Seeing a client’s interview in a key publication is still a quintessential public relations win, so PR pros spend a lot of time perfecting media pitching. But once we get a “yes” to a pitch or interview request, it’s no time to sit back and relax. What happens next is arguably more important than what came before. To maximize the impact of earned coverage, the media relations pro must master the pitch, the interview, and the promotion of the story.
Nail it down, fast
A good PR person will immediately schedule the interview and send a confirmation to all parties. This may not be as easy as it sounds given travel schedules and other commitments, but it’s important to seize the opportunity. If a reporter ends up postponing the interview, take it in stride, but do your best to ensure that the client won’t.
If the reporter is unfamiliar with the interviewee or the company, the PR person will offer introductory information, naturally. But never assume the journalist will take the time to read the background provided, or that he will stick to suggested questions. (Many journalists prefer not to offer questions in advance, and even if they do, things change.) The main job of the PR person at this point is to control every aspect she can, from the client briefing down to the conference line chosen for the interview. (Don’t laugh; in a busy agency, it’s easy to double-book the same line for two calls!) The PR team will offer interview prep in the form of a briefing document that offers background on the journalist, previous stories, interests, and a summary of goals and recommended message points for the interview. Check our earlier post for best PR tips on media interviews.
Join the interview
The PR person will typically join the reporter and the executive on the call (or in person) to make sure all goes smoothly and to troubleshoot anything that may come up. Journalists don’t always welcome the PR rep’s participation, but it’s standard, and it’s commonly part of our job. It’s not typical, however, for the PR person to interfere or interrupt the interview unless something goes awry. Any problem topics, questions, or areas of doubt should be cleared up beforehand; the journalist is there for the interview, not to struggle to get questions answered. But the job is still not done once the piece is published.
We like to send a note recapping the interview and offering constructive suggestions for improvement, if relevant. It’s a good client service tip, and it may help a reluctant or meandering spokesperson to stick to what is most pertinent for future interviews. It’s also important to pass on any feedback offered by the journalist. In tech PR, it sometimes happens that a client executive gets too far into the weeds or assumes an unrealistic level of technical knowledge by the reporter, so good criticism is valuable.
How did we do?
Once the article or segment is live, both parties evaluate it for accuracy; it’s not uncommon for there to be small errors in names, titles, or other details. Most journalists are very open to making factual corrections, and it pays to act fast, because the life of a story may be short. Most importantly, the PR agency and client will assess whether the story helped accomplished their objectives and how to merchandise it to key audiences.
PR leverage and amplification
Time to leverage the win. The company and its PR partner will amplify the article on all owned media, starting with social channels. It may be added to the website newsroom feed, distributed to contacts in email marketing, or occasionally in paid advertising. The PR agency can help by sharing major stories on its own social channels and website. And why not give your sales department more ammunition to close leads in the form of the earned credibility that a positive media placement provides? For six ways to amplify media outcomes, see this earlier post.
Make it snowball!
A positive feature or compelling interview tends to generate additional media interest. In the B2B PR realm, larger publications can pick up trade journal placements, which carry a lot of clout. While this may happen organically, it’s advisable to be proactive in pursuit of snowballing coverage. The PR team can pitch a similar story in another context or a follow-up story to other outlets that won’t compete directly with the original story. The story can be pitched targeting media in another vertical, or the agency may approach a broadcast outlet in the wake of a print story. It’s important to ride the wave of media momentum as far as it can possibly go.
PR measures up
After garnering a major piece of earned media in a key publication, amplifying and snowballing, the PR team wants to know how much it moved the needle on goals like awareness and lead generation. Clearly it’s best to have metrics established in advance as well as access to data like a client’s web analytics. Different companies will have different budgets, priorities, and methods for quantifying earned media coverage. See our earlier practical guide to measuring PR outcomes for advice on evaluating earned media as well as progress against big-picture PR goals.