A few weeks ago, I got on my soapbox and wrote all of the reasons you should not give your client your media list.
Because I drew a hard line in the sand on the topic, the comments section flared up with a great debate about why I was wrong.
In the opinions of some of our readers, providing a media list to your clients should occur in some instances, albeit not in most.
John Yarbrough had a client-side perspective:
As an agency flack turned in-house communications team lead, I’m somewhat surprised to read your reticence to provide a media list to a client upon request.
That’s not to say you should always provide a media list.
For example, for project work, I agree it’s likely not in the best interest of the PR agency to provide it.
But in most long-term partnerships, I would argue the client can/should have easy access to a full contact list as well as ongoing visibility concerning interactions on behalf of the brand.
I’ve worked with a number of agencies throughout my career, and the best ones are always happy to share this information.
The list itself has little to no value—it’s the depth of the relationships they’ve built that is valuable.
Not to mention the strategic advice they can offer about how to best communicate a story to their network.
I agree with John.
It’s Sometimes OK to Provide Your Media List
There are long-term relationships with clients who already have your media list.
They might not formally have it, but if you’ve done media relations well, they already know who to contact at the trade, business, and local publications.
They’ve already started relationships with those journalists.
To boot, you should be updating them at least weekly on the conversations you’re having on behalf of the brand.
Iris is a great tool for this because it provides all of your conversations in pretty graphs.
You can download the graphs and send in your weekly report, or you can open your laptop during a meeting and show them off.
The point is, the client should have access to your media list if the relationship is ongoing and you’re actively pitching them.
Where I see issues is when the client is going to fire you and wants your media list so they can send a blast note to everyone.
Or, when they want to do the follow-up themselves because they don’t think you’ve done enough work.
There are significant issues when the client doesn’t value the relationship, thinks they can do it better or are going to spam your contacts.
In long-term relationships, there is no harm in providing it all in one spot, just to make their lives easier.
The Larger and More Strategic Conversation
And then Adam Cormier and stepped in and looked at the issue from a strategic perspective.
Respectfully, taking a different approach will strengthen your relationship with the client and not burn a bridge.
We know our community is way too small.
At the onset of the relationship (Phase 1), you and the client need to identify the set of titles where secured coverage will achieve your goals.
If this conversation is strategic, negotiated, and agreed upon, you and the client are on the same page with transparency.
During Phase 2, give the client feedback on your pitching: we’ll need A, B, and C to get into TechCrunch.
Phase 2 is critical to your client relationship.
You have set goals, and the client fully understands the path to success, so you no longer have ALL of the skin in the game.
The client owns it just as much as you, which leads us to Phase 3…the dreaded request.
Because you have goals, because you have feedback from pitching, because the client knows what is needed to have success, you can now answer, “U=You already have it and know what we need to secure more coverage. What is your timing to securing these things so that we can achieve our goals together?”
Your relationships are your intellectual property, and your ability to garner feedback from media (prior relationship or not) is your special sauce.
Your client is paying you for this.
If you set up Phase 1 and execute Phase 2, the client will see the value of their investment.
You can then share feedback from the reporter up the chain, so leadership can either get what’s needed or more clearly understand why they’re not getting coverage.
This is phenomenal advice, and I wanted to keep the conversation going.
When You Expect a Fastball, and the Pitcher Throws a Curve
So what do we do in the case where the client wants to make lots of money fast and thinks media relations will do it?
In this case, the communications team has already secured excellent coverage, but the client isn’t happy.
Their goal is to make lots of money in a short amount of time.
- Is it at that point that you say the goals aren’t aligned and help them find another agency?
- Do you give them a media outlet list and the feedback you’ve already received?
- Do you begin the long, arduous process of education and try to bring the P, S, O of the PESO model into the mix?
- Or, do you just wash your hands of it?
Adam’s response was to use a baseball analogy (which I don’t want to talk about right now…we HAVE to win tonight).
When you expect a fastball and the pitcher throws a curve, you keep your weight back and hit the ball to the opposite field.
In other words, put on your marketer hat and pivot the conversation.
Hopefully, the sense of urgency set the tone from the original goal setting.
But, keep in mind, you have to have done the work in Phases 1 and 2 that Adam outlined above.
The Poop Rolls Downhill
He goes on to say:
Let’s assume the major investor had a bad day and wanted that “movie check” ASAP.
Money comes from sales (or acquisition), sales come from leads, leads come from marketing and/or communications.
The first question to the client: what’s the sales conversion rate for the leads from PR?
Now, I’d bet decent money they have not been able to track those leads.
You ask the question to level set the conversation with the client.
