Tagged: journalism

5 Misconceptions About Publicists & Public Relations

What does a PR firm do?

A publicist is responsible for generating exposure for your company and brand. Publicists help define your corporate public “persona” by crafting story angles, pitching stories to the media, coordinating interviews with journalists, writing fact sheets and electronic press kits, keeping updated media lists and monitoring your public image. Additionally, publicists help to craft that image and pitch strategic messages and storylines on behalf of you and your company to the media.

However, there are many misconceptions about what publicists do and how they do it.  Plus, there are misconceptions floating around about why you should hire a PR firm in the first place. My favorite one is, “You only need to hire a PR firm during a crisis.” That couldn’t be further from the truth!

PUBLIC RELATIONS MISCONCEPTIONS

Here are the top 5 misconceptions you need to understand about PR professionals:

PR MISCONCEPTION  # 1

Publicists have a….

MAGIC ROLODEX.  Clients believe that their publicists have a magic rolodex that they scroll through. While the traditional rolodex has been replaced with email lists and texting, the theory still remains the same. Publicists cannot email, call or text an editor and automatically get a story placed. That isn’t how real PR or journalism work. The publicist may have a very close relationship with a journalist, but if the story has no legs, there is breaking news, or the journalist simply doesn’t like the story idea, it’s not getting placed, and it doesn’t matter if you hired a Park Avenue PR firm or if you pitched the story on your own. The newsworthiness value of the story is all that matters. Breaking news dictates the storylines, and publicists pitch stories that tie into the news cycle. It is not the other way around. The media dictates what is covered- publicists do not.

PR MISCONCEPTION # 2

Publicists live a….

‘SEX & THE CITY’ LIFESTYLE. Another misconception is that publicists go out every night to events and are surrounded by glitterati and a Sex and the City lifestyle. As a publicist, I spend the majority of time in front of my computer writing, editing, pitching and communicating with clients and the media. Every time I am at a networking event, I could be missing an important email from a journalist who may be requesting an interview with my client or needs answers to their questions within the hour. This public perception of publicists going to glamorous events every night is outdated and unrealistic. Perhaps it is true in entertainment PR where red carpet events still reign supreme. But corporate and healthcare PR? Not so much.

PR MISCONCEPTION #3

Publicists… 

CONTROL THE STORY.  After you are interviewed by a journalist from a print outlet, the interview is done. Sometimes the media will have follow up questions and you can go back and forth several times. However, you cannot take back what you said, so be sure to think carefully before you shoot off a quick email or provide a sound bite.  As a general media relations rule of thumb to live by, when in doubt, keep it out!  Publicists can’t take your quotes off the record.   If you say something to a reporter that should have been off the record (or not said at all), we can’t fix it unless we are close with a reporter and even then there’s no guarantee. If you don’t want something in print — don’t say it. This is why media training is so important. Additionally, please don’t ask your publicist to ask the reporter to see a copy of your quote before it runs. This is not standard practice and the answer is most likely a resounding no. Earned media is not the same as paid media. You have to earn it for a reason.  When you pay for media, you control the narrative. When you earn media, you do not control the narrative, and neither does your publicist. They can certainly pitch an angle, but after you speak to a reporter, it is up to the journalists discretion on what the story is. Remember, it is their story, not yours! You are a source that adds subject matter expertise to something they are reporting on.

PR MISCONCEPTION #4

Publicists can…

FIX  REPORTING ERRORS. Occasionally, articles are published with a source’s name spelled wrong or some other minor error. You may think, “If my publicist was any good, they could get the reporter to fix the spelling of my name!” That’s not always the case. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  If the print edition has already gone to press, nothing can be done except for a correction that will run in a future issue. Any time I have asked a reporter to fix the spelling of a client’s name in a digital article, the request ends up annoying the reporter. In the old days of journalism, everything was fact-checked several times before it was published. Today that is unfortunately no longer the case with the rapid pace of digital journalism and the increased demand for content. So yes, while some publicists may be able to get the spelling of your name corrected, it is not guaranteed. It depends on the outlet and their editorial policy with corrections, not on your publicist’s ability.

