I’ve been in public relations for more than 30 years. During that time, I have dealt with hundreds of reporters from myriad beats and walks of life. I always kept the relationships professional with all of those media contacts, though occasionally crossing the line by meeting for drinks or sharing stories about our personal lives. As you might imagine, after all these years in the business, I’ve seen and heard it all.
Admittedly, after doing it for so long, it got tiresome to send out a pitch and not hear back from a reporter. When you begin this profession, you take this rejection personally, but after a while you build up enough calluses that you don’t care, or you become so cynical you think the worst about everyone on the other end of your pitch.
Then I met Larissa Faw.
When I started my previous job at Sapient-Razorfish, my boss called me about a story pitch we were working on. “I want you to reach out to Larissa Faw,” he said. “I have a feeling that the two of you are going to really hit it off.” We did.
Larissa was one of those rare reporters, at least to me, who treated me like a human being from the get-go. Remember, for every pitch I’ve sent out in my long career, you can probably multiply that by 12 for every rejection that showed up in my inbox, voicemail or, worse, during a follow-up call—those are the worst!
After hearing the stunning news about her death, I wondered what my life would be like if she had either deleted my email or just ignored it.
After 30 years in the business, I let my guard down with Larissa, and she and I became friends despite the fact that we never met. We corresponded regularly, and I heard about all the horrible pitches—and people—that crossed her path, and she heard the same from my end. We never took it seriously. And we talked about some positive things too.
It’s easy to just delete an email and, after hearing the stunning news about her death, I wondered what my life would be like if she had either deleted my email or just ignored it. It’s so easy to do, and rarely do you think about the person on the other end—regardless of whether they are a pain in the ass or not, they have a job to do.
When I started writing my column for The Advocate more than two years ago, Larissa always teased me about going to “the dark side.” And she told me, “You know, you have it reversed. You’re supposed to start in journalism with no money and end up in PR where the money is.” Sometimes life throws you curveballs, and I told her, “I’m just happy to be writing.”
When my longtime partner graduated from medical school this spring, there was a chance that he would accept a residency in Portland, Ore., where Larissa made her home at the time. I reached out with the news, and she and I were both thrilled. Not only would we have a chance to meet, but we could actually become in-person friends, particularly after the forced separation of all of us during the pandemic. Unfortunately, my partner was placed elsewhere, and regrettably, we never got the chance to meet.
For my final digital marketing class this semester that I teach at Wagner College in New York, I asked Larissa to guest lecture via Zoom. She was fantastic, and the two of us were like a modern-day rendition of Martin and Lewis. The students laughed the whole time, loved Larissa and eavesdropped on some heavy media industry gossip and war stories.
As a columnist now, and on Larissa’s side of the media equation, I know what it’s like to be pitched. Sometimes it’s not fun, sometimes it’s not pretty, and most times it sure as hell isn’t relevant to what I write about. But I don’t ignore anyone who reaches out to me, because how do I know what’s happening on the other side?
And the reason I treat everyone with respect is because of Larissa. She gave me the respect of a reply, and in doing so, a friendship that I will treasure for the rest of my life.