How To Make A PR Impact With International Media

Today, many U.S. PR agencies are taking on international communications for businesses as they expand beyond our borders. The digital acceleration brought on by the global pandemic has in many ways made the media landscape more accessible to PR teams. 

Many B2B tech companies with digital offerings, for example, market products and services worldwide, and they don’t always want to bring on multiple PR firms. They’re often looking for a single point of contact, supported by on-the-ground sales and media relations. 

For PR teams, media relations outside North America offers similarities to domestic outreach, but there are key differences beyond language, of course. Here are five areas to consider when pitching international media. 

Language isn’t just about translation

Any PR team will make sure a release or announcement is translated from English into the language of the population where it’s released. Yet there are less obvious factors. Proper translation — whether directly through a newswire distribution service or through a translation vendor like Gengo — can take up to several days to get back. Many announcements contain technical or legal terms, and every industry has its own vocabulary. So when devising announcement strategies, be sure to bake in extra lead time to avoid delays or last-minute confusion. Also it’s good practice to construct the release in a way that’s easy to translate. So avoid English slang or acronyms that may complicate the copy. That way ideas or concepts don’t get lost in translation, and you minimize the time-consuming back-and-forth during the review process.

Using universal language in an announcement will work in some areas. However, figuring out the best way to localize the language in a release — whether it’s with graphics that might hit home on a local level, or a reference to local standards or regulations — will help it resonate with local audiences. 

Learn local media and publications

If you work in PR, chances are you have a firm grip on the relevant U.S. media and a data resource to keep track of whom to pitch. In fact, 95% of PR folks use a media database to help manage their outreach. Yet international media is less familiar, so it’s important to take the time to research both mainstream and trade publications in all regions. After identifying key publications, dive into each to identify specific journalists for whom your announcement or story is relevant. 

When looking for media to pitch internationally, it’s wise to include foreign bureaus of U.S.-based publications. Most of the larger ones — NY Times, WSJ, etc. — have correspondents who cover news based in other countries. While these publications are familiar to anyone located in the U.S., finding the most relevant foreign contacts will help build out international media lists and ultimately be a major benefit for international PR. Understanding whom to target ensures that your announcements are reaching the right people — and ultimately the right audience.

Plan for time zones and other logistics

Logistical challenges are a given when you’re dealing with international PR. The best time to reach journalists is usually at the start of their work day. Most importantly, embargoes for most announcements lift first thing in the morning, local time. So it’s important to be strategic with timing for any international PR campaign, particularly when dealing with global news announcements that are embargoed in several time zones. 

Assess local and regional relevance

Not every story will be relevant in every region. Some could address a problem or situation that’s not timely, while others may include a technology move that’s too advanced (or not advanced enough) for a given market. A common issue is an announcement that pertains to a company that’s widely recognized in the U.S. or Europe, yet utterly unknown in APAC, for example. You’ll have to adjust the level of detail and background information in the pitch and release accordingly to make sure journalists understand the potential impact of the news. 

Know cultural differences 

Respecting and understanding all relevant cultural norms in specific markets is an essential part of conducting successful international PR. This can be everything from knowing which countries prefer more formal language in pitches, to familiarizing yourself with any slang or local dialect. Further, it’s important to know holiday schedules and local events. Several EMEA countries observe many more federal holidays than we do here in the U.S., and many Asian populations observe lengthy holidays that last days or weeks. It’s a good idea to keep an international holiday calendar that tracks holidays in the countries you’re targeting.

In addition, it’s important to know the ways that earned media is different in other parts of the world. PR efforts in some regions place a stronger value and emphasis on paid media, while the news might be controlled by the government in some fashion. Any cultural differences should always be considered when coming up with a plan for media outreach. Little things can help build credibility with the reporters you’re trying to connect with. 

While there is no question that on-the-ground and local support is essential for many markets, a single point-of-contact can also work, as can same-language media relations and pitching across borders. These are some of the ways for U.S.-based PR professionals to best conduct media relations across borders. 

3 PR Tips For Writing A Killer Media Pitch

In the pandemic era, capturing media attention has been tougher than usual. Journalists now work on smaller teams than they did before the pandemic and are juggling many more beats. So, B2B PR professionals have a small window to catch their attention, hold it enough for them to actually read a pitch, and find it interesting enough to want to take action.

The media pitch should also be short and personalized. It should outline the value of a story and convey to the editor why it’s worth their time and effort to publish a story on this topic. With these quick tips, you’ll be well on your way to writing stellar pitches that garner media attention and delight clients.

