Coordinating an exclusive story with a top media outlet often brings accolades to PR pros.
Warm, fuzzy feelings also bubble up in newsrooms, as fiercely competitive reporters and producers jockey for first dibs on a fresh or breaking story. Journalists want to feel special, an important dynamic for communicators to understand when offering an exclusive.
These tips can help you avoid missteps during the process:
1. Make sure you have something new to offer.
Exclusives can happen only if your story is unique. Often, organizations are so close to their own activities that they convince themselves they have something distinctive, even though it’s virtually the same as what their competitors offer. Due diligence is imperative; PR pros must make certain that no other group can provide similar content.
2. Create your dream story.
Once you are positive you’re sitting on an exclusive, put on your brand journalist hat and create the content yourself before offering it to journalists. The more you can fully understand all aspects of your pitch, the easier it will be to sell it to a reporter or producer. Your story can be a simple outline, written article or more detailed multimedia piece. Once the exclusive hits, you can use this content in additional pitches and on your company-owned channels.
3. Rank the outlets.
Prioritize the news organizations in the order that you will approach them with the exclusive opportunity. To strategically rank the target channels and publications, answer the questions to these common campaign goals:
Does the outlet have a high audience in your target demographic?
Is the journalist a good match for this story?
Is the reporter trustworthy and relatively low risk?
Do you have a history with the outlet or journalist?
4. Align internal teams.
Assign one person to negotiate the exclusive. Be sure that all internal teammates and PR partners clearly know who is leading the charge. It’s imperative to remind others not to offer anyone an exclusive. Nothing can ruin your special deal faster than a zealous team member talking to the wrong journalist or contact at the wrong time.
5. Start early.
Lead time is essential to successfully execute an exclusive, especially with a major TV network or other national outlet. Ideally, we recommend a minimum three weeks before the date the story will be released. Each special negotiation with an outlet can take up to a week. Remember, your point person on the other side will need time to pitch the story internally, and then make a decision. If the first-ranked outlet declines, you must build in additional time to approach the next decision maker on your list.
6. Focus on specifics.
This is where your communication skills can shine. Be clear and transparent about the terms of your agreement. Be sure your bosses, partners—and especially the folks in the newsroom you’re working with—understand your expectations and what an “exclusive” means. Once verbal agreements are made, send a summary email that confirms (and documents) the details. Be specific about the definition of the word “exclusive”:
Does it mean that the outlet gets to cover the story first, then other news outlets can access the story after they break it?
Or does it mean that no other outlet gets the story other than the exclusive one?
One condition of the pact should be that the journalist commits to a publishing or air date. If the piece gets delayed or doesn’t run for some reason, you need a way to hold them accountable. Moreover, you will probably want to pitch another outlet quickly. You don’t want your story being held hostage.
7. Be honest.
Don’t promise the decision maker something that’s impossible to deliver, just to keep the ball moving forward. You don’t want to mislead a journalist, as being disingenuous can destroy your exclusive as well as your long-term credibility.
8. Maximize with owned media.
Talk with the decision makers about your company-owned media channels. Discuss the rules for your own organization’s promotion of the show or segment on social media before it airs or publishes. Make sure that the people you are coordinating with on the news side know you will be releasing your own content via social media after their exclusive runs. Don’t jeopardize the exclusive by jumping the gun on your company-owned channels.
Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, a public relations firm that specializes in brand journalism. MediaSource has been named Best Health Care Agency in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Ragan’s Health Care PR & Marketing Awards. Connect on Twitter: @LisaArledge.
This article was created in partnership with MediaSource.