch in the middle of a family dinner or say around 2 am, I will reply them at that moment. Sometimes, your client will have a query or need an update even after work hours. You just can’t go on like this. Maintaining a balance, spending quality time with your family holds the same importance. You have to follow strict ground rules while it comes to PR.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
When it comes to networking or what I call — Relationship building, being warm, and welcoming tops the list. You should research about the journalist before approaching them, what kind of stories they work on, topics they are interested in, maybe follow them on twitter and understand their stance on the current issues. I don’t want to sound like a stalker but it’s very important to find a common or a strong ground to start a conversation.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Research is the key. It requires time, commitment and brainstorming.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Yes, I have attended many online classes, webminars and I still do. I believe there is no limit to learning. With new trends and technologies emerging every single day, one should be updated to be well rooted in the market.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Equal Pay & Equal Opportunities for Women. If I could influence a number of people, I would be honoured to start this moment to institute the much needed change in our society.