Compelling subject lines

As media professionals, we often underestimate the value of a great subject line. Journalists are flooded with hundreds of emails every day. What makes them pause to read one is a smart and thoughtful subject line.

The best subject lines include a stat, notable observation, or something contrary to the norm. For example, “DATA: 42% say AI will not take over.” A subject line should pique the interest of a journalist and prompt them to want to learn more. It’s helpful to keep subject lines no more than 10 words with an average character count of 64, according to Muckrack. Long subject lines are truncated when a reporter reviews their emails and will likely end up in their trash without even being reviewed. For example, a less compelling subject line would be “According to MIT, experts say AI won’t take over in the next decade.”

Keep it short and simple

Winning pitches are engaging, timely and succinct. Pitches that are opened by journalists are about 120-180 words. Journalists are busy people, so if you can’t frame a media approach with an interesting storyline in less than 180 words, it may be a good time to pause, reflect on what you’re trying to convey and rework the body of the pitch.

A winning pitch starts with an interesting intro paragraph (about 2-3 sentences) that highlights the thesis of the pitch. The body of the note should support that thesis. Be sure to start with an intro sentence that lays the foundation and makes the journalist want to read more. 

For example, “As more of us switch from TV to streaming, advertisers are following. Spend on ad-supported streamers – Pluto TV, Roku, Peacock, etc. – grew more than 25% last year. Unfortunately, fraudsters are taking advantage, stealing millions from newbie streaming advertisers by spoofing devices and apps, and faking ad clicks and views.”

When reviewing the pitch, look for areas to improve readability. It may benefit from bullet points to break up heavy text. Bolding words or sentences will make the interesting nuggets stand out more, and journalists will appreciate being able to quickly scan a pitch and fully comprehend it. Pitches should also be jargon-free for the most part unless you’re reaching out to a technical journalist about a specific subject matter.

Have a clear call to action

When there is a clear call to action (CTA) at the top or middle of the pitch, it’s not buried and difficult for the journalist to find. Media should be able to quickly review and understand the takeaway. For example, a clear CTA can be:

  • Setting up an interview with a client

  • Sharing a byline article for consideration

  • Offering an expert as a guest for a podcast

It tells the editor whether they should action the pitch now or save it for future reference. Identifying and offering an expert source from the onset is a key value-add in the journalist-PR pro dynamic. And, it will help build lasting relationships. 

Writing a media pitch should be second-nature to every PR person. But, journalists today have shorter attention spans than in the past. Taking the time for due diligence to ensure you’re targeting the right editor will go a long way in making you a go-to source for media inquiries and drumming up stellar media interest for internal or external clients.

PR Tips For Navigating Interview Roadblocks

For PR specialists, few things are more exciting than landing that media interview. Every journalist interview, whether it’s a top business pub or a targeted trade outlet, is a win. But an interview isn’t a story until it’s posted.

To expedite the process and ensure a positive outcome, it’s standard practice among PR teams to prep executives with a briefing document highlighting details about the interviewer, the nature of the conversation, possible questions, and recent pieces by the journalist in question. 

But things do not always go as planned. What happens when something goes off track? How can PR specialists handle tricky situations that threaten a great story?

Someone is a no-show

This is a rare occurrence, but it happens. Is there a worse feeling than sitting on a conference line or Zoom call waiting for someone to show up? If after a few minutes you are still getting radio silence, end the call and work on rescheduling. If the journalist is working under a tight deadline, offer a written statement to be included in their piece. If the piece is not as timely, reschedule for a time that works for everyone. Being stood up by a journalist is embarrassing, and it can even make the PR rep look bad, which is why meticulous confirmation in writing is always necessary. However, it can be rescheduled. If the corporate spokesperson is a no-show, however, that will require real damage control absent an emergency situation. Always make sure your spokesperson is fully available and prepared.

Spokesperson isn’t a good fit

Often a CEO or founder will be in demand as a media spokesperson, especially at high-growth technology companies. Realistically, however, a spokesperson matrix may be needed. A new product launch interview needs a senior product specialist, a change in strategic direction a C-level executive, a technology exploration a chief engineer, and so on. It’s important to match the right interview opportunity with the correct and appropriate spokesperson.

Media prep didn’t stick

Formal media training can be helpful for executive spokespersons who are new to giving press interviews or who need a quick prep for a new announcement or tricky situation. It typically covers anticipated questions, ways to stay on-topic, and on-camera tips for remaining calm and engaging. But sometimes it doesn’t stick. General shyness, language barriers, or lack of experience can pose obstacles to a productive interview. In that case, it helps to conduct interview over email. A written Q&A can allow the time and care to manage responses and ensure there will be no misunderstanding. 

