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Guest

Media Relations Without the News Release

By: Guest | January 12, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest is written by Keredy Andrews.

When you have put a lot of time and effort into creating a news release, it can be hugely frustrating when you can’t get hold of journalists, or the story is turned down by your target publications.

Hours have been wasted with no results to show your client, meaning you have to keep pushing when other work is piling up.

Most businesses would like positive newspaper or magazine coverage, but the truth is only the very best stories make the page in what is an ever increasingly competitive arena and now, many companies are not suited to a traditional news release approach.

This may be because data or case studies are not available, no new services or products are in the pipeline, or the particular industry is flooded.

Whatever the reason, the client wants media coverage, and you’ve been asked to find a story. Instead of forcing a non-issue or, much worse, fabricating figures, public relations consultants should be managing clients’ expectations (because many still consider the job of a PR agency to write news releases) and using the most appropriate method of gaining coverage.

One alternative technique is to offer a company spokesperson for interview or comment within a planned feature, illustrating the individual’s expertise and shining a light on the business as an authority in it’s field.

Placing thought leadership or advice comments can be more time efficient than the intense and lengthy news release pitching route. Resource is a concern within PR, especially within principled agencies who put the emphasis on delivering results rather than on how many hours have been spent on the account.

If you consider the ratio of time spent to the gained results and compare it to the work involved in gaining a few comment pieces, you can see how putting forward a company individual could be an effective strategy for you.

Four ways to gain media coverage without a news release

  1. Read editorial calendars or forward features lists. Whether you use a specialized paid-for service, contact features editors yourself, or find the list on the publication’s website, forward features lists detail those articles are planned for, often 12 months ahead. Carefully think about what facts, figures, analysis, and advice your client can bring to the feature and have a frank discussion about what’s required with the assigned journalist to secure the opportunity.
  2. Watch for media requests. The integrated agency I work for is registered with a journalist inquiries system, meaning I receive emails (sector specific) with requests for planned features. The range of inquiries is huge but quickly spotting and responding to something relevant to one of my clients has resulted in coverage in national and primary industry publications. Subscribe to HARO if you haven’t already.
  3. Scan Twitter. In a similar way to email alerts, journalists and bloggers use the platform to request commenters and as mentioned in my previous article on Spin Sucks#journorequest is a great hashtag to watch.
  4. Build and maintain relationships. When you begin to service a new client there is no harm in calling the targets to introduce yourself, the business, and any key individuals available for interview and comment. In the past I have struck lucky and on one occasion there was an immediate fit to provide industry advice on a monthly basis (what a win!). Also, if a journalist covers a relevant story or has written about a competitor, let them know that you exist in preparation for the next appropriate opportunity.

Although a quick response, a helpful attitude and a healthy relationship with the journalist is often needed to obtain any print, broadcast, or online PR coverage, I find it is especially important when it comes to providing comment.

Nearing deadline, the publication needs to trust you can provide what they need to complete the feature and if you efficiently and speedily deliver the goods, not only should your comment be used, but it is also likely they will contact you again for comment on similar issues.

Keredy Andrews is a senior account manager at PR, search, and social media agency, Punch Communications. Punch is based in the U.K. and delivers integrated services for local and global, B2B and B2C clients. 

 

15 comments
allenmireles
allenmireles

@Keredy Andrews I enjoyed this post and appreciate the helpful tips you suggest, which will surely come in handy for PR agencies and consultants who are struggling to attract attention to their clients' issues. I also appreciate your advice about managing (or trying to) the clients' expectations--an important function given the changes taking place in our world today. Thanks!

Keredy Andrews
Keredy Andrews

Thanks for such lovely comments and clearly this is a view many in the industry are taking.

ShakirahDawud, What I meant by companies not fitting this model now is due to the media industry changing and having less time to consider how news from a press release could fit. I think stories need to be ready to go and lifted out of the release, whereas in times gone by there was more time to have a discussion about the elements and the angle could be slightly repurposed to suit the publication. Journalists are increasingly focused on what they need to acheive that day/week/issue and using information as quickly as possible. This is why I feel you can achieve better results based on their requests as you can give them exactly what they are looking for - press releases can be like second guessing these days and ultimately waste your own time, although I know that's a generalisation and isn't always the case.

Of course, some companies will never fit the press release model, then or now, because they don't generate news in the way that us professionals and journalists understand news. This is back to client expectations I suppose but maybe there should be more PRs out there who turn around to prospective clients and say "the media relations game isn't for you" (but that's a whole other can of worms!)

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

Very well said and spot on. The era of the back in the day is so over, and being more strategic and creative to present news value is the new. I'm having this discussion over @ShakirahDawud house about whether Marketing can write for PR, and the press release vehicle has popped up. While you're talking about pitching, people still are confused about what we do and how.

DTCchicago
DTCchicago

#4 is my favorite. I hate that sometimes PR can turn into a, "well, who do you know?" game - but some of the best stories I have gotten for our clients have come from long term relationships with members of the bloggorati. It goes without saying that having a great story to pitch will get you far... but sometimes having an in with a journalist/blogger will get you a lot further.

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

Great advice. I think news releases get a bad rap precisely because of the client expectations that you mentioned. They do have a purpose and are useful, but if they are the only or primary tool in your arsenal then you're doing it wrong (full disclosure: parent co. where I work is PR Newswire).

Building relationships and thinking ahead is huge. But I also think that you have to be passionate about what matters to your client and be involved in conversations that matter to them. So for ex. maybe an addition to #3 is scan Twitter for topics / chats that matter to your client, or keep a weekly reading list of blogs/forums that cover what they do. I've seen great conversations on-line where people hop in and politely say "hey, if you are interested I have a neat contact at X company who's working on developing Y and might be a great resource for you." Or if you're already a part of the conversation you might not even have to reach out, the opp can come to you. I imagine this harder the larger and more structured your client is, but can still be done.

Krista
Krista

Wonderful tips, Keredy! Media relations was one of my favorite aspects of PR when I worked at an agency, and I often deployed similar tactics like this, so you've definitely hit the nail on the head.

I think #4 is the most important, because if you are able to actually build relationships beforehand, then the reporter may be more likely to call upon you the PR pro or respond to your next press release. Good relationship-building goes a long way, and I've seen its benefits when it works out.

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@Krista Totally agree with this. If you aren't building relationships than your e-mail or press release won't mean much.

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