Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Waiting Game

I've been thinking lately about rejection. No, not on the personal level. Rather, the types of rejections received by freelance writers when querying publications, anybody when applying for jobs, and PR pros when pitching journalists. Or maybe I should say the lack of rejection.

Because in today's busy, busy, busy business world, that's what seems to happen most often. You hear nothing back at all.  You wait...and wait...and wait.

And that's a shame, since email should be making the rejection process so easy. After all, nobody anymore needs to type a letter on a sheet of paper, fold it, stick it in an envelope, and mail it. Or even just print a page from the computer and feed it into a fax machine. All anyone has to do is compose an email and hit "Send."

I can hear the snickers now. There's so much email coming in. There's no time to open each one, hit "Reply," type a short message or even just paste a form letter into text, and then hit "Send." It's so much easier and faster to just hit "Delete."

So I've devised a solution -- all that's needed is a techie to develop it. Instead of hitting "Delete" or "Reply," let's add another option to the email toolbar or pull-down menu: a "Reject" button.

When "Reject" is pushed, a pre-written form letter will automatically be sent to the original sender. For journalists rejecting PR folk like me, this could say something like, "Sorry. Can't do your story now. Go pitch it elsewhere." The pitchee is saved from having to endure even more emails and phone calls. The pitcher can move on to the next target.

For editors rejecting freelance writers: "Your idea is excellent but doesn't meet our needs at this time, etc.."

For HR execs rejecting job applicants: "Your qualifications are impeccable, but we have decided to go in another direction."

Sounds crass, but sure beats the waiting game.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Into the Woods...

"J.D.  Salinger worked in PR briefly. Maybe that's what drove him into the woods for 40 years." When I saw that tweet last week from Mark Ragan, I realized that I'd been somewhat in the woods myself. Not 40 years obviously, just a bit over 40 days since my last blog post. 

But as with Salinger (and here my comparisons with the literary great will end, lest I be a classic phony - as far as I'm concerned, when you write a work as great as The Catcher in the Rye, or  Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, you have the perfect right to live the rest of your life as you goddamn well please), just because I've been in public seclusion doesn't mean I haven't been writing. That's often the hidden side of public relations, even if PR might tend to drive you a bit crazy.

So, in addition to the occasional visible tweet, I've been busily penning press releases, bylined articles, speaking proposals, promotional letters, academic action plans, conference agendas, you name it. Just nothing with my name on it.

But a group of my friends were talking the other day about how Jane Austen couldn't publish under her own name during her own time (a personal shout-out here to Ann Henrendeen, whose distinctive take on Austen, Pride/Prejudice, has just been published by HarperCollins) and how Mary Anne Evans was forced to become George Eliot.

Oh, to live in the 21st Century, when you don't even need a HarperCollins to get published (though it certainly helps); at the very least, anyone can write essays and distribute them via blogs.

JD Salinger didn't tweet, blog or Facebook (is that a verb?). I doubt he even emailed. Indeed, in the 2002 flick, The Good Girl (not to be confused with the current TV series The Good Wife), when Justine (perhaps Jennifer Aniston's most ambitious role) tells the Holden Caufield-inspired character (played by Jake Gyllenhall), "you're not very social," he replies, "I'm a writer." (see clip below)

So with Social Media Week (an attempt to get social media fanatics socializing in person rather than virtually) beginning today in six cities worldwide, I'm going to honor the memory of Salinger and his most famous character by hunkering down and writing, writing, writing. You'll hear from me again when I get out of the woods.