A spokesperson makes a mistake

Occasionally a corporate spokesperson inadvertently offers inaccurate information. In that situation it’s important to correct the mistake as soon as possible, even if it’s after publication. What’s trickier is if a spokesperson lets a confidential piece of information slip out. If someone mistakenly reveals a confidential launch, future merger plan, or other piece of proprietary information, there is no guarantee that it won’t be in the story. It’s generally best to play it cool, and, in the case of truly significant news, try to negotiate a deal with the journalist in question so that he will get first crack at the story once it becomes public.

Interview is deadly dull 

PR specialists cannot always predict how a spokesperson and journalist will interact. Some spokespeople have charismatic personalities and can talk to anyone in an engaging way while others may need a bit more prep. If you don’t have a naturally engaging spokesperson, or if he rambles into irrelevant or technical topics or is long-winded, the interview can be dull. In that case it’s appropriate for the PR person staffing the interview to gently redirect the conversation to focus on the most cogent and relevant points.  

Journalist seems unprepared

I’ve hosted media interviews more than once where the journalist has said, ‘Remind me what we’re talking about again?’ It happens more often than you think. Media are often crunched for time, with multiple interviews in a single day, and they may need a reminder on how to start the conversation. For journalists new to the space, this may actually be an opportunity to educate them on your industry or issue and allow you to tell the story the way you want. The short-term  goal of every interaction is to get a good story, but an equally important longer-term one is to help the journalist keep you on file as a good source for future pieces.  

PR Tips For Taking Advantage Of Breaking News

How can PR agencies keep their clients top-of-mind in a 24-hour media environment? The most effective public relations teams develop strategies to “newsjack” for opportunities to keep pace with the news cycle. This is particularly useful when an organization doesn’t have hard news to share, or when the product roadmap doesn’t contain any new launches or innovations to generate media coverage.

Besides, elevating a brand or company’s image by carefully inserting their business or product into the existing conversation is exciting. It could essentially leverage one agency’s capability over another’s when seeking new business opportunities. And there are certain B2B tech sectors, like cybersecurity, where reactive media pitching is often a large and important program component. Digital security brands, among others, need to be visible when the latest ransomware story is dominating headlines. 

How Newsjacking Works

Newsjacking, as defined by David Meerman Scott, is “the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.” Reactive media pitching should not be the centerpiece of a good PR program; however, it can help capitalize on opportunities that generate tangible results and positive buzz.

PR teams must operate in a real-time mindset to do this well in a 24-hour news cycle. Media must deliver new and compelling information to consumers instantly in a hotly competitive environment, and we’re here to help.

Speed is the most critical element of successful newsjacking, so the PR team should act fast. How soon is too soon, though?

Avoid breaking news that is controversial or polarizing

There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and being gratuitous. PR agencies must determine if the juice is worth the squeeze, acting judiciously and using good judgment. By using a thoughtful approach we can maintain the client’s integrity and our own credibility when actively chasing a breaking story. Avoid tragic events, or at the very least gauge risk by assessing how the audience might respond. 

Brands should also make sure the messaging and tone employed along with the news or trend they’re focused on is aligned with their business or product. Jumping on a story for the sake of coverage may have the opposite result than intended, positioning the brand as insensitive or worse. We saw this when Urban Outfitters and others used Hurricane Sandy to promote online shopping by touting #SandySales. 

Are you fast enough?

Because news moves quickly, the pressure is on to develop a creative, well-packaged message that provides an original, relevant angle. Don’t wait on the next big story to break; instead anticipate the needs of journalists with whom you have established relationships and know your industry. Beyond that, it is optimal to newsjack within 24-48 hours of news breaking as journalists rush to develop their next major stories. 

At a typical PR agency, success can depend on getting timely client approval for a same-day response to a breaking story. That means that the broad messaging and coordination process should be worked out in advance. A good PR plan can include solid examples of relevant situations and stories for comment so that all parties agree on what’s appropriate.

“Early on, PRs must communicate the importance of newsjacking and explain how it works to ensure their buy-in and reinforce the value. Then, if a client is immediately needed for approvals, interviews, etc., they’ll understand and deliver,” shares our own Chris Harihar. 

Finally, PR teams can ensure a speedy response by dedicating a team member to handling research. Knowing your audience is great, but understanding how media operate and whom to target at those outlets is key. 

