Advice From a PR Pro: How to Deal When You're Passed Over for a Project
About 15 minutes ago, I lost an awesome client. Well, she wasn't quite mine yet, but I had already dreamt up her PR campaign, including all of the awesome pitches I would send and all of the great press I would get for her fabulous product.
But for whatever reason, our contract didn’t end up coming to fruition. Was it a bout of cold feet? A business plan pivot? Or—was it me?
Being passed over for a project always feels like I’m the last to be chosen in middle school dodgeball again (except then I didn't really even want to get picked—I wanted to draw or play some game that didn't involve so much violence). And it probably always will.
But, after selling my wares as a PR professional all day every day for several years now, I’ve had to learn that this type of rejection isn’t personal—it’s just business. Here are a few things I’ve learned that have made it sting a little bit less.
Ask for Feedback
If you don't get a certain piece of business, it’s totally OK to ask for feedback as to why you weren’t the one chosen. Some people will offer this, and some won't, but it is worth a shot. Maybe you’ll learn that the client didn’t have the budget or had a relationship with someone else, and you’ll instantly feel better. (See, it’s not about you at all!)
Of course, you should also be prepared for criticism—both constructive and subjective. And while this always sucks to hear, try to look at it as business advice rather than a personal jab. Because it is—and it can also be pretty helpful insight into clients and pitches for the future. Take it for what it’s worth, learn from it, and move on.
Talk to Colleagues
I have a lot of great mentors, but some of the best advice I've gotten is from contemporaries in my field. When I’m feeling particularly down about not getting a piece of business, I’ll run the scenario by a small "brain trust" group of other publicists to see if they've encountered similar things (Is this client known for being hard to please?), or to give me overall advice on pitching and RFPs (was I being too aggressive, or not aggressive enough?).
In addition to getting some helpful pointers, let’s face it: It’s always nice to talk to people who’ve been through rejection, too.
Play the Numbers Game
"If you throw enough *&%^ against the wall, eventually some of it will stick." At the end of the day, you have to remember that you’re not going to get every piece of business you pitch—you just have to keep on throwing. That's the nature of having your own business, or being in sales, or asking out girls. (I don't know this firsthand, because I ask out guys, but I think that's about odds, too.)
There will always be another potential client, another proposal to write, or another pitch to form, so channel your frustrations about this loss into working on that new business. Better yet, take some time to consider what were you most excited about for that particular client or project—and use that as fuel to start looking for similar opportunities.
In business, you can only control so many factors—the way you behave with a client, the way you present yourself, the quality of your work. If all of that is in order, and you've done everything in your control—well, that’s all you can do. Move on to the next awesome pitch.