Don’t Fish With Strawberries & Cream

Even though Dale Carnegie died over 30 years before I was born, he is one of my business heroes. The principles he taught in his many books, seminars, and lectures are timeless and when applied correctly work social miracles. Each idea he taught is forever applicable because in his own words, “The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don’t like their rules whose would you use?”

No matter what area of business you work in you can apply his business lessons. But, in few professions are his lessons more important than in public relations.

One such lesson, one of my all-time favorites, is on knowing and caring about your audience. Carnegie advocated when we know what our audience wants it is much easier to influence people to our way of thinking.

“I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish,” Carnegie taught.

I recently had the experience of viewing pitches that public relations professionals sent in to me for an article Snapp Conner PR was going to publish for one of our clients. Many of the pitches focused on what the sender wanted to get out of the experience.

“We want to be in this article because…”

“We feel that this opportunity would do _________ for us.”

These kinds of sentences don’t get anyone very far. As Carnegie would say, “Who cares what your company desires? I am worried about my own problems. The bank is foreclosing the mortgage on my house, the bugs are destroying the hollyhocks, the stock market tumbled yesterday. I missed the eight-fifteen this morning, I wasn’t invited to the Jones’s dance last night, the doctor tells me I have high blood pressure and neuritis and dandruff. And then what happens? I come down to the office this morning worried, open my mail and here is some little whippersnapper off in New York yapping about what his company wants. Bah! If he only realized what sort of impression his letter makes, he would get out of the [public relations] business and start manufacturing sheep dip.”

From this experience I’ve learned that when pitching editors we need to think about what they need for their articles, not what we want. We need to find ways to help them write their stories and if it happens to be beneficial to our company or client, great, if not, maybe next time.

The more we can find ways to be helpful and spam less, the more receptive people will be to our ideas later.