Picture this – a public relations professional with a great client story visits the cafeteria at the “Chicago Tribune” to facilitate “chance” meetings with reporters. This is an example of chutzpah, and it led to cover features, ongoing relationships with key reporters, and more. Chutzpah is a Yiddish term that roughly translates to “audacity” or “nerve,” and it’s an intangible quality that successful PR professionals need.

This is a true story from early in my career and my pre-presidency days at Winger Marketing. While access to the Tribune’s cafeteria is now restricted, and this particular move is no longer possible, the same chutzpah principle applies. For example, simply emailing a pitch to an editor and assuming the job is done is a passive, non-chutzpah stance. Editors typically get hundreds of emails per day, the print industry has shrunk in the last few decades, and social media has increased the amount of messages that people are exposed to per day. Chutzpah is more important than ever when amplifying brands and getting client stories in front of a desired audience. Here are five important insights about chutzpah and its place in public relations:

  • Having chutzpah means being bold and resourceful, and finding creative solutions to challenges. It does not mean being overly aggressive or using in-your-face tactics that drive people away. The goal is to develop relationships, not damage them.
  • Chutzpah can keep PR professionals motivated. Rather than being discouraged by a minor setback, they can use the setback as fuel to inform their next move. They understand that every “no” is just one step closer to a “yes.”
  • Having chutzpah means being comfortable outside of your comfort zone. A PR professional who never takes chances or who only operates within familiar parameters is setting themselves up for disappointment.
  • Chutzpah is innate, but it can also be learned. Some people seem to have a natural ability to make things happen and to forge ahead despite the adversity they may encounter. Still, people who are generally more timid can develop chutzpah the same way any skill is developed – through regular practice.
  • Chutzpah is contagious. When people witness audacious individuals achieving their goals and making a positive impact, it inspires them to take action as well.

On the client side, you can vet an agency or PR professional for chutzpah through a series of questions. “What steps do you take if you don’t hear back from an editor?”; “Will you tell me what I want to hear, or will you tell me what I need to know?”; “How are you adapting to changes in the industry?” and so on.

I was recently asked what new PR professionals just starting out in the industry need to “make it,” and the first thing that came to mind is chutzpah. Without it, they’re likely to miss out on significant opportunities – for themselves and for their clients.