PR MISCONCEPTION #5

Publicists can…

CONTROL GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS. People often ask if we can change Google search results for their company or personal brand. Perhaps one bad story or review tanked their corporate reputation, and they now want a publicist to fix it. A public relations program that incorporates organic earned media coverage does have the ability to alter search results. However, this is a long-term effort, and it is never guaranteed because it depends on so many outside factors including the domain authority of the sites that new coverage is secured on, and most importantly, the domain authority of the sites that the bad press is written on. Often, if those sites are ranked high, it becomes very difficult to lower the results, regardless of how many earned media placements you secure. Additionally, a digital advertising campaign and paid media would have to complement the PR efforts as part of the long term reputation management campaign to alter search results. Publicists can make a valiant effort at getting more positive coverage for you, but the one surefire way to change search results is through Google directly (or with the help of a good attorney that specializes in defamation).

Why is the practice of Public Relations misunderstood by the public?

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation put out there by PR firms trying to close new clients on the power of PR. Yes, PR *is* powerful and can do wonders for your brand, but you need to understand what is in a publicist’s control, and what is far out of their control. It does everyone a great disservice to make claims that cannot be supported. Some of these claims include PR firms who are promising to guarantee press coverage.

If a PR firm guarantees a set amount of press placements per month, run! That is not how real journalism or PR works!

So the real answer to this question is that the practice of PR is understood by the public because the media shows an overly glamorized portrayal of what we do and because publicists guarantee all sorts of things they shouldn’t and are not held to a standard of ethics that virtually every other field is held to.

Can you imagine going to a doctor that promised to cure cancer?

Or a lawyer that promised to win your case?

So why would you ever believe a PR firm who promised to get you a set amount of placements or bookings per month?

You pay a publicist for their time, strategic insights and work deployed on your behalf.

Results are an outcome of that time, but PR firms cannot guarantee those results simply because the stories they pitch are in the hands of editors/ producers. The only person can control results when it comes to PR output is the media, NOT a PR firm! If you understand this, your expectations will be more realistic and you will be happier with the results of your campaign.

PUBLIC RELATIONS MYTHS

Myth #1: PR is no longer relevant to my business because traditional media is dead.

Fact: Traditional media is still relevant, and digital PR is a burgeoning area that not only helps your business and credibility, but is also a critical ranking factor for Google’s EAT quality guidelines for building authority.

Myth #2: PR firms are too expensive. We can do it ourselves.

Fact: You know what is even more expensive? Trying to do PR yourself and getting sued. Plus, Your time is limited. Why waste it pitching yourself when a PR pro could do it for you?

Myth #3: My last PR firm was terrible so all PR is worthless. 

Fact: Maybe your last PR firm actually was terrible. But does that mean every other PR firm in perpetuity will also be terrible? No. Stop judging an entire industry because you had a bad experience.

Myth #4: We don’t have a good PR story to tell, so our results will be terrible if we hire a PR firm.

Fact: Leave that up to the magicians to determine to see if you have a good story to tell before you take yourself out of the race entirely. Your story may be better than you think if someone could properly package, pitch and promote it for you! Hint, that is what we specialize in!

Myth #5: PR will drive thousands of sales, clicks and leads overnight. PR will make me rich overnight!

Fact: PR is better for brand awareness.  In certain circumstances, direct marketing may be better for driving new leads than PR is. Yes, I said that as a PR firm agency owner. Why? Because I want you to be an informed consumer before purchasing PR services. Also, PR will not make you rich overnight.

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PR Key Takeaways:

PR is ideal for keeping your brand top of mind with peers and prospective clients. However, if a business relies solely on PR and media relations to generate sales, they are setting themselves up for failure.

PR is not about hiring a firm and handing them a pile of cash to push a narrative you want told to the media. It is about hiring a practitioner who you trust to tell the narrative that they believe will get the best traction in the media.

The Truth About Public Relations

20 things I want you to know about how public relations really works.

I have secured hundreds of thousands of media impressions for clients in local media, national media, broadcast media and trade publications. After 12 years in the PR industry and hundreds of emails with reporters, and handling PR for clients in a number of different verticals, here is what I want you to know.