You can’t plan to newsjack, but you can anticipate trends

It all starts with the plan.  PR teams should look ahead to forthcoming news events and determine trends, but, unfortunately, it is impossible to predict the next big story.

So, how can we position brands and companies as relevant when the news cycle shifts the conversation so quickly?

  1. Stay up to speed on the latest news. Narrow the focus to your industry through media monitoring tools like Google Alerts, building a Twitter moments list and flagging trending news or relevant keyword searches.

  2. Have easy access to a content library of pre-approved commentary from company spokespersons, compiled pitches, data reports and, if applicable, company blogs.

  3. Streamline the process for journalists by keeping responses short, sweet and to the point.

Finally, bear in mind that newsjacking doesn’t have to be negative; in fact, it’s usually smarter to focus on positive stories or breaking news that’s relatively neutral, like an economic report or corporate merger. A cross-national study of negativity bias in humans shared “the potential for more positive content, and suggest that there may be a reason to reconsider the conventional journalistic wisdom that if it bleeds, it leads.”

 

How To Get The Most From PR Freelancers

Occasionally public relations agencies tap freelance contractors to manage peak workloads during busy seasons or to bring specialist expertise to a project. Post-COVID, there are probably a greater variety of freelancers available given that remote work is so commonplace in our industry. But how can we make the most from our investment in freelance consultants? Here are some best practices for managing outside practitioners.

Consider them team members

Freelancers are partners in your success. Rather than treating them like temporary members of the team, consider them as extensions of it. Depending on the length of the engagement, it’s often advantageous to include a contract employee in relevant team and company meetings. Internal team members and clients will appreciate the investment in proper communication and management.

Be transparent with client companies involved

As for clients, it’s best that they know of any freelancer’s status, and in most cases full client contact is a plus. Because a freelance employee will sign an NDA and in most cases a non-compete agreement, the agency team shouldn’t worry that they’ll disclose confidential client information or try to lure the client away. Most agencies rely on a small number of trusted freelancers in whom they place their confidence, so they should feel comfortable with full transparency.

Look for specialists

In some cases when we seek to bring on PR freelancers, we’re looking for additional arms and legs for a special project. In others, it pays to seek out specialist expertise that complements the existing full-time team. For example, we occasionally bring in technical writers to interview engineers or other staff at client companies to create background material for long-form content. And we have an ongoing relationship with a morning show specialist who has a line to the key segment producers and will never give up on cracking the big interview! Specialists can help educate the team as well as contributing to it.

Pay promptly

Agencies expect discretion, loyalty and professionalism from any freelance staffer. The freelancers also have the right to expect timely payment for their work. Anyone who has served as an outside contractor on a PR project knows how uncomfortable and annoying it is to have to nag an accounts payable manager for payment. It’s a simple matter of courtesy and respect.

Think diversity

The pandemic has widened the talent pool in some ways, which opens hiring possibilities not only to professionals of all ethnicities, but to over six million people in the US labor force who have some form of disability. Many consultants with mobility limitations can work remotely and will no longer need to deal with the challenges of long daily commutes. 

Choose wisely and check references

It goes without saying that no freelancer should need special training beyond project orientation and processes. With training costs being one of the biggest expenses of hiring a traditional entry-level employee, eliminating that time is a benefit. If you’re vetting a new freelance consultant, it pays to query them thoroughly about recent work and relevant expertise, and to speak with the references they supply, as well as those they don’t. PR is really a very small industry. 

Manage their time

Bringing on a freelancer means you can choose someone with the exact skill set required for the project. This means they can get the job with little time wasted. It’s important to manage their hours while respecting their independence. In PR, publicists generally know how long certain tasks take, like writing press releases or drafting pitches, so it’s smart to ask for check-ins on hours spent or feedback needed.

5 PR Tips For Managing Tricky Media Interviews

Most PR teams work hard to make sure our client media interviews go off without a hitch. Yet there are the occasional briefings that for one reason or another may require extra preparation. Maybe they revolve around a sensitive subject, or possibly the company spokesperson is inexperienced. For example, a client executive could be speaking as an external expert on a topic related to government regulation while avoiding naming their own clients or specific work experience. At other times we must prepare to navigate the rules and nuances of a funding announcement.

While most qualified media spokespeople are well-versed in what they should discuss in an interview, it is up to the PR exec to manage the conversations with a positive outcome in mind. There are even times when a PR rep must step in and course-correct. Here are some tips for ensuring a comfortable interview for all parties and avoiding real-time intervention.

