Are Your PR Efforts Falling Flat? Here's How to Fix It
A well-executed public relations campaign has the ability to take your business to the next level and grant you exposure to new markets and audiences. However, when done incorrectly and not followed through on consistently, your PR campaign will not only yield insufficient results but prove to be a waste of time.
Over the past decade in the public relations industry, I have tested hundreds of strategies and tactics to get the best results from a public relations campaign. Along the way, I have established a couple key rules that are universal to any business working to get their tactical approach to PR on the right track. More often than not, breaking these rules will derail a PR effort, or at the very least make your implementation a whole lot more difficult. Here are my top half-dozen reasons why public relations plans fail followed by the fixes you must implement to ensure your strategy is strong from start to finish.
No clear goal
Many companies start a PR campaign with the vague goal of simply getting publicity without an actual defined outcome related to increasing traffic, leads or revenue. A targeted goal is necessary in order to see desired results, and most importantly, a return on investment.
The Fix: Set a specific goal for a campaign such as generating an increase in traffic to your website over a certain period of time, or generating a certain number of sales lead conversions on your site. Once you choose your goal, your results can easily be measured to track success throughout your campaign. The outcome will never be uncertain. You’ll know exactly where you are on the spectrum between success or failure.
No KPIs to measure progress
You need to choose the proper key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress towards your goal. More often than not, companies do very little in terms of KPI tracking for their PR campaigns, which is partly why PR has developed a reputation for being abstract. You need to track both the actions that were taken and the resulting progress, including pitches that were sent, conversations with reporters, and interviews that were conducted. If at any given point you are not on track to reach your goals, you can refer back to your KPIs to see where insufficient action is being taken and increase it.
The Fix: Create a spreadsheet where you can log each media pitch you send, who you sent it to, the date and what you pitched them. Track the date you follow up on each pitch as well and notes on any responses received from the press. Tracking these metrics will help you establish trends for what story angles work better, which media outlets are more responsive, and even days of the week that are more effective for pitching. This will allow you to continually pivot and tweak your strategy to optimize for your goals.
The wrong story or media contacts
This is one of the most common mistakes made in PR. You need to pitch a story to the media that has value, not just a promotion for your product. Sending a pitch that is overly promotional or, worse, a generic story will not yield interviews or interest. Similarly, you also need to choose the correct reporters and producers to send your pitch to. Taking a “spray and pray” approach of mass emailing media outlets will sabotage your efforts from day one. Your pitch needs to align not only to the media outlet you’re sending it to but also to the individual reporter’s exact coverage area.
The Fix: It’s your job to tell a compelling story that helps the reporter understand why this is a newsworthy story that fits their beat. It’s imperative for you to conduct adequate research on the reporter prior to sending them a pitch to completely familiarize yourself with their beat, writing style and interests. Check them out on social media to get a better idea of what topics they’re talking about and having conversations around. Invest the time into taking a deep dive into each reporter’s previous work so you can learn exactly what they cover and not waste their time or yours.
Lack of consistency
When you aren’t seeing results from what you’re doing, don’t simply stop and assume it doesn’t work. PR is similar to sales in that it requires consistency and repetitive effort over a period of time in order to gain traction.
The Fix: Focus on starting quality conversations with reporters in your space every day for at least three days per week. This can include favoriting or responding to a tweet, or shooting them an email commenting on a recent story they completed. The same goes for pitching. Send out your pitches consistently, and do not give up if your first story doesn’t garner interest. There are lots of variables for why a story doesn’t get picked up. Don’t take it personally. Try a new idea. Continue this for at least a full quarter in order to get momentum and build meaningful relationships with the media.
Following up your pitch is arguably one of the most important elements of a public relations campaign. We see the majority of our media pickups happen on the follow-up email. Remember that reporters are very busy people and are often working on a deadline. The follow-up gives you a second opportunity to land in their inbox at the right time to get covered. It also jogs their memory in case they didn’t have the time to fully consider your pitch when they initially opened it. Without follow-up, a reporter may never even see your email because of the sheer volume of pitches they receive each day. So make sure that every pitch you send has a follow-up!
The Fix: After you send a pitch to a reporter, send a short follow-up email roughly two days later. You should keep your follow-up short: a sentence or two max simply asking them again if they have interest in your story and would like to discuss further. This serves a quick reminder to the reporter to take a second look at your pitch. However, also remember not to go overboard with your follow-ups. One is usually enough; two max. If the reporter doesn’t respond to your first follow-up, it’s usually safe to assume they aren’t interested. Continuing to bug them about it will only hurt your chances of getting a different pitch accepted. So it’s a much better use of your time to send them something different at a later point in the future than to continue hammering them with follow-ups. Don’t be the company that sends a follow-up to their follow-up of their follow-up!
Poor pitch etiquette
Your pitch is almost guaranteed to be ignored by reporters if it goes on too long, includes typos or appears to be part of a mass email sent to many reporters. Many media outlets will also not open attachments on an initial pitch.
The Fix: Ensure your pitch is succinct and error-free. Triple check for spelling errors, as even a small grammatical error can convey a lack of attention to detail to a reporter. Tailor the pitch content to the reporter's specific beat and coverage, and save any attachments for when they request them.
Being fully aware of these six most common reasons why PR campaigns fail will arm you with the knowledge and a checklist of action items you can correct before your PR campaign takes a wrong turn. Remember that PR campaigns are a continual work in progress! As your campaign continues, you will develop the style and methods that produce the most optimal results for your media goals.