Why ‘Ghosting’ Is the Scariest PR Faux Pas



Posted: In: Blogs Musings

Disappearing into thin air or “ghosting” on a friend, stranger, or blind date with whom you have plans is one thing. But vanishing on a colleague or professional partner is a whole different kind of scary that can really chip away at your credibility.

In celebration of this spooky month, we’re exploring how even the most well-intended, data-driven PR campaigns can be derailed due to the act of “ghosting” — something that both communications professionals and the media are occasionally guilty of when digging themselves out of mounds of emails.

Here, three PR pros share how they have dealt with “ghosting” gracefully and managed to turn unresponsiveness into opportunities.

Don’t assume the worst: they could be “ghosting” you for personal reasons

This was once the case for Brooke Van Natta, a Senior Communications Consultant based in Silicon Valley. “There was once a reporter who was working on an exclusive for a client of mine and all the ducks were in a row,” says Van Natta. “The release was in the queue, and then the reporter disappeared day of the launch. I found out later that she had had a family emergency, gets a million emails a day, and wasn’t responding to anyone, understandably so.”

Once the reporter was back in her groove, she ended up writing an even longer, more in-depth article that surpassed Van Natta’s expectations, perhaps due in part to the fact that she and Van Natta had a strong relationship to begin with. “People are humans and family emergencies happen,” says Van Natta. “Sometimes we forget that reporters have personal lives too.”

Being a reliable source for the media requires responsiveness  

Any relationship requires respect and responsiveness — and professional relationships are no exception.  

“As any PR pro worth their salt knows, if you ‘ghost’ a reporter who is reaching out to you for a story, it’s likely to haunt you for a while to come,” says Richard Carufel, Editor of PR and communications publication Bulldog Reporter. “The media tend to hold the upper hand in PR situations, and that is a commitment that you, as a PR professional, can never forego. On the other hand, being a reliable source and resource for journalists will almost certainly keep the cobwebs clear for your future outreach and client coverage.”

Try turning “being ghosted on” into something positive

Sara Day, Senior Communications Manager for MobileIron, was able to turn a PR “ghosting” scenario into an opportunity.  

“Disconnects happen,” says Day. “Every time they do, there is an opportunity for PR professionals to better understand a reporter’s needs and goals. For example, I once asked a reporter to make a minor change to a story. He honored my request but got annoyed. I used this response as a chance to have a positive, human conversation with him that went beyond the story at hand. That conversation created rapport that has been the basis of a strong working relationship between us ever since.”

And if someone “ghosts” on you, here’s what to do:

“If you’ve been ghosted on, just do your best to maintain your own integrity,” says Van Natta. “If someone’s not getting back to you, don’t presume the worst. The reality is that the person might have something real going on in their life. Make an adequate attempt to get ahold of them, whether by phone, text, or email, then move on.”

“Don’t take it personally,” says Day. “Reporters get busy and angles change. If you’ve done your job, the ‘ghosting’ likely has nothing to do with you. However, if you’re dealing with a repeat offender, consider taking your story elsewhere.”