April 11, 2011
Whether you’re a brand doing your own PR, a PR freelancer, or starting your own PR agency, this one’s for you. So you’ve got a great media contact? Congrats. Now comes the hard part – holding onto it. Just like a relationship with your significant other, a media relationship needs to be developed, maintained and well maybe even coddled. Here’s what not to do.
1. Have expectations.
Editors don’t owe you anything. Just because an editor pulls your sample for a shoot or contacts you for an interview doesn’t mean that opportunity is necessarily going to pan out. Same goes with gifting. Sure, sending media contacts samples, offering free services, etc doesn’t hurt. But they are not in any way obligated to run your brand just because you sent them something for free.
2. Become a nag.
Really, it’s not attractive. The quickest way to get on an editor’s bad side is to bug the hell out of them. You should follow up on a pitch, sample return, press opportunity, etc. – but do not nag, harass or become a nuisance. Follow up = once a week. Harass = once a day or every other day. Editors are busy people, my friends. Be patient.
3. Think you’re the only one.
Because you’re not. That email the editor of ‘x’ magazine sent you complete with emoticons and xo’s requesting samples for a shoot? Yeah, about 20 other companies and/or publicists got the same one. It’s their job to reach out to all resources, so do yourself a favor and don’t get upset if your product doesn’t make the cut this time. Any brand on any given shoot or other press opportunity is up against a lot of competition.
4. Get caught.
Even the most seasoned publicist can screw this one up, so PR DIYers, take note. If you’re sending the same press release and pitch to a list of 100+ editors, please take your time and make sure all your ducks are in a row. Triple check each email before sending so the email field matches the person you’re addressing, the media outlet you’re naming in the pitch, and of course the pitch itself. Do not send an email an exclusive to a reporter at The New York Times with The Los Angeles Times written in the body of your last email. Yep, busted! That exclusive isn’t looking so exclusive any more, is it?
5. Be lazy.
Do your homework before sending a pitch to make sure you’re actually pitching on-topic. The travel writer at ‘x’ outlet isn’t going to care about your tech product (well unless it can aid in travel), nor will the beauty editor care about your line of womens wear. Make sure the person you’re contacting actually covers the topic, vertical or beat you’re pitching. Consistently pitching off-topic means by the time you finally do have something on-topic, they’ve already marked you as a non-credible source. The last thing you want to be is the boy or girl who cried pitch.
6. Mix business with (too much) pleasure.
Sure, it’s one thing to sip a cocktail or two while mingling with press contacts at an event. It’s even permissible to swap stories of the suburban life you discovered you both once escaped. And you can even bond over that “amazing necklace!” But keep it professional. Do not, I repeat do not, get wasted or engage in otherwise debaucherous activity with a media contact. The last thing you need is to be known as the guy or girl throwing back jager bombs while getting your groove on – on top of the bar – next time you’re contacting them about your line’s newest collection. Keep it professional people.
7. Have a God complex.
Kind of obvious, but you’d be amazed what some companies resort to. In fact, a former client of mine — who shall remain unnamed — once sent an email to the Creative Director at Oprah Magazine demanding a feature on their product during the Oprah Winfrey Show. Said product had already been featured in the magazine (thanks to yours truly), but apparently that wasn’t enough. They said, and I quote
“You would be doing a disservice to America and Oprah by not putting our product on-air.”
Thank goodness we had stopped working with them a month prior so at least this didn’t ruin my relationship, but I can bet you this particular client will NEVER again appear in anything Oprah related. Moral of the story? Check your ego at the door.
8. Take it personally.
Press contacts typically only get in touch with you when they want or need something, so don’t take it personally if you email them and you don’t hear back…ever. If your pitch is a fit for something they’re working on, you’ll hear back. If it’s not, you won’t. Simple as that. Media professionals get bombarded on a daily basis by you and a gazillion other people thinking their product or service is the best idea ever, and they quite frankly just don’t have the time to write back to everyone saying “Thanks, but no thanks.”
9. Be a rookie interviewee.
Once you’ve made the tremendous effort to pitch the right media outlets, don’t blow it by saying all the wrong things when they call for a statement, expert opinion or quote. Keep in mind, if you’ve branded yourself or your brand as a key resource, back it up. Media training or deferring to a seasoned publicist is important if you aren’t able to deliver on key talk points about your company and tie them with the story and pitch.
10. Stalk a journalist or editor in social media outlets.
You love your brand, yes. But possibly, you may not be the best person to promote it. Random tweets saying, “Feature my widgets” or sending random friend requests without a connection or recommendation is best referred to as social tourette’s syndrome. It’s the equivalent of walking into a room and yelling out, “Buy my product” when you aren’t aware of the conversation or how your product and/or service fits there. Learn the appropriate ways to court a media contact in social networks or risk being an untouchable.
And there you have it. The quickest way to screw up that coveted media relationship that could make (or in this case break) your brand. Avoid all of the above however, and you could have the makings of a beautiful, lasting relationship.
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