Confirm specifics ahead of time

Someone wise once said, “the best defense is a good offense.” And when it comes to managing conversations with media this is certainly true. By doing the groundwork to ensure that media understand what the client spokesperson can / cannot cover well ahead of time, PR professionals can make sure that briefings suit a client’s expertise and stay focused on the agreed-upon topics. A legal or risk-management expert may be able to speak about how a new anti-money laundering regulation impacts financial institutions overall, but not how it affects a specific bank or client company, for example. Rigorous preparation will enable a conversation to go more smoothly and will help prevent awkward questions that could result in a premature end to the discussion.

Pick the right spokesperson

We sometimes need to arrange an interview within a short time, especially if it’s in response to a breaking news story. But it’s imperative that the right spokesperson — one that is both a subject-matter expert and media-savvy — is selected for each media briefing, especially for sensitive topics. For example, a CEO may be the go-to spokesperson for many questions, if a media-facing VP has more background in a given area of cybersecurity or compliance, they are likely the better option. It’s essential to take the time to work with client-side contacts about who is the best fit for a given topic area instead of defaulting to the most commonly used internal expert.

Reconfirm ground rules at the top of the call

It is always helpful — especially when it comes to “on background” and “off the record” conversations —  to confirm the framework of the conversation at the top of the call to prevent any crossed wires. If there is a misunderstanding, and a journalist would need “on the record” sources instead, simply ask to end the interview and reconvene offline in order to discuss particulars, iron out wrinkles and plan for connecting sources with the journalist on terms that may work for both. 

Role-play ahead of time

All PR teams understand the value of formal media training, and it’s often useful. But in advance of an interview about tricky topics, it’s wise to do a little role-playing in advance of a specific media conversation. It’s a good way to spot common traps, like repeating a negative in a response to an adversarial question (“No, our services are not overpriced” is a less effective answer than, “Our prices represent a good value for our expertise”” for example.)

Know when to jump in

Even with the framework of a conversation laid out and before and at the top of a call, journalists may still ask questions that stray from the planned discussion roadmap. Some argue that it’s not our place to interrupt the discussion or interfere if things take a turn. But when the stakes are high, the PR person should feel empowered to remind journalists of areas that are off-limits for discussion. If a reporter balks, ask to end the interview early and follow up offline to try to have the spokesperson meet the journalist’s needs without pushing boundaries. 

Additionally, if a client spokesperson appears to be stumbling, a good PR rep will jump in briefly to redirect the conversation by offering up a relevant messaging point, data nugget, or example that helps get the conversation back on track. If a journalist continues to push a client source off track and into sensitive territory, politely ask to conclude the interview and offer to circle back offline to discuss.

PR Tips For Announcing A SPAC Transaction

Anyone who has been watching the tech PR space has noticed a huge rise in companies going public through Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs). For those who aren’t familiar, these are “blank check” investment firms that acquire a company with the goal of bringing them to the public market. It’s not a traditional IPO, but the end goal is the same. Companies like Taboola, Group Nine Media, and Buzzfeed have all either gone, or declared their intention to go, public via SPAC. And, just recently, we here at Crenshaw Communications helped our client Innovid make the announcement of its intention to merge with ION to go public in this way. 

It’s huge news for any company that makes this decision, and the coverage needs to match the excitement! While many elements are the same as a traditional IPO, there are some key differences to consider for SPAC announcements. Here are some tips for PR professionals to plan and successfully execute an announcement around the intent to go public via SPAC. 

There is no quiet period with a SPAC

One of the benefits of choosing the SPAC route is that companies don’t have to follow the dreaded PR quiet period once they file. This means PR can make a big splash on the day the intention is announced and continue to push out news in subsequent months to maintain the momentum in the market. It’s a good idea to plan several announcements after the big SPAC splash to keep media excited about the company- anything from partnerships and new hires to data or product news works well here. This is the time to pour it on.

Start pitching early

Big news is breaking every day, which means reporters are always swamped. To make sure they have enough time to cover the announcement, PR should start pitching at least 72 hours before the release goes out. The goal should be to line up several interviews ahead of the release so the official announcement day starts with top-tier stories that have the executive team feeling good and lay the foundation for more stories.

But be careful with embargo pitching

If you’re pitching your SPAC announcement globally, it’s important to understand that no one can break the embargo. If they do, coverage could be compromised, especially in the U.S. where press are sensitive about embargo times. If that means not pitching certain markets until the day of the announcement, it may be necessary to get the most mileage out of the news. Like many media strategy calculations, it’s something of a tradeoff.

