2. Don't beat a dead horse. If your firm has not heard back from a reporter, it might be because that reporter thinks the pitch isn't any good, or it might have nothing to do with that. Reporters in our space get hammered every day with pitches. We all get too much email, but if your PR person/firm is being shut out, or if that person is you, don't push harder, push somewhere else.
If you can't get a story in one journal, try a secondary blog like TechCrunch, or another influential, non-primary source. Then, once you have the placement you're after, you'll find using that for more story pitches elsewhere will bear fruit.
3. Be considerate of reporters' time. If you had seven 350-word deadlines today, received more than 300 emailed pitches every day, and just received a press release from a PR firm that was dated today, would you even bother reading it?
Think about it; the PR firm's primary job is to build relationships and mindshare with your brand among the gatekeepers in the space, especially editors. If that firm does not treat these editors with enough respect and makes their jobs more difficult, rather than easier, then the firm won't get much in the way of results, no matter how powerful it is or how deep its Rolodex is.
4. Please, no hype. As my friend, the widely respected PR exec George Simpson, told me, "Don't allow or encourage your PR firm to write releases and/or pitches that are full of marketing hyper-speak. You know, all those stupid phrases that no one will buy anyway like 'industry leading' and 'trendsetting' and 'landmark.' If they ever start off a sentence with 'Finally,' fire them immediately. If they use an exclamation point anywhere in their copy, cut their retainer by half."
Amen, George. Generating credible mindshare is about news, which had better be about facts. Hype is a big red flag to a reporter. It's hard enough to get some of the people who cover our space to even understand some of the byzantine business models in play.
5. Help reporters build a story. Reporters will seldom prefer to do a feature on a particular company, and when they do it's usually because that company is defining a new segment, or a new way to look at an old segment.
If you want to actually get down to the business of media placement, try to add value for an editor or reporter some time. Engage them about how they covered something before, something not at all relevant to your pitch. Learn from them and see if they'll let you get close enough so they can learn from you. This will require not pitching all the time. It will require doing the reading, and getting smart in industry segments. It's not that complicated. It is, however, pretty much work.
6. Don't rely on press to drive sales. This response is my favorite one, and it's the most essential from one of our industry's most respected editors. I hear it all the time, within broader complaints.
Do you think your company is adding value to your segment's ecosystem? Or, do you just want press to drive sales? If it's the former, then build your pitch along these lines. If it's the latter, consider buying some advertising. Meaningful PR requires more than that.
Meaningful PR for our space requires far more time and labor than just about any other marketing discipline. If you do hire a PR firm, do what the best in the business recommend -- ask the editors from the publications at the top of this column, the ones who provided our six axioms, who they would recommend you work with. You may or may not be surprised. But at least you'll know whose calls and emails have a better chance of being answered.
When these calls start reaching their targets, you'd better get busy, because your work is only beginning. Getting calls answered by reporters is hard enough. But that looks simple when you compare it to getting client sources lined up to go on the record and third-party stakeholders to hammer home your messages. Ask your PR professional how they do this, and if they don't know what a stakeholder is, show them the door.
Mark Naples is managing partner, WIT Strategy.
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