PR & thought leadership, strategy

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

Sandra Stewart | July 18, 2023
Rollercoaster image illustrating PR results

PR is a powerful brand-building strategy, but the media relations aspect can be a roller coaster: a deluge of coverage followed by drought, big news for your enterprise that goes nowhere while a minor novelty gets major attention, a string of interviews with top-tier reporters but no quotes in their stories. Even the best-run program will take a dive now and then.

But if you’ve been on a long flat stretch and you’re not getting the PR results you expect, it’s time to inspect your foundation. Answers to the following questions can show you how to regain traction.

Are you aiming at the right target?

Some enterprises fixate on scoring coverage in top-tier national outlets, and direct all their PR resources at that target. It’s worth a shot, but that’s a high-risk strategy—the likely result is a lot of time and money spent with little or no result. Getting a look requires a big market, big customers and big impact numbers; the timing has to be exactly right; and the competition is fierce. Everyone else is also pitching The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, et al; journalists at top-tier outlets often get more than 100 pitches a day.

Ask yourself (and your agency) what your real potential is for PR results and what you can do to maximize it. Be honest about your assets and how your story story fits into current media trends. Beware of skewing expectations through apples-to-oranges comparisons with other enterprises. And consider the business goals you most want PR to support. If you’re trying to reach potential buyers for a B2B product or service, for instance, seeking consistent trade coverage is probably 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 work with significant impact, you have a story to tell. Sometimes that story is hard to see: 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 relevant now. Often that means putting a face on it: people-centered stories always garner a wider audience. Or you may need to bring in someone with a fresh perspective to uncover overlooked stories.

Do you have the goods?

In addition to a relevant, compelling story, it’s essential to have data and other backup for your claims, prepared spokespeople, a fact sheet that answers all the basic questions reporters are likely to have, and examples to illustrate your points. If you don’t have these elements lined up, it’s hard to bring home the coverage—even if a great pitch gets you interest or interviews.

Is your strategy up to date?

If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed your strategy, now is the time. 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 and partner channels, and how all the pieces fit together to amplify your efforts. Also consider whether you have the commitment needed from your expert sources and a budget that’s ample enough to execute your strategy.

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

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