You won’t get every outlet to cover

Some media will only cover a SPAC if they get the exclusive on the announcement– and that’s okay. If one of those publications is high-priority, an exclusive strategy can work to ensure they cover the news. Expectations should be set ahead of time to make sure there are no disappointed stakeholders on the day of the announcement. 

Media training is a must

Even for a CEO who is extremely comfortable with the media, we recommend a refresher session to go over the approved messaging and prepare for any tricky questions. Anything said can now impact stock price, so every spokesperson must be buttoned up, able to articulate the value proposition of the company, and navigate hard lines of questioning to ensure the best outcome. The good news is that, after a series of investor conversations, media prep might actually be easier. Obviously, if you’re going to media outlets outside the business/financial sector, you will want you avoid jargon, acronyms, and other financial-speak to make the story relevant to a broader audience.

Leave time for lawyers to review

It’s wise to have communications material drafted and circulating as soon as possible to avoid delays on media outreach due to legal review. This is a new process for many people, and they don’t realize how much time it can take. (HINT: It takes a long time) Build in extra time for the back-and-forth. 

You need to explain what SPAC is and how it works to media

It’s not as straightforward as you think. Many reporters still don’t understand how SPAC works, and what the advantages are for a company to go public that way. Executive spokespeople should be prepared to walk through the explanation in layman’s terms, pausing often to make sure the audience understands the company’s strategy, the advantages of the SPAC, and the quality of the partners and the backstory.  

If your company is considering going public through a SPAC, we’d be happy to discuss the process and the role of PR and media relations. We’ve also supported the traditional IPO route and can offer objective advice on the pros and cons of each.

PR Advice For Building Better Media Relationships

Every PR agency team appreciates the importance of relationships with key media outlets and personnel. This is particularly true in B2B PR, where we tend to approach the same business and trade journalists on behalf of client executives and their brands. The most successful agencies have contacts ready to go for any type of announcement or story, but making a connection with a reporter is only part of the equation. Building it to ensure a long-lasting relationship is the real trick. That requires thoughtful attention and a strong sense of how media work. Below are 7 ways that PR professionals can tighten those all-important journalist relationships.

Stay up-to-date

Occasionally checking a reporter’s recent work is not enough. The best PR professionals know what journalists are planning before they actually publish the piece. First, have a clear understanding of the reporters you work with most frequently and try to check what they’re writing about, even if you don’t have an urgent media inquiry. Often a journalist will hint at what they plan to cover next, offering the opportunity to give client commentary. It’s also helpful to understand the reporter’s perspective on the major topics in the industry. For contacts you don’t know, this is essential so your spokesperson can understand whether the interview will be easy or could present challenges. But for familiar media contacts, knowing their interests and thoughts on major topics can expedite media opportunities. This is because you not only know what stories they will cover instantly when a story breaks, but how they’re likely to approach, which enables a more targeted pitch.

Understand and manage deadlines

Working at the convenience of the reporter and the client can be a tightrope walk. Often between gathering commentary and trying to meet a deadline, the reporter will be nearly as stressed as the PR person. Offering timely and relevant commentary is a great way to improve a relationship, but we’re often stuck waiting on commentary from a client. Although there isn’t a golden rule, keeping the reporter up-to-date on the status of the information you’ve promised is a good idea and helps build trust.

Be first

Building better media relations means making reporters’ lives easier. One of the best ways to do this is by being the first to offer a spokesperson’s thoughts for newsworthy stories. This can be done through close monitoring of important dates like company earnings reports and major tech events where commentary is useful. Often during major announcements, reporters won’t have time to reach out to their reliable PR contacts, so the onus is on the PR team to be proactive. It’s helpful to make a note of any feedback a reporter shares about the next major story, event or announcement they’re planning. You can then take the initiative to offer commentary as soon as a the story is relevant.

Be transparent

Be honest about what you’re offering, especially if it isn’t a perfect fit with the reporter’s needs. It also pays to be truthful about deadlines. If your expert spokesperson can’t meet a deadline, or even if it looks like they might be late, it’s a good idea to let the reporter know. Otherwise, it’s likely the reporter won’t reach out again as they now think you’re unreliable. Being upfront with reporters will lead to more coverage in the long-term even if it means missing an opportunity in the short-term. 

Think outside the brand

A big misconception among PR people is that they can only offer up a spokesperson to speak about the company’s story of the day. Our job is to think outside the strict product news parameters, and that creative thinking can benefit journalists. For example, a tech company focused on connected TV can offer thoughts about what the company did to keep their employees engaged during the pandemic. While you certainly want to pitch and focus on the areas of client expertise, it pays to expand the definition of expertise beyond self-serving announcements. 

