14 Aug It’s not all champagne and canapes…
When I was working full-time as a journalist, I used to think that PRs had the life of Riley, gliding from one event to the next, giddy on champagne bubbles and full to the brim with canapés. Either things have changed since then or I was looking at things through rose tinted Ray Bans because it couldn’t be further from the truth. Getting coverage in the UK press can be a hard slog. There have been times when I’ve sent out a perfectly worded press release with an attention grabbing e-mail subject heading, only to receive radio silence. Nada. Not a dicky bird. Tumbleweedtastic.
With this in mind, I am doing a live webinar for a bunch of fantastic entrepreneurs who are part of our Wow PR School group on Facebook and I’m going to be talking to them about perseverance, because along with good grammar and great stories, it’s one of the most important attributes of a good PR campaign.
My first word of advice for anyone who fears that their press release has fallen on deaf ears is ‘don’t panic.’ This does not mean your story has sunk without a trace. You are in round one and there are still plenty of options. Resist the urge to send another pleading e-mail asking ‘Did you get my press release?’ because those are the words that will force the friendliest of hacks to press the delete button. Wait at least 5 days, a week if you can bear it, before you do anything. Annoyingly, not many people answer their phones in this day and age, but ringing round is a good starting point. I’d say that we get our best results at Wow once we start engaging with journalists. Often, they haven’t seen our press release, or hadn’t got round to doing anything with it.
If you’re lucky, the journalist might say ‘We’re just doing a feature on X, so your product would be perfect.’ That does happen, more often than you think. We recently secured three pages in a local glossy magazine for a client off the back of one friendly phone call.
I’ve read in forums, that journalists don’t think PRs should chase up press releases under any circumstances, but we find that it does get results, so we carry on regardless. Our team are good on the telephone, so we never rush in with ‘Did you get my press release?’ We’re always friendly, upbeat and act as if we have something great to offer them. If it’s a ‘no’ that’s good in our books, because a definitive answer is always better than nothing at all.
There are times when things just don’t go to plan. The release has gone out, the chase-up has happened and still the results are a bit meh. Then, we have to look at why. In the course of our ring round, we will find out why a journalist doesn’t want to use our story. They may have covered something similar before, it might be too low or high end for their readership etc. If they say ‘it’s just not us’ take note. Look at their magazine and see why. The more familiar you are with the publications you’re pitching to, the better.
If you have to go back to the drawing board, then do just that. X didn’t work, so try Y. There is always a solution. If you throw everything at it, you’ll get results. There are times when PR is like falling off a log. All it takes is one phone call to a journalist pal and hey presto, we’ve got a double-paged spread in one of the UK’s most popular publications. On other occasions, we try super hard and not much sticks BUT we never give up. You’ve got to be dogged in your attempts to get coverage. Don’t feel like a failure if nobody responds to your press release or the only person at your photocall is a passerby taking selfies.
A stunt or event might be the answer. If you don’t have a big budget, then you’re going to have to get highly creative, but if you manage to create a bit of excitement, the local press might come along. If they publish your story with pictures, it might then get picked up by the nationals. Or you could commission a survey. It’s going to cost you around £1,500 and you’ll need to use a specialist agency, but they’ll help you put together something that generates a good headline like this one from Ginger Communications, who recently found out the top 50 things Brits value most in life.
And finally, don’t just target national and local press. What about online publications? Bloggers? Trade press? And niche publications? There is a magazine or online platform for just about everything you can think of nowadays. I helped a fellow PR with a bit of brainstorming this week and saw that there is even a magazine called The Cocktail Lovers. That’s definitely one for the reading list!
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