If you’re reading this post, I’m sure you already know there’s no quick-fix for PR. With so many people competing for column inches and airtime, journalists can afford to be choosy about the stories they run. So it can take months of pitching - and countless knockbacks - to place a story in a newspaper or land an interview on TV.
But when you’re hearing the word ‘no’ more than ‘yes’ it’s tempting to lose heart. Especially if you’re working with people who think PR is as easy as dashing off a press release or calling an editor with a story idea.
The good news is you’re probably doing better than you think you are. But you're so busy trying to make the big things happen, you’re not celebrating the small wins.
So rather than dwelling on all the things that aren’t going right for you, start looking at what is working. When you focus on the everyday victories - like getting to speak to the journalist you’ve been chasing for weeks or setting up a lunch with an editor you’re keen to work with - you’ll find it’s easier to stay positive and keep moving forward. And it’s those small, incremental steps that help you build up the relationships - and the know-how - to create incredible PR opportunities.
Having trouble seeing the positives? Here’s 23 signs you’re doing ok with your PR...
1. Journalists are replying to your emails…even if it’s a ‘no’
Most journalists get hundreds of pitches and press releases every week (some every day). They can’t possibly reply to them all. So if they’re taking the time to respond to your pitches (even if it’s a ‘no’), it shows you're pitching decent ideas. And given that most of the ideas they get are completely irrelevant, that definitely makes you memorable.
2. Journalists sometimes call you
When journalists call you for help with a story, it shows they (a) know what you do and (b) see you as a credible source of stories and comment. Given there are so many businesses and organisations out there trying to get their attention, this is a Very Good Thing.
3. You’re networking with journalists on social media
Looked up a journalist on Twitter today? Or, better still, tweeted one? Give yourself a pat on the back. The payback may not come immediately, but if you’re making Twitter lists of journalists and sharing their articles or responding to their case study requests (even if there is no immediate gain for you), you’re building relationships that will serve you well in the future.
4. You’re listening to feedback (even if it’s silence)
If you’re taking the time to look at unsuccessful pitches/press releases and analyse what you think went wrong - and how you might do better next time - congratulations. You’re one step closer to getting your next 'yes.'
5. You’re getting better at handling people who think they can do your job
Working with people who think writing a press release or calling a journalist is a guarantee of press coverage is annoying. But complaining about it won’t change anything. If you’ve organised some media training or invited a journalist in to talk to your team about how it really works - well done. You’re taking responsibility for educating colleagues about how the media works - which will make your life easier in the long run.
6. You’re prepared to fail
Pitched to a publication or programme you thought was ‘out of reach’? You’re doing a great job. If you want to grow, you have to be prepared to get uncomfortable sometimes. Keep going.
7. You’re committed to understanding the publications/programmes you pitch to
If you’ve spent time studying the publications or programmes you want to get coverage in (and by that I mean analysing the content, in detail, over a number of days/weeks/months) you’re doing the one thing that will really make a difference to your pitching success. Keep doing it.
8. You’re taking every opportunity to meet journalists
Got out of bed an hour earlier for a breakfast briefing with journalists? Gone to an evening drinks reception when you’d rather be in front of the telly - just so you can meet a particular editor? Smart move. Grabbing every opportunity to meet journalists, face-to-face, will make it much easier for you to create PR opportunities.
9. You’ve suffered knockbacks…but you haven’t let it hold you back
Rejection isn’t nice. But if you’re learning from every ‘no’ you get, and using this to improve your PR skills, you’ll be far more successful in the long run.
10. You go out of your way to help journalists…even if there’s nothing in it for you
Helped a journalist to find a tricky case study - or offered to do it yourself - even if there’s nothing in it for you? You’ve got the right idea. Showing you’re resourceful and can make things happen, quickly, will make you memorable to journalists. So when you contact them about something that will benefit you, they’ll be far more likely to pay attention.
11. You know PR is more than press coverage
You look at every ‘contact point’ people have with your business or organisation - from your social media profiles to the way staff answer the phone - and consider what it says about you. And you try to fix the bits that don’t work as well as they should do.
12. You’ve optimised your website…so journalists can find you
There’s nothing more frustrating for a journalist on a deadline, than finding the perfect organisation to talk about a particular topic...then not be able to get hold of anyone there. So if you’ve got easy-to-find PR contacts on your website - including a mobile number for enquiries outside of regular office hours - you're increasing your chances of press coverage.
13. You’re social media savvy
You also know journalists use social media sites like Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram as search engines, so you’ve put PR contact details on your profiles too.
14. You ‘PR’ your press coverage
Getting PR is only part of the story; if you’ve landed coverage in a magazine, newspaper, or on radio or TV, you need to tell the world about it. So if you use social media channels to promote your press coverage and have a dedicated ‘in the media’ area on your website, you’re making the most of your media coverage.
15. You’re not elitist about press coverage
PR isn't about massaging egos (at least it shouldn't be). It’s about helping your business or organisation achieve its objectives - which can be anything from attracting new clients to influencing policymakers. So while you might love the idea of a spread in a weekend supplement, if the people you want to reach read a niche trade publication, that’s where you need to be. If you’re clear about who you want to reach and do your homework on what they read, watch and listen to, you’re far more likely get coverage in the right places.
16. You do your homework on lead times
Too many good stories don’t get media coverage because journalists don't hear about them in time. Monthly publications or programmes can work up to six months ahead. Weeklies can be up to six weeks. So if you’ve picked up the phone recently to find out about lead times (that is the time between an article/programme being commissioned and it being published/aired), you’ve got your priorities right.
17. You look beyond the obvious
If you don’t have anything new to say - a new product or piece of research for example - it’s tempting to think you can’t get press coverage. But there are so many PR opportunities out there that don’t revolve around news. So if you’ve tried pitching a ‘how to’ piece, creating a new story out of existing data or ‘piggybacking’ an opinion article on a topical news story, you’re thinking creatively - which is what great PR is all about. And here's some more ideas on how to get press coverage when you don't have any news.