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Why your PR is failing to shine

Amber Daines | 13 September, 2023


Public relations (PR) has changed significantly in the past decade or two since I started my first job in the sector in the mid-2000s.

Media releases are less essential to pitching.

Journalists are more dispersed and freelance-based.

The press conference is all but dead unless you are a sports star.

So what does this mean for your PR, and how can you and your organisation be relevant and newsworthy for all the right reasons?

What makes a PR campaign successful?

Strategy first. Execution follows.

Any successful PR campaign has defined its biggest clear goals, knows the rights audience, and chooses success measures that 100% align with those goals. By planning your campaign strategy and defining what a successful campaign looks like upfront, you’ll be in a much better position to achieve your desired results.

We believe that most PR campaigns not rooted in a strategy will fail. The wide berth of what success looks like has to be narrowed, and the right channels for the right audiences will be the best start. Anything else will be scattergun, meaning you don’t get the desired results.

Understand the modern media

The media landscape is contracting. Decades of media mergers compiled with media companies trying to monetise digital media platforms so we pay for news means the media landscape has become a business first.

At the heart of a media business are sponsors and advertisers – those who can pay for space, either physically in a print version or online in digital display and other kinds of advertising. Media companies must provide stats on readers, shares, likes, and reader demographics to prove worth to these digital advertisers.

The media landscape is getting better at this as metrics start to catch up with reader behaviour, but all this adds up to media needing to run like any other business. Getting more eyeballs on pages from readers and keeping them on their sites to monetise content is the model now. This is hard enough before you even factor in competing with the limits of social media sites like Meta/Facebook.

To lure and secure readers on sites, content has to be timely, interesting, topical, and relevant to them.

Many like to make a big thing about PR versus journalists. But having sat on both sides in my 25-year-long career, it doesn’t have to be this way. Agencies and journalists can work together to meet both sides’ aims. That is the magic. Some ideas are below.

Become more newsworthy

It doesn’t matter how interesting people in your company think your news is; the real question is, will anyone else find it interesting? In other words, ‘who cares?’ It has to be newsworthy and interesting, meaning it has to contain some new and relevant information. 

Most media releases fail because they don’t pass that critical ‘who cares?’ test. WHY should the media and readers care about what you have to say? How is it any different from what everyone else is saying?

Target the right journalists and outlets

Don’t send business reporter news to a lifestyle writer, as it’s irrelevant and wastes time. If your news is niche, send it to that niche only. Do not send it far and wide because it won’t work and irritates the journalists. If you haven’t read a publication and demonstrated in your pitch why this release is relevant to this publication, or TV or radio show, skip it. The media are busy and won’t take well to pitches that are not in their wheelhouse.

Define where you are sending pitches in emails or media releases. A focused idea or release to a small, targeted pool is far more effective than a wide spray. It shows you know a journo’s publication and their readership, and you will become an asset to a journalist.

Be snappy

If lucky, you have one sentence or two to catch a journalist’s attention.

Realistically, journalists see hundreds daily, and they are most certainly not reading all the way through these to ‘glean some interesting nugget’ of information at the end. 

Say it in the first sentence. It doesn’t matter how much you think your company name is important, don’t put it in the first sentence unless you are a big multinational, billion-dollar corporation. 

Your name can wait. What you do can wait. 

Lead with your strongest aspect. Save the sales guff for the end. And speaking of the end – rarely is the second page of a media release ever read. One page, please.

Marketing is not what they do

Journalists have finely tuned BS radars. If your media release reads in any way to be a sales promotion, you will be kindly asked to take an ad because the idea is probably more marketing than news or features worthy. It is not their job to get you a free promotion for your product or service. It is their job to get and keep readers, so they can get, and keep, advertisers.

Do not send out a media release for the sake of it. Save it for only when you have something newsworthy to say. If you get a reputation for being a timewaster, your releases won’t be read by journalists, even the good ones.

Engage the media in a conversation and do that interview

The gatekeeper and the reporter’s interest is piqued if your pitch or media release has passed. Unless it’s trade media, they are highly unlikely to run the media release as is. They will likely want an interview to get extra information to put a unique spin on it for their readership. The last thing a journalist wants is to run something similar to a competitor. 

Nothing is more annoying to a journalist than asking for an interview and being told none are available. And there is no quicker way to squash a story. A media release is not enough. Being available for an interview is as important as the media release itself. 

Ideally, with some media training behind you, make the story stand out and ensure the media will call you back again.

If you want to refine your PR ideas, we’d love to help. Book a free PR 30-minute discovery.