Tech PR and media relations are sometimes a bit like dating. You must be thoughtful about when and with whom you become “exclusive.” If a PR pro fails to consider offering a story to media as an exclusive, he may forfeit a great opportunity. Overuse it, and he risks getting a bad rep with journalists.
What exactly is an exclusive? The word is a little misleading, because it sounds like you’re giving the story to only one reporter. But an exclusive typically means offering a key tidbit, news item, or interview to a single journalist with the understanding that he or she will be first. The story can then be released to other media after the exclusive runs.
So, why offer an exclusive? It gives the PR practitioner greater control over the story’s release, for one. If we prenegotiate the story on an exclusive basis, we often know exactly when it’s scheduled to run and can plan a full release accordingly. It may also result in a more substantial story than a simultaneous release to dozens of media. Finally, it can be good for building media relationships, particularly if the PR person chooses wisely and spreads the wealth over time.
How should PR pros use exclusives? Journalists cut their teeth using the famous double trinity: What, When, Where, Why, Where, and How. Let’s use this model to get the scoop on pitching media exclusives for B2B technology programs.
PR pros don’t pitch exclusives for the biggest stories – those will typically drive enough coverage without making the first-crack commitment to one journalist. Nor do they use them for the smallest stories, because that will damage their credibility with the press. What’s important is that the story has some juice, meaning the potential to rack up social shares and even traffic to the media outlet’s website. Startups and young technology agencies tend to flood the tech media with overly commercial product launches or low-value meetings with founders rather than solid story angles or truly newsworthy announcements. That’s not a good idea.
What works: an angel investor putting seven figures into a startup; a behemoth acquiring a smaller company for eight figures; or a young company makes record revenue of nine figures. The $ pitches are no-brainers.
“Big-name” pitches may also warrant an exclusive. If a known executive joins a company as an investor or an executive, the tech press will want to know. Even a negative story about a company’s loss of a CEO or a precipitous tumble in profits can work well as an exclusive, and it can pay off with future consideration for better stories.
The media like to break stories, so offering them such a scoop represents a valuable commodity for almost any publication. Ask yourself these questions when pondering the offer of an exclusive.
The PR team’s carefully constructed media strategy will inform the choice of what outlet to offer an exclusive. Don’t forget: A well calculated exclusive in a respected tech trade publication can often attract the attention of other larger tech media. This spells exponential earned media.
While you cannot control the actual end result, you should offer it to a journalist who you know will produce a quality piece of reporting, as well as give it the appropriate placement in the publication. A PR person must never micromanage the reporter by pestering him/her about the content; or ask to see the story before publishing.
Since media relationships are the name of the PR game, it goes without saying that you must be absolutely sure you can deliver when promising an exclusive. That means everyone involved on the client side must know about the arrangement and agree not to let the story slip before the exclusive runs. It also means that any promised executive interview must go off without a hitch.
It varies. Sometimes a journalist will run with a story within a couple of days, but it’s safest to allow a week’s worth of runway, and the PR person often must allow for a phone interview to be arranged, so the lead time can stretch into a week or more. Most importantly, when planning to shop a story, it’s best to allow for one or two “nos,” which can eat up several days. Plan accordingly.
On the PR agency side, it’s important to set the client’s expectations. The media strategy should be clear to all involved. Although there is often a greater measure of control when offering an exclusive story, just as in ordinary media relations, there is no guarantee of glowing coverage or perfect story placement.
The rest of the process depends on the nature of the story, the PR pro’s media relationships, and a gut instinct about where the story belongs.
If you succeed in selling an exclusive to a top tier trade publication, it will publish the story first. Afterwards, you are free to blanket the media with the news, or possibly adapt aspects of the story to other media outlets. How long do you wait? You don’t. Digital media moves quickly, so don’t hesitate to get the story out. The exclusive that has just posted may discourage some media from picking up the news, but that’s not always the case. You can and should pitch additional relevant press right away. Once the story has gone wide, the PR pro will promote it with all the other communications tools in today’s arsenal, especially the social media channels. Post, share, and link!