Interact on social media

Interaction with a reporter on social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn can be beneficial. First, it’s a nice gesture. Social likes and shares will be noticed and appreciated. Successful PRs can also learn a great deal about a reporter’s interests that go beyond simply looking at their recent pieces. Journalists often announce they are switching outlets on social media, providing an opportunity to not only wish them luck on their new endeavor, but also build a relationship with a new publication. It also gives you a heads-up to start looking for new go-to contacts at the media outlet the reporter left so you’re building relationships without losing any. 

Use email well

PR people often struggle to find a middle ground between pitching a reporter too often and failing to pitch them enough. There are ways to work around this dilemma. First, make sure the agency team is coordinating outreach so they aren’t contacting a given reporter too much. Second, make sure to acknowledge or thank the reporter following an interview or inclusion in a piece. Finally, make sure you’re only emailing them about relevant content. This is essential for every pitch, but emailing a contact about a story that clearly isn’t up their alley could burn that bridge and hurt future opportunities. 

Business Leaders: PR Tips To Ace Media Interviews

For any PR agency team, a major media interview for a company spokesperson is a solid win. Nothing is quite as rewarding as securing that one big interview, or even a series of them, if there’s high-profile news to share. At the same time, having a terrific media spokesperson who can nail the messaging, handle tough questions and make business or technical language accessible isn’t always easy. 

Some executives are born to be media resources, and they’re every PR person’s dream. Less experienced leaders may need media training or informal coaching to showcase their subject-matter expertise and serve as an organization’s face and voice. They’re unlikely to be included in sites listing the worst interviews of all time, but most can use some help.

With that in mind, here are some tips for PR pros to help encourage a stellar media interview performance.

Know the reporter and outlet 

Always start with the basics. It’s essential to research the media outlet and their audience, of course. Then move on to the journalist’s goals for the interview, their track record, and personality. Read about the reporters’ background, reporting beats, and previous stories to understand their approach and style. Study their social media to get a feel for personal opinions on issues, followers, and interests. If there are some commonalities between the reporter and the executive, it never hurts to reference them to break the ice. But don’t mistake a media interview for a social discussion. The reporter likely has one thing in mind – a good story.

Think through some interview questions.. but don’t count on them

Once the interview topic and duration are determined, spend time anticipating the questions the reporter will ask. While some may share general interview questions beforehand, don’t count on it. Bear in mind that despite what a reporter or producer tells you, questions might change during the course of the interview — especially if it’s about breaking industry news. Besides the specific topic, the PR team should always be mindful of prepping the execs about any hot-buttons or pressing industry questions to carve thoughtful insights and reinforce expertise. The PR team should also review past interviews with the spokesperson and be aware of all on-the-record comments, since those could come up again in a different context. 

Stay on message and be concise

After gathering all possible details, it’s critical to prepare a comprehensive briefing doc, clearly laying out the key three to four messaging points for an executive spokesperson to reiterate and weave into their responses. We recommend that leadership set aside some time with their PR team to go over the messaging, rehearse the responses, identify any red flags and revise responses if needed. Reporters will have a hard time following if the overarching messaging is filled with complex or technical jargon. Maintain brevity and keep them simple, straight, and easy to understand. Long-winded responses typically fail to deliver the main point and lose everyone’s interest. Additionally, to make the story compelling, back it with supporting facts and data points.

Use examples

A good example can help liven up any interview, particularly one about an abstract or technical topic, and a good story is worth a thousand words of jargon. But make sure the example is well prepared, relevant to the interview, and brief. It’s risky to launch into a story that hasn’t been road-tested before an audience.  

Advise execs to be natural and not rush through the interview

Be it a print, digital or broadcast interview, PR pros should explain that an interview is a conversation between two people – something which is engaging and relaxed, yet professional and informative. Hence, the spokesperson should be succinct without losing attributes that make them unique and natural. Messaging and talking points should only be referenced to guide the interview response, not treated as scripted responses. The executive should be able to connect with the reporter, take a pause occasionally and check in to ask if they’re following through. Most journalists will do their own research ahead of time, but not everyone is an expert on the topic at hand. Expect them to ask questions that may require some extra explanation. 

It’s okay not to know everything

No matter how prepared you are, sometimes reporters pose questions that don’t have ready answers. In that case, it’s fine to say, “I don’t have that information, but we’ll try to get back to you.” A good PR advisor will never let a spokesperson guess when it comes to facts or data. On the other hand, an informed opinion about a relevant business issue is always welcome. 

