If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably heard me to talk about Andy. If that applies to you, stick with me for a moment while I fill everyone in.
I met Andy at an event I was running last month called What Journalists Want - an annual workshop where I get journalists and PR pros together to talk about what makes a great media story.
Andy was working at the venue, and as we were setting up for the event, he mentioned he was holding his first photography exhibition.
“I used to be homeless, see,” he told me. “So I photographed every doorway I ever slept in.’
I wanted to hear his story and I knew others would, too. So I introduced him to colleagues from the national media and, a few days before his exhibition, I did a ring round to remind them.
You can see his story here on BBC London (start watching at 20.59)
And here's me and Andy at his exhibition at the Swiss Church in Covent Garden. London
The irony is, of course, is that there I was hosting a conference for people are paid to work in PR - who had paid hundreds of pounds to come to the event - and the best story of the day came from a casual conversation with a guy working at the venue.
No PR company. No press release. No pitch.
Just a good story. The kind of story you want to talk about with your friends.
The more I tell that story, the more I think it tells you everything you need to know about PR.
When Andy told me about his exhibition, I wanted to hear his story. I wanted to read it in a newspaper, see it on TV or listen to it on the radio.
I had exactly the same feeling when a client told me his parents had separated in their eighties (inspiring his relationship coaching business). When another client told me she wasn’t buying any Christmas presents this year. And when another - an expat living in Denmark - told me about the Danish concept of hygge.
The first story has been commissioned the by the Guardian, the second by the Daily Mail, the third by the Huffington Post.
Proof that they are stories people want to hear.
PR is really just about telling stories.
But where most people go wrong is this: they pitch stories they want to tell rather than stories people want to hear.
Which is why most press releases and pitches you send to journalists get deleted, unopened.
And here's another thing: the stories people want to hear are often the ones you least want to tell. Which can mean making yourself vulnerable: to other peoples' opinions and possibly even their criticism. But in vulnerability there is also an opportunity to connect (which is why this article on why we need to talk about miscarriage got 10,000 social shares in a matter of days).
So if you’re thinking of sending out a press release or pitch today - you have a choice.
You can keeping pitching the stories you want to tell: the new appointments, the product launches or ‘groundbreaking’ projects that no one wants to hear about.
Or you can take a step back and ask yourself: ‘how can I turn this into a story people want to hear?’
Maybe you can’t. In that case you need to ask yourself this: ‘what stories can I tell that people do want to hear?’