  1. Publicists act as the buffer between the media and clients. This is for good reason.
  2. We know how to deal with reporters. You don’t.
  3. Yes, we got a client on Rock Center with Ann Curry once. Just because that happened, doesn’t mean we can get you the exact same thing. Ann Curry no longer even works at NBC. Comparing press coverage between clients is comparing apples to oranges. No two press placements are the same.
  4. Stop demanding the press coverage you think you deserve. The media and market dictate what coverage you deserve. You don’t. And your PR firm doesn’t either. We can get your story to the media, but we don’t control what the media finds interesting or newsworthy.
  5. If you genuinely want to get more media coverage, that starts with you. Most PR firms will kill me for saying this, but the onus is on you to be more interesting. Are you publishing research studies with data the media would want to use? Do you have a robust content marketing program? Are you putting out rich content the media would want to use? Instead of asking your PR firm, “Why is the media not covering me?” Ask yourself, “How can I be more interesting to the media by being a more interesting human being and doing more in my field?”
  6. Have confidence in the firm you hired. If you don’t trust them to do the job, don’t work with them.
  7. Tell your PR firm what you want. Adequately set expectations from the get-go instead of being disappointed you didn’t get what you want. No one knows what you want unless you vocalize it at the start of the engagement, not at the end, after you fire your PR firm!
  8. Start local and build to national. Not the other way around.
  9. Provide access to your top executives. What is the point of hiring a PR firm if everything you say “that is off the record,” or if your CEO refuses to speak to reporters? Don’t ask to be on INC. 5000 but then not publicly disclose your earnings report. We must have access to key leadership to do our jobs properly. That includes you giving us all pertinent details, not only the glowing details that make you look good, or that you want to share. If you want to be in the media, you lose the choice of what gets disclosed.
  10. Your marketing timeline has nothing to do with your PR timeline. Stop trying to make it happen. Reporters work on their own time table. Not on your CMO’s timeline around your product launch.
  11. Stop with your pretend deadlines. Just because you want the story to run before you leave for Mar-A-Lago, doesn’t mean it actually will!
  12. Do not ask us when the story is coming out.
  13. Public relations takes time. If you want results in 30 days, consider paid advertising or direct marketing instead.

Publicist of the week Kris RubyLooking for a publicist who understands how the industry really works? Skip the line or trial and error by working with a publicist who has 12+ years of securing earned media impressions and major PR wins for clients. Plus, Ruby Media Group’s CEO was recently named “Publicist of The Week” by Women in PR. We know how to place major media impressions that convert to real results for your business. Contact us to today to turn your PR dreams into reality. 

 

 

 

PR FIRM MISCONCEPTION RESOURCES

How to spot a Fake PR Firm (VIDEO)

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Pitch Perfect: Pitching the Media

How to get Media Coverage: Media Pitching Tips from a PR Pro!

How do I get the media’s attention?

pitching the media

Think like a reporter. Journalists write about stories that will be helpful to their readers. Producers create segments that are interesting to their viewers. Podcasters create content that is of interest to their listeners. If you want to be covered by any of these media outlets, the key is to think about what is most interesting to their audience.  Develop pitch angles from a journalists perspective, not from your own. It’s not about what is interesting to you, it is about what is interesting to them and their audience.

Solve Problems.  Reporters are always interested in uncovering new solutions to current problems that their readers may be facing. For example, maybe you have a unique take on vaping that hasn’t been covered. Propose a solution instead of saying what the problem is. Anyone can share the problem. Your unique perspective as a practitioner and expert source is what is of interest to a reporter. Journalists want to write about topics that will help their readers. Your pitch should be a solution, instead of a way to brag about your company.

Time your pitch with the news cycle.  Be able to answer the question: Why should a reporter write about this today? For example, if you are pitching a story about boating safety, it is unlikely that a reporter will be interested in covering this in the middle of a hurricane warning. Use common sense!

PR Tips & Tricks:

How do you pitch to the press?

The #1 way to pitch the press is by answering the 4 W’s first! So, what are the 4 w’s?

Before pitching a story idea, always be sure to address the following:

  • Why this?
  • Why now?
  • Why should they care?
  • Why should this be covered in the media?

