The PR world can be unpredictable, exhilarating and frustrating – especially when you’re at an agency pitching stories for your clients. With social media, blogs, RSS feeds and e-newsletters in the mix, companies have more channels for creating and controlling their own content. However, these new channels haven’t diminished the power of third-party endorsements, and they certainly haven’t eliminated the need for media coverage to support an integrated communications plan.
But, even the best plans can go awry if expectations aren’t discussed at the onset and managed throughout implementation.
Here’s how to manage PR expectations:
- Paint a not-so-pretty picture. Regardless of a client’s background or PR experience, I like to be very clear about media outreach challenges by using key words, such as ‘potential,’ ‘possible’ and ‘no guarantees.’ So many variables can impact your chances for securing coverage, from breaking news to new trends, that it’s impossible to promise anything. While a client may envision a feature story with their company name in the headline, we might end up with a quote attributed to their CEO instead. I find that it’s best to under-promise and over-deliver.
- Become true partners. We can’t create news in a vacuum. That’s why we partner with clients and become an integral part of their team by embedding ourselves in their business. In doing so, we identify information that we can use in a pitch or during a conversation with a reporter or assignment editor. For example, in a recent conversation with a client, we discovered that their new president planned to sit in a “jump space” in the middle of employees – not in a corner office. We used this information to distinguish him and tell a better story as we pursued profile opportunities for him.
- Agree on what’s newsworthy. One of the lessons I remember from my UT journalism courses included the seven qualities of a news story: timeliness, proximity, impact/consequence, novelty/rarity, conflict, human interest and prominence. Most stories will not have all these aspects, but many have at least two. By following these attributes, we address the very important question: who cares?
- Set realistic goals. Unless your client is Bill Gates, Beyoncé or some other celebrity, you couldn’t promise them the front page of The New York Times or a guest appearance on the Today Show. By setting realistic goals at the onset, we can effectively measure and track our success. For example, if we agree that our goals are to land three national placements, five local stories and 10 blog reviews within a specific timeframe, we can more easily determine if we met or exceeded expectations.
- Monitor, monitor, monitor. A large part of our success hinges on our ability to follow the news cycle and identify opportunities. If we can find a relevant news hook, we can quickly jump on it. Our daily news scans help keep a pulse on various industries and keep our clients in the know. In addition, competitor coverage reports reveal how competitors make headlines. By sharing these reports with our clients, we’re giving them a glimpse of what’s considered “newsworthy,” which can be quite telling – and sometimes surprising.
The PR world is all about persistence and building relationships, which takes time, but certainly pays off in the end. And, the rush that comes with landing a solid hit for one of our clients gives us the fuel we need to keep going.