Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Persistence is Key

While there are only four days left in the first month of the year we wanted to share one last blog post about another resolution to consider.

Working in the PR industry, all PR pros have experienced the feelings of frustration and disappointment when calls and emails go unanswered from reporters and editors. Unfortunately this happens more frequently than many of us would like, but the key is not to give up. So, the final resolution to add to your check list before January is officially over is persistence.

Persistence is key in any industry, not just for PR practitioners, but before we go any further, we need to outline what persistence is not. Persistence is not bombarding the media with repeated emails and phone calls with the same press release or pitch. Persistence is not making a follow up call to ensure a reporter received the press release you emailed. And persistence is most definitely not getting upset and yelling at reporters when they don’t like your story idea.

Many times PR pros feel pressure from clients to get stories in the media. With the start of 2010, all businesses are ramping up their media relations efforts again, hoping to make last year’s down economy a distant memory. Persistence is the number one tool all PR practitioners will need in 2010 to help their clients achieve their business goals.

When you make the first pitch of the year (which I’m sure many of you have already done) and a reporter does not like it or does not respond, try again. Find a new angle to work with. Can you tie your client’s story to a timely event or holiday? Can you create a local angle from a national news trend? The lesson here is to keep trying but ensure that you are sending fresh ideas – if you keep sending the same pitch, your email will most likely end up in the “circular file” as reporters are constantly struggling to fish out the best, most timely story ideas from their already flooded inboxes. The Bad Pitch Blog has some great pitching tips with real life examples of bad pitches. You do not want your (or your client’s) 15-minutes of fame to be on this blog. Just like the age-old saying goes, “think before you speak,” you should also “think before you pitch.”

One other thought – maybe your pitch is not getting through to the right person. Again, persistence is paramount. When a story isn’t getting through, take a step back and re-evaluate. Did you do your homework? Are you pitching the right reporter? Just because a reporter is listed on Mediatlas or some other online editorial research service does not mean this reporter still covers this beat or is even still working at that publication. Do not rely solely on these services as your research tool – when your pitch is not getting through it’s time to think like a journalist and figure out the missing link. Check out this great article from Bulldog Reporter that provides more tips on pitching.

Persistence was the key to our success from this recent TV hit on Austin’s Fox network. One of our clients MileMeter is an innovative by-the-mile insurance company that just launched a little over a year ago. Its unique by-the-mile pricing system is no longer new so we had to devise a new angle to remind the media and the public of why by-the-mile insurance is still a newsworthy story. As a first step, we waited – we waited because we were busy doing our homework to figure out which reporter would most likely have an interest in our story. Once we found that reporter, we crafted a targeted pitch geared toward this reporter’s interests and previous story coverage on the Fox network. While we would love to say we got an immediate response from this reporter, we didn’t. Rather than giving up or taking the approach of beating a dead horse, repeatedly sending the reporter the same tired old pitch, we took a step back and re-evaluated our pitch. We followed up again but with a new timely, local angle and bingo, we got a hit! Check out the TV segment below, which was a direct result of persistence.

Persistence is one trait that all PR pros must possess if they ever hope to succeed, but on that same note, it is our duty to figure out why a story idea isn’t working versus re-sending the same thing over and over. While your job is to sell your client’s story to the media, there are times when a client’s idea just isn’t newsworthy. PR execs are hired for a reason – to provide expert counsel to clients. So if you know a story idea won’t mesh, tell your client why and then figure out another angle that will work. Again, your clients are relying on you to create media-worthy ideas so you have to be persistent in order to find that hidden gem in a story.