That’s Not What I Asked For

  • October 3rd, 2013
  • Guest Post

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 7.57.50 AMI recently spoke to an Executive Producer at one of the four major TV networks.  During our conversation she told me how another PR professional we both know created a lot of frustration and unnecessary work for her.  She was irritated and as I heard her story I understood why and felt myself getting more and more frustrated as she related the story.

This producer friend of mine got a call from this PR person pitching her on a story idea.  She listened and when he was done with his pitch explained that they don’t do features on individual products.  She also spent about 15 minutes explaining what she was looking for.  She took his pitch and detailed how he could make it a news story that she would be interested in covering.  The fact that she took that much of her time was incredibly generous.

Normally you don’t get that kind of customized conversation where a Producer will break it down and basically tell you what they want in order to cover the story.  It’s not that producers are mean or uninterested, it’ just that the nature of the business is such that they are constantly on the go and have so many people pulling at them that they can’t usually devote that much time to each PR person’s pitch.

After hearing this, the PR person made a half-hearted effort to build the news story the Producer outlined.  He came back to her saying that he hadn’t been able to do it and reverted back to his original pitch that focused on his client’s product.  The Producer politely reiterated that she was not interested in a product feature and said to keep digging.

Again the PR person tried to procure the necessary info to create a news story.  Again he was unsuccessful.  Again he called the Producer pitching her on a product story.  Again the Producer explained that she was not interested in a product story and asked him to try again to get the components that would constitute a news story.

For a third time the PR person tried.  For a third time the PR person failed.  For a third time the PR person pitched the Producer on a product story.  For a third time the Producer responded that she didn’t want a product story.

On this third time, she was frustrated enough to allow her frustration to come through and told the PR person not to come back to her until he had the news angle she was looking for and that she had outlined to him now three times.

This PR person responded that it would take a miracle to get what she needed for the news story and told her to just forget about it.

This response made the Producer even angrier.  She had invested her time in working with him on what she thought could have been a cool news story only to have this incompetent PR person make half-hearted efforts to make it a legitimate news story.  As a result, this Producer vowed to not work with this PR person again.

With this story in mind, I’ve included five tips to help avoid these types of situations and build relationships of trust with the media.

  • Be prepared: I once knew a guy that on his first day of his first PR job called a reporter to pitch his client.  When the reporter answered the phone he froze.  Under pressure he told the reporter that he had never pitched anybody before and asked him what he wanted to hear.  The reporter took pity on him and asked him who he represented and what his client’s product was.  After a series of questions he agreed to an interview.  This was highly unusual.  When you call you need to be prepared with a pitch that is relevant and newsworthy.
  • Listen:  Reporters and editor won’t hesitate to tell you what they think or want.  When they speak, listen.  Don’t just hear the noise coming out of their mouths.  Listen to what they say.  If you don’t understand what they’re saying then ask questions to ensure that you understand.
  • Do what they ask: I work with a friend that is an expert content marketer.  He is published on a weekly basis in Tier 1 media outlets.  The secret to his success is that he does what the editors ask him to do.  His content is pertinent and provides high value but if an editor asks him to include his bio and a photo, he does.  He’s had editors tell him that they have to turn away scores of contributed content simply because writers don’t include a photo or a bio.  The editors don’t have time to go back to all these people and remind them so as a result their content isn’t published.  In the example above, had the PR person found the items necessary to make the pitch a news story he would have easily secured the coverage desired but instead he couldn’t get past making it a product pitch.
  • Be on time: Members of the media are accustomed to working under a deadline.  They expect you to understand and meet their deadlines.  If you can’t you’ll get left in the dust.  Always ask what the deadline is and then make sure you meet that deadline.
  • Be honest: Don’t try to con a reporter or claim that your client or its product can do something it can’t do.  Let the product or client stand on its own.  If it’s newsworthy as is, the reporter will recognize it and want to learn more and cover it.

In PR, working with the media is all about building relationships of trust.  You do that by following the tips listed above.  It takes time just like any other relationship but when done properly you’ll develop the relationships that will yield benefits for years to come. By delivering what you say you’ll deliver when you say you’ll do it you’ll build trust so that the next time you come calling the reporter will take your call and know that you’ll provide value to what he or she is trying to accomplish.

Jeremy KartchnerAbout Jeremy Kartchner

Jeremy Kartchner is a Partner at Snapp Conner PR and has more than 15 years experience in both technology and sports PR.  In addition to his responsibilities with Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.

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