Media Relations – A Waiting Game
By: Brian Chandler, president
Many of us have, at one time or another left a meeting after hearing about a possible story, ran back to our office and started writing a pitch to a reporter. We had confidence that we had what we needed and it would be an easy sell. In that situation, if your internal media relation’s alarm wasn’t going off telling you to stop, you were probably either an inexperienced practitioner or had an ego that was getting in the way of good reasoning and planning.
After almost 20 years in the business, I have learned that rushing to pitch a story is not smart, or strategic for that matter. Here are a few reasons why:
– It takes time to gather all the facts and get your pitch in order to be worthy of consideration by the media.
Reporters are in such demand that we really only get one shot when asking for news coverage. Take time to gather all the facts, statistics, spokesperson information, etc., so you have the highest probability of your story getting covered.
“The media well is only so deep,” said Susan Hart of Hart Public Relations in Nashville, Tenn. “To maximize intended exposure of you or your client’s product/service, the right timing to go to that well is critical.”
Reporters receive thousands of emails a day from PR people, if you’re not completely prepared with your story, you’re wasting their time and burning a bridge.
– Every story includes more than one company or source.
Good reporters always want to tell both sides of the story. Whether positive or negative, there are external sources that will be contacted, if your story gets picked up. If you don’t have some idea or understanding of how those sources will respond in an interview, you’re getting ahead of yourself and possibly setting yourself up for something unexpected.
– What you think is a story, might not be one company leadership wants told.
“Media relations requires tightrope timing,” Hart said. “Too much, too soon, too late, and too unreliable, often breaks that tightrope – one fall off the tightrope is one too many.”
The internal workings of a client or company are complicated and sometimes even bureaucratic. Rushing from a meeting to go pitch a story, without consulting with the higher-ups could be a problem. We all hope that communication among multiple company levels is prevalent in an organization, but sometimes it just isn’t. Be sure to clear everything before taking your story public.
Remember, next time you are excited about a potential story for your client or company, take a deep breath, outline your approach in an email to company leadership, or the client, and ask for feedback. It could save you a lot of trouble and prevent you from ruining those reporter relationships you have worked so hard to establish.