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Grieving for Lost PR Opportunities? Make New Ones

There are five phases of grief - and it can be all too tempting to fall into them if your news or stories are overlooked. What can you do instead? How can you fight the downward spiral and come back fighting?

It was the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” who first claimed there are five phases of grief. The five emotions experienced by those dealing not just with death, but with all kinds of serious negatives.

The five stages are “denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance” – and according to Kübler-Ross, the loss of a job or income, major rejection, the end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, all can bring people into the five phase spiral.

It’s not even people dealing with big things, those sweating the small stuff can even experience similar after minor losses or setbacks. Those on the losing side in referenda or elections, or whose sports teams let them down can also be left reeling.

What about business? Can a loss or setback in the cut and thrust world of professional life also come with these phases? The answer would seem to be yes…and surprisingly, there are many who work in public relations and communications who are particularly susceptible.

So let’s look at what can go wrong, and of how people deal with the good, bad and ugly side of PR or media coverage. One of the most obvious and jarring “failures” can be when a press release is ignored. When the media don’t want to know, then this is all too often the starting point of the five phases of grief.

Denial – When the first inkling that a story is being overlooked appears, then denial is a natural reaction. Repeatedly banging F5 on your keyboard as you stare at your favourite news site isn’t going to bring your story to life. Denial, thinking that there is somehow a mistake, as you cling to a false hope, isn’t going to make your news grab the headlines.

Anger – So they haven’t run with your story have they? Why those pesky journalists…cue banged fists on the desk and steam from ears. When the individual recognises that denial cannot continue, they become frustrated and this can spill into anger. Certain psychological responses include, “It’s so unfair”, "Why me?”, "How can this happen?"; "Who is to blame?" Who, how and why indeed.

Bargaining – The third stage involves the hope that the cause of grief can be avoided. Usually, the negotiation for a story to be printed is made in exchange for all manner of bargains. The person would “give anything” to get the story covered. Alas there can usually be no bargain…though some resort to threats to withdraw advertising, that can sometimes pique an editors interest – but that is a desperate, awful one shot deal.

Depression – "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?" That is what happens when someone feels overlooked, ignored and unworthy of being printed. Pitiful really, but there you are. In this state, the individual may become silent, refuse to spend time with others, and will likely sulk and be sullen.

Acceptance – Lastly comes the epiphany, "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it; let’s just move on." In this last stage, individuals embrace the facts and deal with it. Which can save a lot of time and energy.

So don’t grieve for lost PR, or because the media aren’t playing ball. If the message or narrative is ignored, sit back and take another look. You can think about why, but don’t deny what has happened, don’t get angry or try and bargain, and certainly don’t get depressed. Jump to stage 5, deal with what has happened and accept that it could be because of a whole host of reasons.

Use the knock back as a means of reflection. Was the story actually interesting? Was it well written? Are you dealing with the right people and publications. Accepting something bad, can be the start of something better.

At McWatt & Jones we specialise in working with companies to help develop their PR and communications. We can get you that winning media coverage, those speaking engagements and drive the results you want. So get in touch and let's discuss what we can do for you. We can help you understand the secrets to PR, to unleash your story and get you where you need to go. We'd love to hear from you. Email

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