Concept initiated by @karyncooks
(Please see Part 1 for the intro to this post).
PS – There is one more reason we won’t stop — it works.
We (Flacks) have all gotten an undeserving hit at some point or another in our careers.
- the story was so great the reporter didn’t care that we called when they’ve only asked for emails, or
- it was such a slow news day in Miami that a story about something in Minnesota made it into the local section
we’ve all had a great hit from the combination of dumb luck and a hastily built list.
If there’s even the slightest chance of a random hit, what’s it hurt to increase my list by another 50-500 reporters. Costs me nothing but a hit could be out there, just waiting for the right time. Would you waste the chance?
Gina is right. So is Chris. We (flacks) as a group, generally suck. As a whole it took us a long time to catch on to the whole blog thing and we’re still a little terrified about it. Generally there’s no publisher to
threaten appeal to and your commenting readers are of the One Flew Over the Cuckoo nest kind of nuts.
- To the energy editor – “Just wanted you to know that some widgets by widget co are produced with clean/wind/horse/nuclear energy”
- To the religion writer – “You may not have known this but the factory workers at widget factory have a religion”
- To the kids/family writer – “We wanted to remind you (and your readers) that widgets are totally appropriate toys and not at all a choke hazard”
- To the W. Coast bureau chief – “We wanted to let your office know that widgets are really popular out there and may merit a story.”
You see where this is going.
Then again, sometimes we don’t know better. Here’s the other, not uncommon, scenario….
- Month of Tidgets
- Tidgets & Widgets
- Tidgets Worldwide
- Widgets International, with a quarterly Tidgets International supplement
to see who the exact proper beat reporter is?
No, we’re going to our database and searching for Tidget beat and Tidget ‘pitching notes’…even if the pitching note says “Not interested in Tidgets, I think they’re the scourge of the Earth.”
Yeah, you’ve got a blog called “Tidgets Today” that doesn’t cover Tidgets for some reason — tough, you’re getting the release and the follow-up call. Heck we may even be a bit drunk to get the nerve to actually make these calls (ok, not really, but we’ll wish we were).
And this doesn’t just apply on coverage topics, it’s also a geographic issue.
Imagine if you will, the days before the popularization of the internet – the midsize shop in NYC knew the regional press and the trade press. If a project fell outside that parameter they found a colleague in another small shop in the proper part of the country/world. So when NYC Co. opens LA Office small shop in LA gets directed to handle the LA press under NYC’s guidance.
Now we’re all national (if not international) agencies because we can see every paper on the planet every day and most for free online. Of course all the small-medium NYC agencies don’t read the LAT everyday, we’ve got enough NY papers to keep up with, but you can bet if a client walks in and asks can we handle an LA project the answer will be yes. Why? Why not just farm it out to the LA agency?
Two big reasons – dollars and cents.
This year in particular we’re all trying to bring in as much as possible now. We’ll worry about later when later happens. The other big issue – even if our client loves us, the second we look at them and say “we can’t do that” (even if there’s a good reason why not) we run the risk of losing the client altogether, not just for that one project – either to a larger agency (which always poses a threat) or to a similar agency that is willing to lie and/or blindmail everyone possibly interested.
So we pick the lesser of the two evils – staying in business and keeping the client and doing our darndest to not bother too many people or hit outside the interest area. Do we succeed? Certainly not all of the time…
Oh, and PS …. (see part 2)
Here’s to hoping I’m the only one this happens to and that it’s a wasted read for the rest of you, I doubt it tho.
–PC (PR Cog)
Dear Client –
Write for the Right Reasons.
When you send me an article for placement (that is, a ‘byline’), after reading it and fixing some of your wretched speeling and grammer (ha!), I try to figure out what the best target publication would be for your piece. Among the items I consider –
- who can make sense of this article (is it too technical for a general purpose publication),
- who would be most interested in the article (if it’s stale it does little good to anyone) and
- are there any other factors limiting its usability (a 12K word commentary is probably NOT going to find a home in a newsweekly).
Once I think I’ve found an appropriate set of targets I’ll likely run that list by you, and anyone else in your PR, marketing, business development department that needs to see it. Then the inevitable will happen. I (and you might be CC’d on it) will get an email, that in some way or another can be distilled to one of the following:
- How will placement there help us get new customers/business/clients
- No one in the industry we know will see it when it runs in X
- It’ll be meaningless and/or a waste of time if it runs in Y because we’ll have to cut it down to size.
