media coverage

By Kate Finley

If you’re a PR professional and an idealist, please stand up.

You’re not alone. Most of us are, and that’s part of why we are so good at what we do.

We see the bright side in order to add sunshine and joy to our clients lives through reputation building, increased awareness, tangible results, and bright, shiny, media coverage.

Unfortunately, when it comes to earning media opportunities for clients, the ‘ideal scenario’ rarely comes together.

Try as we might, deadlines speed up, advance notice shortens, and account needs seem to be never-ending. Our role is to stay professional, keep our cool, and get results despite the ever-changing, less-than-ideal reality.

Oh, By the Way…We Need that Media Coverage in an Hour (OMG!)

As PR professionals, we are responsible for doing what’s best for our clients and our media friends, while working to keep everyone happy (as much as humanly possible). This can get particularly difficult when we’re given a last-minute or short-notice request for media coverage.

In the ideal scenario, we have plenty of time to develop media relationships, work our strategies, and reach out to media friends well in advance for potential opportunities. In reality, sometimes you just have to jump in and get results with unbelievably short notice.

It’s tough but it’s part of what we do. It’s when ‘the rubber meets the road’ and you have to keep your wits about you to protect both your client and media friends while you achieve results.

Five Tips to Get Last Minute Media Coverage

While time is crucial to earn trust from reporters, as well as quality, targeted media coverage for clients, it’s not always on our side. Sometimes we just have to jump in and start from scratch…and fast.

Whether it’s the challenging case of an oversight, an over promise, or it’s a last-minute client request, here are five tips you can use to get smart last minute media coverage.

1. Set Expectations

Even though you’re dealing with a less-than-ideal timeframe or scenario, it’s OK to set expectations for your team and your client. In fact, I’d say it’s required. Remind your client and/or team you will do everything in your power to achieve success but at the end of the day, this isn’t paid media, and it’s not an ideal time-frame.

Communicate that, even if coverage isn’t obtained due to the current circumstance and lack of lead-time, media relationships can still be achieved and fostered for future opportunities.

2. Stay Calm

This is not the time for begging or pleading when approaching the media. You have to keep your wits about you, keep your voice even and friendly, and remember to pace yourself. It is possible to maintain and achieve control, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Ask yourself…

  • Do you have media friends that cover the certain region, topic or industry?
  • Do you have a connection at a media outlet that could refer you to someone else?
  • Is there a team member that may have a contact you could reach out to?
  • Could they reach out to their media contact on your behalf?

This is a good opportunity for a quick pep-talk: You can do this. You will do this. You’ve already done this. Been there done that no problem you got this. Or something along those lines. Even though it may feel like it, you’re not actually climbing Mt. Everest. You’re pitching the media, and this is the moment you have been trained to shine. You’ve got this!

3. Do Your Research (Yes, You Still Have Time)

Even though your impulse may be to just look up a name, number, and call — don’t do it! You could be ruining a perfectly good opportunity because you ‘freaked out’ and didn’t take the time to do some quick homework. Pull a media list or do a Google search by city/industry, then sort by “news” for current articles that may tie into your pitch. You must do your research.

4. Have Your Facts Straight and Answer the ‘Why’

Don’t lose sight of the fact  the reason you’re contacting the media is because you have something relevant for them to cover regardless of timeframe.

Know the who, what, where, when, how and why of your story. This of course is something that should be a regular part of your pitching but it’s especially important when time is of the essence. You have to be able to tell a reporter why this information is relevant to them right now, and why it should be covered.

5. Send Follow-Ups Immediately

This is good advice to follow in general but especially if you’re catching a reporter last-minute. Make sure you send them any follow-up materials immediately after you speak to them. If you get a reply to an email, reply within seconds if possible (after proofing your email of course) because the faster the better your chances of earning coverage.

Bottom line: This is the PR industry where things change by the minute, if not second, and it’s our job to be flexible, think smart ,and move fast. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it’s an inconvenience, or not what you planned for your day or on your to do list, it’s about doing what’s best for the client.

And part of that is educating the client on your need for more time to allow for optimal relationship building. An occasional, last-minute, scramble for media coverage happen sometimes. If you see a pattern, don’t shy away from addressing the issue with your client or even your management team if that’s the case. They want the best results possible so breakdown why it’s essential for you to have more lead time to earn meatier coverage.

Now, go out and earn that coverage. You have this. 

P.S. I’d love to hear your advice/thoughts on last-minute pitching. And, if you’re a media member, what’s your best advice for this situation? We face it a lot as PR professionals and could use help.

Kate Finley

Kate Finley is the CEO of Belle Communications, an integrated marketing firm based in Columbus, Ohio, where she helps CPG brands and startups with PR, social media, and content marketing. She is a media relations expert, leading teams in executing more than 1800 media opportunities for industry leading clients, with coverage in NBC News, TODAY, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and other top media influencers. She’s a Paleo-eater, half-marathoner, and recently acquired a taste for CrossFit.

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