When you’re pitching an up-and-coming brand, raising the profile of a little-known executive or promoting your business in a new market, the process always looks the same in the beginning: countless pitches go out the door with very few media requests rolling in.
Until, at some point, momentum starts to build. Now, journalists who wouldn’t answer your emails are replying back with follow-up questions. New journalists are reaching out and asking for interviews. Outlets you’ve never worked with are calling to see if they can ask you a few questions.
When you’re proactively pitching media, you’ve got a clear objective. This month, for example, Uber’s PR team is pitching stories to introduce their new in-app chat. Facebook’s PR team is hard at work driving coverage around the company’s redesigned video tab, Watch. Soundcloud’s PR team is telling anyone and everyone that they’re living to fight another day.
But when you’re assessing requests reactively, the objective isn’t always as clear. What seems like a straightforward interview from a respected trade publication can turn into a reputation-damaging story without proper vetting and consideration.
So how do you figure out which ones to go for and which ones to pass on? Here are three critical questions to ask each time a new opportunity presents itself.
Incoming PR requests are like big shiny objects—they look real pretty but can be enormously distracting. The purpose of any solid PR strategy is to align with a specific business goal—whether that’s driving users to an app, a new video platform, or a music streaming service they thought was about to go under.
When your inbox starts getting noisy with requests, here’s the first and most important question you want to explore with your team: what are our short and long-term business priorities?
You can bet that, on the back of Uber, Facebook and Soundcloud’s recent announcements, they’re seeing an influx of incoming PR requests. For those that are focused on further promoting the company’s announcements—a clear business priority—their respective PR team are likely seriously considering them.
But if, at the same time, Soundcloud’s CFO is being asked to be profiled by a reporter they’ve never worked with for a trade publication they don’t follow? That’s probably going to be a no.
And, at this moment, rightfully so.
When you pitch announcements proactively, you’re more likely to accept opportunities with hard hitting reporters. But as requests roll in, you have the ability to be more selective. As John McCartney, Managing Director, West Coast of Wise Public Relations offers this sage advice, “Not every outlet is the right fit for a brand. One needs to really see the treatment a media outlet gives to their stories. Are they snarky? Are they hard hitting?”
To find out, you want to thoroughly research each and every journalist that sends a request (even if they’re just asking for a comment or statement). Check their social media updates. Google their past coverage. Look at their Linkedin profiles. Use your media database to track down their history of covering your industry and brand, their beat, their story and angle preferences, and any other noteworthy tidbits you can find about their work.
Is their coverage aligned to the type of reporters you trust? Let this answer guide your decision.
No one needs to be told that PR is an industry built on relationships.
The final consideration is who the request is coming from. Have you been building a relationship with the journalist or media outlet? Is it a reporter you have a good rapport with? If the answer is ‘yes,’ it’s an easy yes. If it’s not a journalist or media outlet you know or, after researching, care to forge a relationship with, politely decline.
As your pitching efforts take-off, stay away from the knee-jerk reaction to accept each one that comes your way. In the long run, it’s far more strategic to say no to those that don’t align with your brand values or business priorities, aren’t led by journalists you know and/or trust and don’t further important industry relationships than to drag your brand into a media storm unnecessarily.
Make your work easier by using a media database to help you research journalists and the media outlets they contribute to.