How do you effectively pitch the media?

Making connections with broadcast and print media is vital to the success of your public relations campaign, but as the old saying goes, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” Just because you think you have a great pitch idea doesn’t mean you’re ready to start pitching the media. Before you hit send, here are several steps to ensure that you maximize your chances at scoring national earned media coverage.

HOW TO PITCH THE MEDIA

10 tips to maximize your chance of scoring top-tier press coverage.

Write the story you want told. Create a package that journalists can pull directly from complete with high-resolution photos, a bio and a fact sheet.  Reporters want you to write the outline of the story for them so they can pitch it to their editor to see if it would be a good fit. Of course they will rewrite everything you are sending and further flesh out the details, but it helps if you can paint the picture for them of the story you want told.  Use numbers and statistics to strengthen credibility. Most importantly, always provide accurate, factual information. Don’t get blacklisted for providing inaccurate information to a reporter.

PR Tip: Be disruptive. Is your business disrupting the status quo in a specific industry? If so, point that out and show how! 

Pitch the right editor. It sounds simple, but editors and producers move around frequently, and you could be pitching an editor who moved on to another publication six months ago. Take a few minutes to research the newspaper or TV station to make sure that the journalist is still on staff and that you have the right spelling of their name. For example, you’re about to pitch a media outlet a great segment idea about your newest product, but the contact name on your media list is actually the name of the entertainment editor. Make sure that you have the right person for your pitch and their correct email address. Also, don’t assume that the entertainment editor will send the pitch to the correct editor for you.

PR Tip: Sending a blanket pitch to everyone on staff is always a bad idea. Make sure your pitch is targeted to the right editor. 

Watch and read the news. Are you pitching The View? Make sure you’ve watched a few episodes. Are you pitching The New York Times travel editor? Read the section before pitching. Refer back to previous articles the journalist has written to make sure your pitch is focused on what they currently cover. Oddly enough, most people who pitch the media make the mistake of never researching them first. Consume the media like it is your full time job. Study the publications that competitors are mentioned in and contact those media outlets first. Your story must have “breaking news” value to it. Evergreen content is great for your web site, but not so great if you are pitching the media.

PR Tip: Watch the news. Read the publications that you want to get coverage in.

Time your pitch. Confine your pitching to the media on the days your pitch is most likely to be opened. The best days for pitching journalists are Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Emails sent on Friday will get pushed down by all the other emails coming in on the weekend.

PR Tip: A recent study showed that most journalists prefer to receive pitches in the morning vs. in the evening.

Include a news peg: Make sure that you actually have a newsworthy pitch. Sending an email to a producer asking if they want to do a story about your company with no compelling news peg will land your pitch in their trash folder. Your pitch should include a specific idea and everything the producer will need, including quotes, photos, background information, etc.

PR Tip: Craft an electronic press kit (EPK) well before you pitch the media so that if an editor or producer reaches out, you can easily send it!

Don’t oversell: When pitching the media, leave out the jargon and, whatever you do, do not tell a journalist that you’re the first company to ever do so-and-so unless you can back it up. Also avoid using industry jargon including popular phrases like cutting edge, breakthrough, top, leading, and any over words that will immediately be cut.

PR Tip: Fact check your own fluff and hype!

Write a great headline: Editors won’t click on emails unless the subject line interests them, so make sure you create a compelling one. Oprah Winfrey reportedly received 15,000 emails a day from people pitching various products and ideas. Make sure your story idea stands out.

PR Tip: Ask yourself, “How can I make sure my pitch is read when someone is receiving 15k emails daily?”

Don’t pitch through social media. Facebook and Twitter are great tools to promote earned media coverage, but they shouldn’t be used to pitch editors. Mikal Belicove of Forbes says that pitching him through Twitter isn’t “cool.” Instead, he says in this article, pitch him privately.

PR Tip: Pitch through e-mail instead of via direct messaging on Twitter.

Give Ample Lead time: A Mother’s Day story idea shouldn’t be pitched the week before the big day if you are pitching a traditional publication. Newspapers need a few weeks of lead time while magazines work even further ahead. However, if you are pitching a broadcast outlet, the segment may be put together the day of with only a few hours’ notice from start to finish. Plan your pitch calendar accordingly.

