The 7 Stages of Grief: How to Get Over the Article that Got Away

Your Article Didn't Make The Cut
Your Article Didn't Make The Cut

It happened: the perfect story for your client ran in one of your target publications, but your client wasn't in it. That’s right – you've been left out. Despite all the networking you do, the relationships you maintain with industry reporters and your constant media outreach, you somehow managed to slip this reporter’s mind when she was drafting her piece.

First of all, don’t beat yourself up. This can and does happen to the best of us: even the most successful PR pro doesn't bat 1,000. No matter how good you are, at some point in your career you’ll lose an article that should have been yours - and when it happens to you, you’ll go through the classic 7 stages of grief. Here’s how to deal with each of them:

1. Shock

Finish reading the article and take a few deep breaths. Maybe walk a couple laps around the office to process the terrible injustice unfortunate fact that this reporter didn’t think to include your client. Give yourself a few moments to get over the shock before moving on.

2. Denial

Maybe your client WAS mentioned and you just missed it on the first read. It’s possible, but try to suppress the desire check the article over and over. Here are several places that it’s almost certainly NOT hiding:

  •         On the fold of the newspaper
  •         Copied onto some rogue Silly Putty
  •         On a section of the website that didn’t load properly
  •         On a “deep web” section of the website
  •         On an insert that fell from the magazine
  •         On a fragrance sample that fell from the magazine

No use denying it: it’s not there.

3. Anger

You’re right – it IS completely outrageous to write an article on that industry without including your client’s perspective. How could anyone think that’s a good idea? How could the reporter do this to YOU?

Although it may feel like it, remember that this omission wasn’t personal – reporters, like everyone else, are subject to a broad range of professional pressures that affect what they produce. It’s totally possible that the omission of your client was out of the reporter’s control.

4. Bargaining

Resist the urge to promise the PR gods that you’ll never send a pitch using mail merge EVER AGAIN if they’ll just make the reporter revise the online version – though cathartic, it’s unlikely to have a meaningful impact on your success. Instead, focus on concrete things you can do to make your relationship with the reporter stronger and ensure you’re included their next article.

5. Depression

It’s OK to indulge in the other steps for a bit, but just don’t go there with this one. In PR, like in life in general, there’s always something that can knock you off your horse if you let it – don’t let this do that to you.

You need to look at this omission as an opportunity for growth. That means pulling yourself together, meeting with your team and starting to brainstorm some solutions.

6. Testing

Now it’s time for things to start looking up. Talk with your team about realistic actions you can take to respond. Start with reaching out to the reporter - if you already have a strong relationship, she should be willing to explain what happened and why you got left out.

If you don’t know the reporter so well or haven’t talked to her in a while, this is the perfect chance to get your client on her radar. Think of an inflection point where your client could have fit into her story. Then, give the reporter a quick call (or email, or tweet) to share how much you enjoyed her article and explain what your client could add to any future discussion of the topic.

7. Acceptance

Remember, this happens to the best of us. Accept that you were omitted and think about what you can learn from it. What defines successful people in this business isn't getting omitted or not, but how they respond to it.

By clearing away negative emotions, tweaking strategy and communicating effectively, effective PR pros turn omissions into opportunities. Work through your loss and make sure that your reaction includes a clear strategy for ensuring it doesn't happen again. Finally, communicate that strategy to your client so they know it’s under control!

Have you grieved the loss of the article that got away? Any tips for dealing with it constructively? Let us know in the comments!

Contributed by Greenough Media Team members Andrea LePain (@alepain), Karen Laverty (@LavertyKaren), Christine Williamson (@ChristineDBW), Rachel Vaccari (@Rachel_Vaccari), Lucy Muscarella (@LucyMuscarella) and Caitlin Cimino (@caitlin_cimino).