Public relations is not a job for those who are easily discouraged. If public relations professionals gave up every time they heard the word “no” or didn’t receive a response from a reporter, they would quickly be out of a job.
In a world of breaking news, shrinking news staffs and high competition, it’s common for organizations to struggle when trying to gain earned media coverage (or news coverage that is not linked to paid advertising).
If you’re agonizing to land your next public relations story, check out the top 9 reasons your outreach is missing the mark.
Your “News” isn’t Newsworthy
It’s the “why do I care” element of public relations. When issuing a news release or pitching a story to a reporter, it’s the public relations expert’s job to find the news-worthy element of the story. Sometimes there simply isn’t one (so save it for your internal company newsletter).
Part of being a public relations professional means being brave enough to push yourself (and others) to be the person at the table who says, “this isn’t news.” Take a step back and evaluate before you pitch. Ask yourself, “if I was a reader, viewer or listener of this media outlet, would I care about this story?”
Your Target is a Mystery
Knowing your target audience is always a best practice of marketing; however, it’s often forgotten when it comes to public relations. Understanding who the reporter is that you are targeting, what they tend to cover, any recent stories they ran about similar topics and even their preference on how they want to be contacted, is all helpful when trying to gain earned media coverage.
You Ignore a Reporter’s Deadline
Reporters are facing constant tight deadlines. As a public relations professional, assume all reporters are on a deadline and commit to helping them meet that deadline. This is a great way to build a strong relationship with a specific reporter while increasing the chance they are going to get the facts of your story correct in their coverage. Just remember, a reporter doesn’t work for you. They will meet their deadlines with or without you as a source. Ignoring a reporter’s deadline could burn a bridge and lead to lack of coverage in the future.
Your CEO is Your Only Interview Source
Although your CEO may be an all-star interview source, reporters like to speak with the “real people” behind a story. Whenever possible, offer to connect media with a third-party source who does not work for your company and will be positively impacted by your announcement. For example, is your nonprofit launching a new program for local families? Find a local family with a great story to tell and add it to your pitch, along with your CEO source.
You’re Ignoring the Trends
Many local stories can be strengthened by connecting them to national trends, allowing reporters to inform their audience about how a national conversation is making an appearance in their own backyard.
Your Tediously Long Emails are being Deleted
Reporters are busy! Skip the long pitch emails with introductory paragraphs about who you are and how nice it is to “meet” them via email. Get straight to the point of what you can offer them. Keep your paragraphs short, factual and direct. Consider using bullets if you need to include more information in your pitch. If you don’t grab a reporter’s attention within the first few lines of your email – you’ve likely lost your opportunity.
Your Story is Full of Fluff
Reporters love hard numbers and stats that grab a reader’s attention. Give them what they want! Use key stats within your email pitch to demonstrate why your story is interesting for your reporter’s audience. Provide reporters with your sources for the information to save them time when verifying facts.
You Respond to Media Requests “When You’re Ready”
Whenever possible, be transparent with reporters. Let them know you are working on their request and if you encounter issues getting them the information or source they need, communicate so they understand why. For instance, is your CEO in a meeting but you have an urgent media request? Instead of ignoring the reporter’s email, tell them you are working on the request and will be back in touch ASAP. If you have a scheduling difficultly, let the reporter know that your source is in a meeting but that you are doing everything you can to track them down. The reporter will likely appreciate your transparency and confirmation that their request is being handled as quickly as possible.
You (or Your Source) isn’t an Industry Thought Leader
Building your source’s reputation as an industry thought leader increases the chances a reporter will want to use them as a source. Explore options for your source to speak as an expert at industry conferences and events, post blogs (like this one) about industry topics, or consider joining and commenting in a LinkedIn group about industry topics. Building a strong reputation helps build credibility when it’s time to pitch your source to a reporter.
Public relations and media relations isn’t an industry for the weak of heart – that’s why the experts in this field are some of the most “pleasantly persistent” people you will ever meet. Use these tips to strengthen your approach to gaining earned media coverage.
Need more support? Contact the GRIT team today to learn more!