5 frequent client questions—and how PR pros can respond

You want to deliver the world, but many aspects of landing coverage lie beyond your control. Here are ways to reply to common queries and requests.

Every organization wants exposure, increased credibility, third-party validation, and a leadership team that is the go-to resource for its industry.

Public relations can help tick all those boxes, but it takes trust, collaboration and abundant patience. Unfortunately, PR pros are often saddled with unrealistic demands and expectations

Here are five requests that PR pros hear all too often:

1. We did an interview two days ago. Why hasn’t it been published yet?

We live in a world of immediate gratification. Unfortunately, writers still have a review process and other articles in their pipeline. Additionally, given the immediacy of today’s 24/7 news cycle, news outlets often back-burner articles if newsworthy or trending topics take precedence.

Teena Maddox, a senior writer for TechRepublic, says, “Publishing schedules often change, and stories that were slated for the next day are pushed to the next week or beyond.” She also says, “An interview is simply that—an interview. It’s not a promise of a published story.”

2. I’m not available for that interview. Can we do it next week?

The simple answer is no. Writers are under deadline. Sometimes there’s flexibility, but in the world of PR, if you have the request for an interview, you should probably take it, or the outlet will find a company that will. After all, you are on the outlet’s timeline, not vice versa.

3. Why wasn’t my quote at the top of the article?

The PR team doesn’t know the answer to this. It is responsible for your PR strategy, media outreach, scheduling interviews and following up—not writing or editing the article.

PR pros have no say in how many quotes you, the client, might get, whether you are the featured voice or a mention, or where your comments will fall within the article. Maddox says, “As a reporter, I use what I think works in the article.” That is important remember. The writer has full authority on where to put quotes within an article. So, it is important to focus on building that relationship rather than questioning why a quote fell where it did.

4. I see the author covers our area of expertise. Why weren’t we asked to be the expert source?

There are two things to know regarding this question:

  • It is the PR team’s responsibility to monitor the daily news and to bring potential opportunities to your attention. It is also in the PR team’s wheelhouse to talk with news media connections to keep tabs on what may be on their horizon regarding upcoming articles. However, before asking a PR team this question, understand that, unless the writer posts his or her upcoming need on a public forum, such as HARO, or the writer happens to be a “regular” media connection, a PR professional may not know what is being written until it is published. There are tons of reporters and many company reps who can comment on their topics. However, when the article posts, it is appropriate for the PR team to connect, to make an introduction regarding your expertise, and to see whether there is a chance for a follow-up article.
  • “Cover” is a tricky word. Often there are more written pieces than reporters, so a substantial portion must have been written by industry leaders. When you see an article and wonder why you weren’t asked for comment, look at the author’s bio. It is very possible that it wasn’t written by a reporter at all, but by an industry expert. If that writer is your competitor, he or she wouldn’t ask you for an interview. However, your PR team can reach out to the editor and mention the article. Maybe, given the outlet’s interest in the topic, you can write an article, too.

5. Can you get us into The Wall Street Journal?

The client and PR team should shoot for the moon. However, understand that the higher the outlet’s visibility, the more competition there is for expert comment. Your company isn’t the only one seeking coverage, and your PR team is fighting to gain attention over every other pitch that comes through the reporter’s inbox.

So, before putting this on your wish list, ask yourself: “Are we willing and able to offer comment on a specific current event? Do we have a solution to it? Were we involved in it? Do we have inside information that can shed new light on it?” If the answer is yes, then your PR team ought to know. However, if you want to offer expertise but don’t want to be specific or relevant, this may just be a lofty wish, and a different outlet may be better served. After all, there’s nothing wrong with working with smaller publications, with a smaller but targeted audience, to get your feet wet.

Your PR team is working hard, but many things are beyond their control. Give them space and time to work, be available when given an opportunity, don’t overthink the finished product, and know that your idea of success is probably theirs, too.

Doreen Clark is the director of public relations for SmartBug Media. A version of this post first appeared on SmartBug Media’s blog.

Topics: PR


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