PR has earned a spot on CareerCast’s annual list of America’s most stressful jobs for the last three years, and I expect we’ll see it again in this year’s list.
PR pros dedicate hundreds of hours researching our clients’ markets, defining their messages, identifying the right publications, building relationships with those editors, building new relationships when those editors change, and more. Ultimately, even with all this preparation, we don’t know for sure what the result of a pitch will be until after we’ve we hit send.
I’m sure most seasoned PR professionals have been there at least once: You pitched an announcement and heard nothing but crickets. Some might be tempted to send repeated follow-ups to your contacts, much like this woman, which resulted not in coverage for her client but an embarrassing (but free) lesson in PR from none other than David Pogue.
Don’t be that PR person. Instead, follow these tips to see if there’s another way to get legs out of your announcement.
Step back and evaluate the situation. This should be the first thing you do when you realize the announcement isn’t generating interest. There could be reasons that are specific to the news itself.
Did the latest iPad launch keep your target editors from reviewing your app? (Note: An Apple event is a no-fly zone way before the actual day of the event.) Was the message clear to an outside reader? Or were your (and your client’s) expectations reasonable? Assuming it’s not this last option, you can move on to the next steps.
If the last option was the issue, then you must break it to your client. A seasoned PR pro would have had this conversation before the announcement (although clients don’t always take this advice). If this news comes just as harshly to you as to your client, you probably ought to spend a little time revisiting what’s going on in the industry.
Maybe a competitor made a similar announcement, which flew under your radar, making this an outdated tool. Whatever the answer, you need to make a course correction—fast—or don’t expect to hang on to that client much longer.
Revise your positioning, or try to fit the news into a trend. Often clients are in love with new product features, but maybe that’s not the right angle for a reporter, who wants to cover a bigger picture. Try revising the pitch to get them to see why the news is important.
For example, your client has a new tool for analyzing Web traffic jams. That might not get people buzzing, but if your client can offer insight as to how the HealthCare.gov problems could have been avoided, you might perk up some ears.
Ask for feedback from journalists. Don’t forget about David Pogue’s lesson from that persistent PR woman. As PR pros, we spend a lot of time cultivating relationships with editors who influence our clients’ markets.
If you do have such a relationship, leverage it and pick that editor’s brain. This conversation should be more about finding out what, if anything, would interest her, rather than grilling her about the prior pitch. This is helpful information for your client, and most journalists want you to understand why they are or are not interested in covering something.
If you take this route, you should also be cognizant about what could be going on in their world at the time. For example, if they cover Apple and it’s WWDC week, there’s no need to ask them about why they’re not interested.
Do more research. Creating a media list is often a combination of understanding the publication’s audience, researching a journalist’s topic area, and leveraging the relationships you have. You want your media list to take into account all these things. Though that is an effective strategy on a whole, when it doesn’t pan out, you probably should do some extra digging.
Many of my clients fall into the peripherals of several “beats,” so it pays to look around for reporters who have covered relevant topics and pitch them as well. Make sure you’re going way beyond your media database-strategic Google and Twitter searches have just as much value in these situations.
Consider an exclusive on a new angle. OK, your client didn’t want to put all its eggs in one basket. Understandable. I don’t usually advocate exclusives unless it’s exactly right for a given audience or topic niche. At some point, though, an exclusive might be worth considering.
If there is a chance the news may not get picked up with a widespread pitch, float the possibility of the exclusive in advance, so it does not surprise your client.
These are just some tips that can be useful. I’m sure other PR pros can offer many more. I’d love to hear them in the comments below, as well as any real-world experiences detailing how those tips have paid off.
Lydia Howard is the account director at Vantage PR. (Image via)