Understand where the request comes from: the CFO freaked out to the CEO, the CEO freaked out to the CMO and CRO, the CMO calls in communications and demand gen and lights a massive fire under everyone.
Like Adam, I’m willing to bet they haven’t been able to track those leads, but that’s as much your fault as it is theirs.
PR Metrics Will Save You Every Time
If you’ve spent time in your weekly reporting providing feedback from journalists and providing data from your media relations efforts, it’s unlikely you’ll have this conversation.
It’s your job to provide the PR metrics that prove there is a sales conversion rate for the leads from your media relations efforts.
Many organizations don’t have the proper software set up for you to be able to do this.
You need Google Analytics, a marketing automation tool, and a customer relationship management software.
All of these tools are great to have, but they also must be used and updated consistently.
If you have all three of those things, you can provide attribution through conversion.
If you have only Google Analytics, you can provide data on how many unique visitors have come to the website from every, single story you place.
It’s not where we want to end up, but it’s more than providing the number of mentions, media impressions, or advertising equivalencies.
Why is the Client Frustrated?
Adam has more advice on how to continue to work with the client to get you what you need to be successful.
The second question to the client: can you share your list of top prospects?
Who do you need to move into and through the sales funnel ASAP?
This gives you direction on the who and what.
Now comes the fun part to figure out the how and when assuming the client provided that data.
Assuming there’s no new news of any significance, which is 99.999 percent of the time, you move the conversation to the PESO discussion.
Again, this won’t be a new conversation because these headaches were solved, so it’s a reminder of a previous discussion.
The lead time to move a prospect into the funnel from proactive media relations alone will not satisfy any sense of urgency.
Media relations builds the brand, and it is a long play for lead generation.
It is so much easier to please an existing client than to find a new one.
Pull the integrated plan together, explain the thought process and available options, and then execute.
After you save the day (again), pull the client aside and have a heart-to-heart.
Call it a meeting to update campaign goals.
I love the challenge of being able to figure out where the sense of frustration has come from (which is why part of our job is psychologist).
What if You’ve Neither Been Strategic or Reported Results?
I wanted to keep the conversation going with Adam because I was having a ton of fun, but also because he’s smart.
The conversation is a gold mine for every one of you who works with clients—either as an agency or with internal clients.
So let’s say your job is to track attribution, nurturing, and conversion, but you haven’t done a good job of it.
Not because you don’t have the tools to do it—the client has given you access—but because either you don’t know how or account management isn’t a priority.
The onus is on you, and you haven’t proven you’ve generated sales qualified leads.
The client thinks the issue is you aren’t doing enough on media relations, but the real problem is that you aren’t proving your worth.
How do you backtrack and almost start over?
Okay… digging deep here and this will take some effort and educated guesses IF your campaign tagging strategy has failed.
Also, you are going to have to answer a few critical questions (the CMO will appreciate this if you don’t already have the answers).
Let’s assume you cannot un-ring the bell and you have to backtrack.
You have some key data sets:
- Source traffic. You are going to have to deduce web traffic from earned media coverage. Bump up traffic spikes (or blips) to coverage dates (don’t forget that traffic from coverage is not a single day event).
- Outlet SEO. How easy is it to find your coverage?
Once you have this data, you then have to answer these key questions:
- Where is the handoff in the buyer journey from PR to marketing?
- Is PR accountable for getting the buyer to raise a hand and enter a gate or is PR responsible for getting the buyer to the site?
The effectiveness of great coverage is lost if the website and gate strategy sucks.
Likewise, if the site is fully optimized and PR doesn’t deliver traffic, well then…it’s time for a tough conversation.
Understanding the traffic performance of your coverage should help determine a rate of leads generated.
From the sales perspective, at best media relations can deliver traffic to the right web page.
Anything beyond that and you are expecting too much from earned media relations as a lead generation source.
Change of Heart on Providing a Media List
Nearly 2,000 words later, you can see that handing over your media list is not as cut and dry as it seems.
We all agreed that if you haven’t worked with the client for a year or more, giving them your media list is a bad idea.
We also all agreed that you should obey your gut.
If it feels like they are asking for your media list because they’re going to spam your contacts, don’t provide it.
But if the client is a long-term relationship and you’ve been doing media relations for them for a year or more, giving them the media list is no big deal.
In the best cases, it provides an opportunity to have a larger, more strategic conversation.
If you need the confidence to have that conversation, bookmark this article so you can refer back to it often.
And, if you’re hiring, talk to Adam. He’s looking for his next opportunity (I wish we could hire him!).
Now it’s your turn…do you agree or not with when it’s OK to give your client your media list?