The trainer’s quandry

As I’ve noted already on this blog, the ability to pitch story ideas to editors and journalists is absolutely crucial to success in almost every avenue of PR. For that reason many PRs I speak to seem to think it’s an innate skill – it’s one of those things you’ve either got or you haven’t.

I entirely disagree. Innate skill can help, but everyone can learn to do it. In fact that this is the same with almost any human activity – some people are more likely to succeed because of talent they’re born with, but anyone can – with enough hard work and the right training – learn to do it well.

On my Pitching to Editors course I’ve seen clear evidence of this. PRs have turned up, having been sent by their employers, and I can tell that they’re sceptical. Either they think they already know all they need to about pitching, or they don’t think that a training course is going to make any difference. As we discuss what we want to achieve in the training session they tell me that they’re fine getting stories in the lower level trades, but that it’s not possible for them to get coverage in the nationals or the top tier weeklies – the product/company/service isn’t interesting enough, the journalists just aren’t interested, or pitching simply isn’t something they do all that well.

I love it when people start with this attitude. I know that in four hours they’ll be thinking differently. They’ll have discovered exactly what journalists want in pitches from PRs, they’ll have learnt a step by step methodology for producing pitches that get results, and they’ll have put it into practice, producing a pitch that they can send out as soon as they get into the office the next day.

I also know that in four weeks, after they’ve worked with me for a few minutes every day building and sending a pitch a week, they’ll have got coverage in those nationals and top tier titles they thought were impossible.

Ask any trainer and they’ll tell you that’s what they love: transforming attitudes and helping people achieve what they thought was impossible.

They’ll also tell you that what frustrates them most about their work is that so few people realise how possible all this is. It’s a cliche that the ones who are most likely to ask for help are those least likely to need it,  but it’s so true. Most of those who come along to my training sessions are already well on the way to becoming outstanding PR professionals – they’re open to self-development and are reaping the benefits.

It’s the ones who don’t come along, who believe that they don’t need training or that training isn’t going to make any difference – you’ve either got the ability or you haven’t – that frustrate me. I know that they’re probably infuriating my fellow journalists and editors by continuing to send out really bad pitches. And they’re probably disappointing their clients or employers by not getting coverage in the top titles. But what’s worst of all is that this stubborn refusal to accept that training can make a difference is such a waste of their potential.

But if they never open their minds to the possibility of self-development they’ll never discover what a difference it can make. They’ll continue to see training as an expense, not an investment. Although they’d never openly admit this they probably see training as a bit of a con – one of those things that only fools waste their money on.

This is the trainer’s quandry – the people who are most in need of training are those least likely to accept it.

But what can I do about it?

What can any training provider do about it?

Answers on a postcard please…..

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