If you read Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound’s blog or e-zine [affiliate link], you might enjoy her “Help this Hound” feature. This post is in response to a question from one of Joan's readers, a media relations professional, who put out a call for tips on how to deal with impatient clients.
What to Ask Before You Dress to Run Your PR Race
It’s a challenge all media/public relations consultants often face: impatient clients who want major media results NOW. If you’re one of them – an impatient client or a pressured PR pro – try asking these questions I often ask prospects . . .
- Why do you think your story is worth telling?
- Who do you think should know about it?
- Who should tell it?
- Where do you expect your story to appear?
- What publications do your customers read?
- What radio and TV news shows do they rely on?
- What sites and blogs do they visit and read?
- What do you think you will get out of a major media exposure?
- How will you know when your PR efforts are successful?
- Are you willing to commit to a 3-5 year strategic marketing plan?
Set Reasonable Expectations
The key word in all of this is: expectations. Managing client expectations can be challenging, frustrating, motivating and rewarding.
We start off talking about small steps and building up. Let’s face it, sometimes your story isn’t worthy of a big hit right away. You have to achieve success on subsequent levels to attract major media attention. As Christian said when he won the avant-garde challenge on Project Runway last night, “I’m young so I don’t have much media coverage yet.” [May not be exact quote - can confirm the winning project used 45 yards of fabric and that Chris partnered on the challenge.]
It sounds like Joan’s reader is doing everything right. Sometimes shifting focus away from the glimmering limelight to substantial statistics is as, if not more, impressive and impact-full.
Go Online to Boost Rank and Visibility Simultaneously
Distributing an online news release can effortlessly boost your page rank and visibility. And, major media outlets start to take notice when you show up in their searches.
Since we transitioned away from counting clips to more of an SEO/virtual PR visibility approach, we find that our clients appreciate their different, but more immediate and measurable results.
Within 24-48 hours after their release, many of our clients land on page one of Google news for the desired search terms.
After a few web releases, many of them vault way ahead of their competition, both in terms of number of Google results and page rank. One client showed up at 4, 5 and 6 on page one for their keyword term for the first month or so after their release. Three months later, their news release shows up at 35/232,000 results – while their own site is buried many, many pages back.
Interpret Stats in New Ways Using Traditional Measures
We’ve come up with a measurement tools like this one to gauge effectiveness: reads/impressions = response rate. Using a comparison to other direct marketing methods, where anything above 1-2% is considered a success, we interpret the results for them.
When you distribute your news via PRWeb at the $360 level, you’ll see stats along with search engine terms and geographic readership. So, in addition to releasing news, you’re also testing search terms and mining readership data.
Be Courageous When Contacting the Media
As far as major media goes, it helps to know where your clients want to appear. In one case, our client’s target was the leading industry risk management monthly. I mustered all the courage I could, held my breath and called the editor to tell her what my client wanted. At the end of the call, she assigned me the story and even edited the four-page final version more in our direction. The client happily paid for the ghostwriting and their board was ecstatic. You can try this, too.
Search for Field Scouts
It’s not always [almost never?] this easy to break into bigger publications. PR agencies can make the calls and tell your clients what it takes to get in the publication so that you both know how to get in. For example, home publications often employ field scouts to preview projects. So, you need to find out who that is and contact them.
After a few phone calls and an hour meeting with a scout, one of our clients got booked for an eight page spread in a Better Homes and Gardens specialty magazine. While my client is located in Chicago, one of their newest projects is in Bermuda. The homeowner read the Better Homes and Gardens feature, saved it and called my client when they were ready to renovate their home. I don’t have to tell you – do I? – that I can’t wait to write that release!
Meredith publications’ garden scout editor is a friend who joined a writing group I started a few years ago. Every now and then we touch base and I tell her about a new garden I like. How hard is it to get in? It depends on what the editor is looking for – sometimes you get lucky.
Learn How to Get Lucky
Out of over 80 press releases I sent to the Chicago Tribune about retailers, only one made it as a major feature. When I call the editor to ask why – they said “Sometimes you get lucky.” I found the more I embroidered the release with intriguing details, the better the pick up. Some PR firms focus on the nugget of the pitch and let the reporters discover the story on their own. I’m more of a storytelling type who enjoys rubbing out the vibrancy so my client can see themselves shining and be proud of a release that portrays who they are.
Knowing the editors personally also helps. When a new client told us they hadn’t had any luck with a regional living magazine, I called the editor and said something like: I can’t believe you’d do a feature without them. Did you know – I listed all the awards and credentials. Even though the story was almost finished, the editor shuffled the article around to include our client, giving them three photos and the beginning and closing quote. Why did he do this? He trusted my opinion, not just as a PR rep, but also as a reader and marketing strategist who knew how to make this issue standout.
Take Action and Test it Out
Now that you’ve read this post, take a minute to see what stands out for you, make some notes and try at least one approach. You can also contact Barbara about speaking, writing and creative projects.
What’s your take on accelerating PR performance?