There are three main (non-academic) reasons to put pen to paper and author an article you want to see placed:
- To bring in new business
- To strut for your industry (can overlap with #1 if referrals are a big part of your business)
- To reinforce your reputation with old business
These are all perfectly valid reasons to write, but for each purpose there are considerations to well…consider (I only take out the thesaurus for paying clients, you readers will just have to cope).
If you want to develop new clients/business you have to write at a level your client will understand. If you work with widgets, don’t get into statistical analysis of widget use over time – it’s boring and no one will want to read it except subscribers to “Widget Analysis Weekly.” Write instead, on what people/businesses can get from statistical analysis of their widgets – use plain English and real life examples:
When XYZ Corp analyzed their widget use they discovered none of their clients actually LIKED the yellow widgets but they ordered it because they wanted the complete set. They discontinued yellow, introduced canary, which customers loved, and began ordering individually.
No mention of how the survey was done or other minutiae that potential clients don’t want. Give them the what and the why – not the How. These type of articles CAN go in general purpose business/entrepreneurial publications. Potential big circulation, but the trade-offs will be 1) No one from your industry will see it and 2) a pretty small percent of the readers will actually be interested in it so that circulation number can be deceiving. That being said – the ones who are interested, can become clients.
If you’re trying to strut for your industry peers, which is not at all inappropriate if a significant part of your business comes from referrals or you get a decent amount of B2B work, go as high end as you’d like.
Make it excruciatingly detailed on the how – they’re the ones that will be able to call your bluff if you gloss over something – let it be known far and wide that you are the man (woman) when it comes to this field and if they want the best they need to call you.
The trade-off – No WAY does it make it into a magazine you can find at the airport and your friends and family will have never heard of it (with certain exceptions – JAMA, etc.). What I’m saying is that it WILL end up in a trade. Circulation will be low, but of those subscribers, a well developed concept will be important to most of them and will get readers. These also frequently take the form of newsletters with high annual subscription costs (they’ll have a big pass-along rate where a large office only has 1 subscript.) and no advertising since the circ. numbers are low. The readers are looking for deep content, not something to read while waiting for the dentist.
Both of these types of articles can help with #3 – building up your rep with existing clients.
A stat I’ve heard tossed about indicates it costs around 1/10 the cost to keep a client than it does to get a new client. Remind your clients of why they hired you – if you send them a newsletter with your ‘published articles’ and it’s recognizable business magazines or respected trades they’ll know you’re staying sharp and current on the industry.
Don’t wait for an RFP where you’re begging for your lunch to make the client feel good about the choice of hiring you (or buying your product) – do it continually, like bringing your spouse flowers for no external reason, or doing the dishes/dinner/other chore without being asked (or asking if you should).
And so the moral of my story — write for the right reasons:
- If you’re looking for new clients, figure out where they read and write to their level – tell them something they don’t know but should.
- If you’re looking to impress – do it, but realize who’s going to be most interested.
- One one more thing – if you’re doing this do it when it’s most helpful. If you’re writing an overview of a new law or regulation in your business do it when it’s new – not 6 months later. If you write an ‘overview’ article 6 months later write it ‘down’ to a general reader because everyone IN your business already knows what you’ve managed to regurgitate onto the page and needs analysis or real deep thought – not just summaries.
Your PR Cog.
This is all in fun. None of the people mentioned in this ‘document’ actually exist (to my knowledge) and certainly the events aren’t happening (I hope).
For Immediate Release
Flacks Attack DC – Seek own bailout funds
Representatives from the Humble Four, the world’s leading PR agencies, have petitioned Congress for their own bailout fund.
Richard Pitchtoohard, current CEO, Chairman and President of PitchTooHard Media Relations noted in the industry’s appeal letter, “All of our biggest clients – banks, automakers and the rest of the bastards have come to you begging for money. Well guess what – we’ll be grabbing our ankles when they get it to keep their business so we’re going to need a little somethin’-somethin’ from you.”
A ‘bleeding-edge’ translator was called in to decipher the remainder of the letter.
Pitchtoohard’s sentiment was echoed by other members of the group – Dale Illspamyou, head of ProperPR; Jimmy Callmenow of RationalThinkingRelations; and Howard Coverthis from GetPressNowB__ches Communications.
Ancillary members of the ad hoc group, including specialty service providers for press release distribution services, database providers and SEO strategists submitted supporting documents — all in the form of invoices with pleading comments scrawled in the margin. Some standouts include:
- “Please give them money, they pay, no joke – all our bills.”
- “Without these schmoes using our service we’re done for – we can’t live on public company announcements alone.”
- “Would you prefer my 25 or 27 year old daughter?
The group did not mention a specific amount needed for their bailout, noting instead that “they were not greedy, we’ll take anything you’ve got leftover after the auto-industry.”