Reflect and offer constructive feedback

Usually, a PR team member accompanies execs to interviews or staffs every client media interview. This is helpful for identifying areas where additional information is needed as well as constructive but candid feedback. Such measures are imperative to help solidify their position as industry experts and strengthen the client-agency relationship.

Plan for technical glitches in the virtual world

Yes, we still aren’t back in the pre-pandemic world and interviews continue to be scheduled virtually. It’s therefore important to be flexible and prepared for any technical glitches. Make sure to check your lighting, test your computer’s camera and sound quality, disable notifications, maintain proper eye contact, and dress the part, among other do’s and don’ts.

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PR people act as the facilitators and counselors, and with their help executives can take full control of a media interview. With proper planning and execution, it will elevate the company’s positioning, demonstrate leadership, and increase any executive’s chances of being quoted in future stories.

AdTech Pubs Every PR Pro Should Be Reading

As many PR agency teams know, our work can be highly specialized, particularly in B2B public relations. Specific sectors like ad tech, for example, offer a relatively small number of relevant trade publications compared to consumer categories. That’s why it’s especially important for PR people not only to understand the tech, but to follow the key media in the industry very closely. From programmatic advertising to first- and third-party data, there are many hot topics and only so many gatekeepers for the stories we want to tell. 

Thankfully, almost all outlets that cover the business of advertising cover the ad tech sector, and many have dedicated sections for it. Here are some of the websites and publications that ad tech PR people should be scanning every day.

Adweek

As one of the leading sources of news in the industry, AdWeek is the perfect target for breaking news. From major deals and mergers to revenue reports, there’s no shortage of ad tech coverage on the site. And yes, there’s even a video series titled “How S#it Works.” 

AdAge

AdAge, the other ad industry publication of long standing, also covers ad tech news, but it also has opinion pieces. So, if you want a more personal approach to your ad tech news, this is the way to go. Or, if you want to keep tabs on the latest campaigns and creative, check out the Hot Spots column. 

AdExchanger

AdExchanger calls itself “the leading voice in ad tech,” and it’s easy to see why. There’s plenty of content on the site directly from ad executives and representatives of major companies, whether it’s interviews or guest columns. One highlight is AdExchanger Talks, a podcast that features key figures in the ad tech world. 

Digiday

In what other publication will you find a section called “WTF Ad Tech?” or “WTF Programmatic?” It’s an interesting way to explain topics, and it’s certainly unique. But if you want your ad tech news in a more straightforward way, then they have you covered for that, too, with “The Programmatic Marketer”.

The Drum

The Drum covers plenty of different facets of ad tech, from data and privacy to the future of television, even eSports. It has long since expanded beyond its UK roots but retains a certain scrappiness in its editorial tone.  The Drum also features subcategories on different brands so it’s easier to track the news on major companies, from Apple to Amazon. There’s also the Drum Awards that recognize the top performers in the advertising world, including in the ad tech space. What better way to see which companies in the industry are the most recognized?

MediaPost

MediaPost actually has several sub-publications so it’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. There’s MediaDailyNews, Digital News Daily, MAD (not the satire magazine!), and much more. There are also plenty of newsletters to sign up for and events year-round. That means it’s possible to get ad tech news delivered directly into your inbox, and have a chance to interact with the biggest names in the industry at conferences.

ClickZ

The first thing to check out on ClickZ is Tech Talks, where executives from different companies go in-depth about what they do and the services they offer. It’s quite different from how reporters talk about companies, so it’s a fresh angle. Articles are categorized under interesting topics, such as “Actionable Analysis,” “Analyzing Customer Data,” and “Digital Leaders,” to name a few.

eMarketer

eMarketer not only has ad tech news, but it also offers plenty of data and reports that dive deeply into the industry weeds – in a good way. Note that it’s part of “Insider Intelligence” that requires a fee, but what doesn’t are the podcasts, especially “Behind the Numbers” and “The Ad Platform.” The latter in particular focuses heavily on ad tech, statistics, and where the industry is going in the future.

Campaign

Campaign is an international brand with multiple specialized sites for countries and regions, so it’s a great tool for keeping tabs on news taking place outside the US. There are opinion pieces where readers can take in many different viewpoints. Campaign takes pride in delving into industry trends and strategies. In its own words: “We help you navigate what’s happening now while preparing you for what’s next.”

Marketing Land

As the name suggests, Marketing Land has a heavier focus on marketing tech (martech), but it’s still a valuable resource for news. In fact, it supplies plenty of resources for those new to the industry, with helpful guides that explain key terms for those who are unfamiliar.