Andrew Cuneo 20 Jul 2017 // 1:31AM GMT
If you’re in public relations, chances are you’ve felt the following emotions: excitement, angst, frustration, anxiety, pride, sadness and – most of all – satisfaction. A win – a hit, a good release, a byline – is about as high as you can get on pure air.
However today’s PR world is missing a key emotion that could change the way we think about our company, clients or colleagues: empathy. Jay Sorrels, a well-known PR expert based in London, would coach and motivate his teams with just two simple words:
In Jay’s mind, anything worth doing was worth doing right and to do so, you had to believe what you were saying. A savant in obscure music, art and poetry, Jay saw beauty in everything. He would describe things with beautiful language. For example, you wouldn’t just listen to music, it was “putting art in your ear.” Jay was my cousin who tragically died last month at the age of 40 but he left a legacy which we could all learn from. Let me explain.
On Tuesday morning, I was in the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. attending a keynote at Microsoft’s Partner Conference, Inspire. It was equal parts informative, educational, and humorous and we were treated to stories, not sales pitches. As the keynote drew to a close, an emotional customer story emerged.
A young girl from Armenia was born two months prematurely and was more susceptible to a rare but aggressive form of childhood blindness. Through technology provided by Microsoft, Polycom and SADA Systems, the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles emerged as a central figure in a collaborative network that ultimately delivered a surgical solution for this young girl – one that now allows this young girl to see the world before her. In an emotional twist, Microsoft brought the little girl and her family on stage to meet the doctors in person for the first time.
I’ll let you hear the rest of the story, but as I found myself wiping tears from my face (13,000 others joined me so it’s ok), I thought about Jay. I felt it.
In today’s PR world a pitch that leads with a product will most likely be discarded. Why? Because in today’s world, no one cares about products anymore unless it’s a consumer product developed by Apple. In the story I shared above – a rare example – at no point did it get into the specific technologies that brought these doctors together. The story was about the girl. Reporters want a story that takes them on an emotional journey.
We’re measured, and ultimately deemed successful, by numbers. Number of articles, share of voice, advertising space, impressions, engagements. But if you build and believe in the right story, the metrics will come.
A story exists in all pitches we share. You just need to look for it. You just need to feel it.
Andrew Cuneo is senior corporate communications & PR manager at Polycom.