The public relations aspect of marketing initiatives can sometimes prove a little tricky to get going, and for good reason. There are a number of implicit misconceptions about how public relations works that you should be aware of as you develop your PR strategy, refine your messaging, and decide on PR campaign goals.
The most common misconception about PR is that your company’s internal developments are inherently, in-and-of-themselves, of interest to a reporter. This is rarely the case. Unless you run a company that is already very much in the public eye (think Tesla, Apple, or Google), or your internal company development is truly earthshattering, it’s unlikely to gain much traction in the press. This doesn’t mean you should give up on pitching internal company developments to reporters altogether, but it does mean you should be selective about what you choose to draw attention to. A new company initiative on diversity may not grab many reporters’ attention, if any, but a first-of-its-kind product launch could garner some press with the right pitch.
Another common misconception about PR is that “a pitch is a pitch”—in other words, one pitch will suffice to be blasted out indiscriminately to the media. This is folly. Too many irrelevant pitches from you and a reporter may automatically throw your emails in the trash without opening them. The only tried-and-true way to garner media mentions and get quoted in the news is to be useful, kind, and respectful of reporters’ time. This means refraining from bombarding every reporter on your list with every single pitch you write. Reporters respond much better to pitches that are tailored to their areas of expertise, and ideally that are personalized to them, ideally addressing them by their first name.
There are no guarantees in PR either—it’s not uncommon for articles to get pulled at the last moment in favor of a juicier story, which can prove frustrating after a great deal of energy has gone into shepherding a pitch into publication. At the end of the day, the reporter’s number one responsibility is to their audience.
With this in mind, perhaps one of the most important items to keep in mind throughout your PR campaign is that, while your PR firm may work for you, the reporters they are pitching you out to do not. It is incumbent upon spokespeople to be as respectful as possible towards reporters, especially with regards to their time, because a reporter’s ultimate goal is to write the best story they possibly can for their editor and readers, not to quote your particular point of view in their article. This means sticking to call appointments when a reporter is interested in speaking to a spokesperson, being responsive via phone and email, and being courteous, respectful, and above all useful when speaking to a reporter when they respond to a pitch.
By proving yourself as a useful source to reporters, through specific, actionable, insightful (and quotable) talking points, you will be one step closer to building a working relationship, and the battle to get mentioned in the press may not be quite so arduous the next time around. Just be sure to sidestep the potential PR misconceptions touched on above.