PR & thought leadership

Not getting the PR results you want? Here’s why

Sandra Stewart | November 15, 2016

PR is a powerful brand-building strategy, but it’s usually a roller coaster: a deluge of coverage followed by drought, great stories that go nowhere and minor news bits that get major attention, high expectations followed by low returns and vice versa.

Still, if you’ve been on a long flat stretch and you’re not getting the PR results you expect, it’s time to check your fundamentals. Ask yourself the following questions, and you’ll probably find the culprit.

Do you want the wrong results?
Occasionally we talk with a company that won’t be happy with anything less than regular coverage in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. They’re an extreme—few are that unreasonable— but many companies have inflated or misplaced expectations. This can stem from past results of other companies, a PR agency that overpromises or other circumstances.

Ask yourself (and your PR consultants) what your real potential is for media coverage, what outlets are most likely to be interested, and what you can do to maximize your potential. Most important, consider the business goals you most want PR to support. If you want to promote a B2B product or service among potential buyers, for instance, seeking consistent trade coverage may be a more valuable use of resources than going all out for a mention in a prestigious general-interest outlet.

Are you offering the right stories?
If you’re doing interesting work in a field that affects a wide audience, you have a story to tell. Sometimes that story is hard to find: the expert insider perspective is often at odds with the media’s perspective on which stories are worth telling. If you’re ahead of the curve, you need to find a way to make your work seem relevant now (and not fringe). You may need to find a people-centered way to talk about your work. Or you may need a deep dive from a fresh perspective to uncover overlooked stories.

Do you have your s**t together?
In addition to having a relevant, compelling story to tell, it’s essential to have prepared spokespeople, proof points that back up what you’re saying, a fact sheet that answers all the basic questions reporters are likely to have, and customer examples to illustrate your pitches. If you don’t have these things in place, you’re likely to get little or no interest. Or a great pitch will get you interest—and potentially interviews—but when you can’t deliver the goods, you’ll get no coverage.

Is your strategy is out of whack?
You may need to rethink the outlets and mix of media you’re targeting, your balance of pitching stories versus writing bylined articles, how you’re using social media, whether you’re using the right people as sources, and whether all the pieces fit together to amplify your effort.

If your strategy is sound, you may not be supporting it effectively. Perhaps you need a different team on the job, a budget matched to the strategy or a more consistent commitment.

Finally, keep in mind that a new PR program takes time—often six months or more—to bear fruit. You may just need to wait a bit longer for the thrilling part of the ride.

Get more on how to get great results from PR and thought leadership in our guide, Break Through the Noise: Secrets of Successful PR & Thought Leadership. 

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