How to Help Your PR Agency Get You Press

You have an “amazing” or “innovative” new product you are sure will change the world, or at least the industry in which you do business. So big, in fact, that you’ve engaged a PR firm to share your news with the press.  The release goes over the wire, but you don’t get any coverage, besides the standard 200+ publications that have posted the press release in the hidden industry press release section of their websites, without any indication they are being read.

“What’s the problem?” you ask your PR rep.  Is it them? Is it you?

It’s likely a combination of both.

Here are some questions to ask yourself – and then your PR agency – before you put out another release:

1. Is this new product really newsworthy?

Both journalists and public relations pros learned the definition of “news” from their first day of the first class of college. The story is newsworthy if it is:

  • Timely
  • Significant
  • Unique
  • In Close Proximity or Interest
  • Prominent
  • Emotional

The more factors that can be applied to your event or story, the better. Is your new product really new? How big is the market? Does it really solve a problem for your target audience? If you don’t know, find out – BEFORE launching.

2. Do you have any third-party support to give the news credibility?

Do you have beta users who have tried it out? Are they willing to talk to the press about how it helped them? Have you spoken with any analysts who might be able to share their thoughts about the product and its potential for the market? (I admit that this will be difficult if you’re a small company announcing its first product, but it’s not impossible, especially if you already have credibility from past launches in your career).

3. Are you available to speak with the press as soon as they show interest?

Make sure your calendar is open when you launch and that you’re able to respond within minutes of your PR rep calling to tell you a reporter is interested in hearing more. There’s little worse (for the PR rep and the reporter) than having a reporter interested and no one from the company really available to meet with them!

PR Fails You Don’t Want to Make

If the answer to the three questions is yes, then there might be something off with how the story is being communicated – and to whom. This morning, a writer on human resources for Inc. put out an article about  “8 Publicity Fails for PR Pros and Over-Eager Entreprenuers.”  Suzanne Lucas listed some of the mistakes both PR pros and their clients (or the companies themselves, if they haven’t outsourced their PR) are making that are keeping them from getting coverage, even if they have a compelling story.

I agree with every one of them, and have done my best throughout the years to never make them myself!

1. You sent it as an email blast. When you send something out to me and 40 other people, I consider it spam.

2. It has nothing to do with topics I write about. I write about great people, policies and practices. For instance, I’ve written about why not to hire jerks, perks you can implement, how to get a job, how to hire people, good things companies do, and bad things companies do. Basically, I write about anything that relates to people at your company and how to manage and lead people better. Still, you’d be surprised what people think I write about.

3. I get an email from you every day. There is no way one public affairs firm has 365 clients that are doing something that relate to how to treat your people as your company’s most valuable asset. After the 10th email in a row from you that doesn’t relate to that topic, I’ll just start deleting your emails without even reading them. Trust me, I’ll never run out of things to write about.

4. You send “teasers” rather than actual information. No, I’m not going to email you to find out more if you don’t give me a reason why I should.

5. You don’t respond to me within a reasonable amount of time. If you send me a pitch, and I respond asking for more information, respond pronto! If a week goes by before I hear from you again, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to work with you.

6. The information you’re offering me isn’t ready. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten pitches that say things like, “Jane Doe has 10 ways to make hiring better!” I bite, only to receive the response: “I’ll speak with Jane and get back to you!” Why on earth did you send out a pitch saying that Jane has these 10 things when Jane hasn’t written them yet? Yes, I understand that Jane is your client and she said, “send it out,” but it’s not going to help Jane and it’s your job to let her know.

7. You’ve done no research about me whatsoever. And by research on me, I mean, you can spell my name correctly and get the topic correct. Seriously, my bar is that low. If you’ve been able to find my email address, you can find my name. Copy and paste works really well. (It’s Suzanne, by the way, not Susan, not Sue, and not Suzy.) If you’ve spent 30 seconds looking at the titles of my articles, you should know what my name and topics are. Do that.

8. I can’t get your client a job at Inc or anywhere else. I am actually happy to refer and recommend people for positions that they would be good for. But the thing is, I don’t know you and I don’t know your client. Getting an email from a public affairs person asking me to connect you to an editor at Inc so that you can write her, won’t fly. I’m all in favor of networking, but you’re asking me to stake my professional reputation on one paragraph.

To sum up:

To help get coverage, make sure you’ve got a newsworthy story, third-party validation, and PR reps who know how to share the story to the right contacts. While you’ll never know how busy the press is on the day of your announcement, you’ll have a better chance of them picking your story if you have the right ingredients from the start.

Otherwise, the only results you’ll get are annoyed press.

Any other mistakes Suzanne and I might have missed?