By Doreen Clark
Every B2B or consumer-facing organization wants exposure, increased credibility, third-party validation, and a leadership team that is the go-to resource for its industry. It’s a portion of the wish list that makes up the DNA for organizational success, and public relations is an obvious choice to do it. So, you enlist your agency to come up with a PR campaign so that it can get crackin’ on media outreach. When things get exciting, don’t forget your public relations team is on your side. It is shooting for the moon and reaching for the stars. After all, if you look good, your PR team looks good.Remember that you hired your public relations team for its expertise, its connections, and its ability to cut through the clutter. But your PR team members aren’t magicians. So, to save you from making your PR team cringe, here are five things that it, unfortunately, hears all the time and why you should (most likely) not ask:
1. We did an interview two days ago. Why hasn’t it been published yet?
We live in a world of immediate gratification. We know that many outlets have a 24/7 news cycle; therefore, if we give our expertise, it should show up an hour later, right? Wrong. Writers still have a review process and other articles in their pipeline. Additionally, because outlets have become so immediate, they often have to displace articles for a later time if newsworthy or trending topics take precedence. Teena Maddox, Senior Writer for TechRepublic, stated, “Publishing schedules often change, and stories that were slated for the next day are pushed to the next week or beyond.” She also reminds that “an interview is simply that - an interview. It’s not a promise of a published story.”
2. I’m not available for that interview. Can we do it next week?
The simple answer is no. Writers are under deadline. Sometimes there will be flexibility for an interview, but in the world of PR, if you have the request for an interview, you should probably take it or the requesting outlet will find a company that will. After all, you are on the media’s timeline, not vice versa.
3. Why wasn’t my quote at the top of the article?
Your PR team doesn’t know the answer to this. It is responsible for your public relations strategy. It is responsible for media outreach. It is responsible for scheduling interviews and sending follow-up items, as well as ensuring that the media has everything they need after the interview and sending you the article once it is published. Your PR team doesn’t write the article, nor does it have a say in how many quotes you get, whether you are the feature or a mention or where your comments will fall within the article. Maddox says, “as a reporter, I use what I think works in the article” and that may be the most important thing to remember. The writer has full authority on where to put quotes within an article. So, it is important to focus on building that relationship rather than questioning why a quote fell where it did.
4. I see the author “covers” our area. Why weren’t we asked to be the expert source?
There are two things that you should know regarding this question:
- You are right—it is your PR team’s responsibility to monitor the daily news and to bring potential opportunities to your attention. It is also in your PR team’s wheelhouse to talk with its media connections to keep a pulse on what may be on their horizon regarding upcoming articles. However, before asking your PR team this question, it is important to understand that, unless the writer posts his or her upcoming need on a public forum, like HARO, or the writer happens to be a “regular” media connection, a PR professional may not know what is being written until it is published. The reality is that there are tons of reporters and many companies that can comment on their topics. However, when the article posts, it is appropriate for your public relations team to connect, to make an introduction regarding your expertise, and to see if there is a chance for a follow-up article.
- The word “cover,” in and of itself, is a tricky word. In a news cycle where there is more writing than reporters, it is natural that a substantial portion would be written by thought leaders, people like you. When you see an article and wonder why you weren’t asked for comment, take a moment and look at the author’s bio. It is very possible that it wasn’t written by a reporter at all. It may have been written by an expert, someone like you. If he or she is your competitor, he or she wouldn’t ask you for an interview. However, your PR team can reach out to the editor and mention the article. Maybe, because the outlet has interest in the topic, you can write an article, too. It’s time to make lemons into lemonade.
5. We want to be in The Wall Street Journal
Absolutely. You should shoot for the moon and so should your PR team. However, understand that the higher the outlet’s visibility, the more competition there is for expert comment. Your company isn’t the only company that wants to be there, and your PR team is fighting to gain attention over every other pitch that comes through the reporter’s inbox. And there are a lot. So, here is a question that you should ask yourself before putting this on your wish list: “Are we willing, and able, to offer comment on a specific current event? Do we have a solution to it? Were we involved in it? Do we have inside information that can shed new light on it?” If the answer is yes, then your public relations team needs to know—and immediately. However, if you want to offer expertise but don’t want to be specific or relevant, this may just be a lofty wish, and a different outlet may be better served. After all, there is nothing wrong with working with smaller pubs, with a smaller but targeted audience, to get your feet wet. In the end, coverage breeds coverage.
You hired your PR team to help enhance your organizational objectives, and the team is burning the midnight oil, doing things behind the scenes that you aren’t even aware of to make the magic happen. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. But there are some things that just aren’t in the team members’ control. Give them a little room to pull the rabbit from the hat, be available when given an opportunity, don’t overthink the finished product, understand there is a lot of competition, and know that your idea of success is probably theirs too.