Please stop promising your clients media coverage
If there's one thing I've learned recently, it's that the media pitching world is tougher than ever.
It used to be that securing media coverage for a client, while maybe not always a slam dunk, seemed easier.
Many of us who have been at this a while have seen it get increasingly difficult to find the opportunities. There are now something like four PR pros for every reporter. This allows journalists to be much choosier as far as which stories to cover.
And while they may want PR pros to believe it’s about sloppy, misdirected pitches, it may really be more about the access journalists have to sources, given their increased use of social media to do their work.
While we don’t want to imply that earning media coverage can’t be done, we have to set expectations with clients accordingly. Here's how.
1. With PR, there are no promises
This has always been a source of controversy within the PR community.
There are some in public relations who will promise a potential client coverage. That isn’t a good idea. It isn’t truthful. If we’re honest, none of us can promise coverage. That’s why it’s called earned media. The only way to guarantee coverage is to pay for it.
While that’s increasing in popularity with the rise of sponsored content—which certainly can play a role in a campaign—it isn’t pure media coverage. So don’t make promises you can’t keep.
2. Set attainable goals
When you’re working with a client to determine who to pitch a story to, it helps to set realistic goals.
A startup who wants to be in the Wall Street Journal, for example, may have to start with the lower hanging fruit, say a local business journal, for example. Once that story is secured, you can pursue industry vertical coverage. And so on.
If you promise The Today Show right out of the gate, you’re setting yourself up for problems down the road.
3. Explain how the news cycle works
There’s no longer a such thing as a slow news day. The news cycle is moving faster than ever. There are more outlets that work around the clock and more breaking news stories than we’ve ever seen. Things are always subject to change.
That doesn’t mean a story won’t appear, but it can shift according to whatever news may be breaking. Make sure they understand that this is out of a PR person’s control.
4. Until you see a story appear, don’t take it for granted
Use care when sharing information about a reporter’s potential interest in a story with a client. Remind the client that journalists change their minds. Just because initial interest is expressed, that’s not a guarantee of a story.
For example, I was talking with a colleague who’d contacted a reporter that expressed interest in a story but needed some time to think it through. They agreed to touch base later. It turned out the editor didn’t have a place in mind for the story and felt that after looking more closely at the materials provided, that it wasn’t a fit at this time.
5. Have a plan B
If your pitch falls through, it’s always good to have a backup plan.
Maybe you could consider sponsored content or self-publishing. If the clients has a blog, you can use the story there. Maybe the pitch needs to be rewritten. Or perhaps you need to try another reporter or outlet. There are always options.
Yes, securing media coverage for clients can be a slippery slope these days. By considering your options and setting client expectations appropriately, you’ll ease the process for everyone.
You'll find Michelle Messenger Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and award-winning writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, Spin Sucks, Freelancers Union and others. She was named a Top 100 PR Influencer by Onalytica. Michelle also serves on the advisory board of Women in PR USA.
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