By Paige Donnell, Founder and CEO, Paige PR
Obtaining press coverage can often seem daunting. Pitching something you may not consider newsworthy is oftentimes like swimming against the current. At the same time, it can be equally frustrating when your client has a great story to share but the reporters you reach out to disagree, either passing on the story or ignoring your pitch altogether. Not only is it disappointing for you as a professional, but it can lead to a missed opportunity for your clients as well.
So how can we, as PR professionals, ensure great press coverage each and every time? After years of constantly refining this skill and learning things the hard way, it can be done. Here’s how:
1. Ask for questions ahead of time. We always prep clients prior to any interview with media training ─ perfecting messaging, practicing bridging and deflection techniques, and of course lots of practice. In a perfect world it’d be ideal to have the interview questions beforehand. However, we know that doesn’t always happen. But, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Even if the reporter doesn’t want to reveal their questions – they might provide some insight as to the scope of their piece, and what their overall goals of their article are. And remember, journalists don’t hold all of the power all of the time. We don’t always have to grant access to our client – it’s a two way street.
2. Manage expectations. Even as PR professionals pitching a story, it’s essential to manage the expectations of the article. If you’re told it’s an exclusive, make certain it is. (Meaning no competitor quotes or outside information – exclusive means exclusive.) At the same time, if you’re providing a quote as a third-party expert, don’t anticipate a whole article on how wonderful your client and their company is. By managing expectations with clients and the reporter, everyone is crystal clear on what the article should include once complete. And your client will have realistic expectations about the end product.
3. Ask to review the article prior to being published. A reporter does not have to comply with this request; however, if you’re providing factual data that you don’t want misinterpreted, it’s okay to ask to review prior to it being published. (One caveat – in most all instances, you cannot change your quote or any dislikes about an article; however, hopefully there were no blunders to begin with if your client was properly prepared.)
4. Provide the reporter a ‘cheat sheet’. If your data isn’t public knowledge, but you wouldn’t mind if it is, provide the reporter with a cheat sheet. That will all but guarantee that information released is accurate. (Note, this is only for facts and figures. Anything else would simply defeat the purpose of an interview.)
5. Research the reporter. Know whom you’re dealing with ahead of time and provide a reporter bio sheet to your client. In some instances, a reporter can be a jack of all trades, covering a range topics for a publication. In other cases, they’re an expert in a particular field and their interview questions will reflect that knowledge (more specific, less general-type interview questions). By doing the research and knowing whom you’re setting your client up with, you’ll be able to better prep them and put them more at ease prior to the interview. Remember, information is power.
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be on track to delivering exceptional earned media coverage to your clients. The most important point to remember is that the work doesn’t end when an interview is confirmed – that’s when the real effort begins!