A Promise for Editorial is a Lie

PR Daily recently published an article citing a PR firm out of Illinois that was promising its clients TV exposure on shows like “TODAY,” “The Rachel Ray Show,” CNN or the Oprah Winfrey Network. And PR Daily called it what it was – a scam.

If you’re looking for a PR firm and a representative of that firm ever “promises” editorial coverage for your company, it’s a lie and unethical. There is only one way we can promise you exposure – it’s called paid advertising, and the retainer fee for a PR firm does not a paid ad make. 😉

As PR strategists, we can never guarantee media coverage for our clients. Most clients understand that – it’s why our job is to find the best story angles, the best timing and build relationships with reporters in order to up the odds of coverage a bit more.

And, there’s a reason why it’s called “editorial content”: editors, reporters, producers, bloggers and publishers choose which content is and is not included in their publication or broadcast. That’s what makes news stories more credible than paid ads. Sometimes, coverage doesn’t happen because of conflicting current events – for instance, the week of the Boston Marathon bombings, most of the news cycle focused on that story, both locally and nationally. And sometimes, coverage doesn’t happen simply because a reporter is having a bad day and isn’t interested in any outside pitches.

However, PR firms work to ensure the most optimal scenario for pickup of news stories – and here’s a little insight into what goes into that process.

1.    Research. We research our media outlets prior to pitching. This includes finding the right outlet with the right demographics and the right reporter. If you pitch the sports anchor a story about a new clinical study that came out about eczema, you’ll never get anywhere. But if you pitch a sports writer an angle related to an increase in Staph infections among baseball players in the Major League – which can be related to flare-ups of eczema – and cite a specific ball player in that journalist’s town, you might get some interest.

2.    Relevancy. The editor of the Dallas Business Journal will not be interested in an article focusing on how to choose the right running shoe for you. Likewise, the healthy living features editor probably won’t be interested in writing about an expansion of a business. You have to pitch story ideas and send news releases that are relevant to that reporter, his/her beat, the audience and the media outlet in order to see success.

3.    Timeliness. If you’re pitching how to prevent heat stroke for your pets when it’s 30 degrees out, you will not land a story. However, if you live in Texas (like I do), pitching a story on that topic in June is very timely, as it will soon be 100 degrees on a daily basis. Additionally, if you are pitching news that happened a week or month ago, it may not be deemed newsworthy any longer. So, be sure to plan ahead when getting ready to announce big news to take advantage of the timely aspect of that story.

4.    Follow up. I spoke with a reporter at one of the major daily papers in Dallas the other day who said she receives no fewer than 750 to 1,000 emails per day. PER DAY! If you think your pitch will stand out in a crowd of 1,000, think again. The key to success is to follow up with reporters. Even if you’ve done your research, your topic is relevant and is timely, you still have to follow up in some cases. Sometimes, a phone call is the best policy. But a tweet or direct message can be effective, too! Regardless, remember to be cognizant of their deadlines and time.

So, as the PR Daily article said, don’t be scammed into thinking that you can be promised media appearances on Good Morning America. Even if my best friend is a writer for the local alternative paper, I may still be (and have been) turned down for a story idea. Remember to consider approach, not just empty promises, when choosing a firm.