PR Tip: Learn when newspaper deadlines are. Don’t pitch a story an hour before a reporters deadline. Insider tip- Request an editorial calendar through the advertising department to get a look at what stories will be covered for the year ahead.

Do not call reporters. In the past, public relations professionals were encouraged to follow up with a phone call to the media see if their pitch garnered any interest from reporters. However, today, thanks to technology, editors are so bombarded with calls and emails that the protocol has changed. It’s okay to send one follow-up email, but if you don’t hear from the journalist after that, assume they aren’t interested.  The majority of reporters would prefer to be pitched through email. If they want to move forward, they will either email you or call you back to flesh out booking details.

PR Tip: Pick up the phone to pitch reporters after they have expressed interest in your pitch, not before!

What should a media pitch include?

  • Read the last few months of content the reporter has written (search on Muckrack).
  • Check out the reporters Twitter to see what they are currently covering and tweeting about.
  • Understand what the reporter covers, how they cover it and the format they cover it in. For example, don’t pitch a profile piece if they typically write round-up articles.
  • Craft a pitch that mentions their previous work and what your idea is.
  • Tell them why they should cover this idea and how it ties into what they currently write about.
  • Answer the 4 W’s mentioned above.
  • Explain why your pitch is perfect for the publication and why they have to cover it now.
  • Is your pitch time sensitive? Does it to into a breaking news story? Is this an exclusive? Let the media know!
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HOW TO GET FREE PR FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Our article on how to pitch the media would not be complete if we left out HARO!

How can I get free publicity for my business?

If you choose not to hire a PR firm, one of the best ways to get free PR for your business is through utilizing HARO.

What is Help A Reporter Out (HARO)?

HARO is a free publicity tool that connects sources with journalists who are working on stories looking for experts to quote.

HARO is ideal for:

  • Brand building
  • Increasing earned media coverage & awareness
  • Link building
  • Forging new relationships with journalists

 How do you use HARO effectively?

Yes, HARO does enable business owners to essentially act as their own PR firm, but that is really an over simplification of what PR agencies do. There are many intricacies that go into writing a pitch and getting it placed.

So, even though technology has made the tools available for free to connect with journalists, it doesn’t mean that every business owner has the skill set to write and craft pitches at a higher level and in a way that will resonate with reporters (and that follows best practices).

In order to use HARO effectively, you need to know how to give the reporter what they are looking for.

After responding to thousands of HARO queries and getting hundreds of media placements through HARO, here are my top tips for writing a successful HARO pitch to gain earned media coverage.

How do you write a successful HARO pitch?

1.  Provide substantive details pertaining to the story

2.  Do not ask reporters if they want to see more information

3.  Give reporters what they are asking for

4.  Provide contact details

5.  Answer the questions in a timely fashion

6.  Include relevant bullets to break up your pitch

How to use HARO to get publicity

Ideally, you want to make sure web site visitors from HARO query mentions convert to new leads and customers. The best way to do this is to make sure you are spending time answering the right types of HARO queries versus every query in your feed.

How do you respond to HARO queries?

Before replying to a HARO query, ask:

  • Is the query relevant to your industry?
  • Is the query from a high profile site? Hint: Skip anonymous queries.
  • Do you meet all of the writers credential requirements to answer the query?

WANT MORE PR SECRETS?

DOWNLOAD: THE BEST WAYS TO GET FREE PR FOR YOUR BUSINESS

How To Pitch Journalists

Still curious about how to pitch the media like a pro? We understand! PR can be overwhelming and staying up with breaking news is a full time job! Our PR firm is constantly monitoring the news cycles to look for opportunities to tie our clients into the news so they can just show up and provide quotes! We do the hard work for you. You supply us with the answers to reporters queries and let us work our PR magic and do the rest! Contact us today to learn more about how we can craft successful and engaging media pitches for you to score you massive earned media coverage in regional, national and trade publications.

How to Pitch the Media Resources:

Make sure your story gets picked up with these additional resources on pitching the media! 

Media Pitching 101 Webinar

Media Relations Guide

Media Relations Guide

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