We wanted to take the time to pause and share some real-world lessons learned that Ignite PR recently experienced working in the trenches.
The world of tech PR is fast, incessant and noisy. Very noisy – especially if you operate in the epicenter of technology, Silicon Valley, or other key tech hubs like New York. As we all know, PR involves 3 core groups: the tech startups/companies, their PR agencies and the media.
In today’s tech landscape, we’ve reached an overload of tech companies and their PR agencies, yet there’s a finite and time-strapped group of reporters and bloggers who cannot possibly cover all the news or reply to each inbound email. Therein lies a fundamental challenge. Clients want to receive a response to their media outreach and PR is trained and paid to be thorough in supporting this request. So here’s the tricky part: how can this be done in a way that respects everyone’s role and, at times, competing interests?
Tech companies and their PR agencies walk a fine line in their interactions and communications with media and the frequency in which they do both. What gets results and works fine with one reporter may annoy or undermine PR’s relationship with another. If companies have a PR agenda that is unrealistic related to building buzz, their PR agency needs to use discernment in managing these expectations or adjust their tactics and throttle back their efforts at getting a reply. It cannot be overstated: the media are the ones on the front line, being bombarded with the non-stop volleys of incoming email, phone calls, tweets, etc.
Recently Ignite was reminded of this once again. In our overzealousness to please our client, we went against our better judgment and got carried away with outreach to a popular news blog with whom we’ve had a good relationship in the past. The reporter saw our repeated attempts to contact him as annoying and unnecessary and we were called on the carpet. We could provide all the why’s and wherefores of every person involved, every email sent and every phone call made in this specific situation but this minutiae gets too much in the weeds. However, rest assured that we haven’t lost sight of the big picture. Do we always get things right? No. Did we get things right this time? No. And we have apologized and hopefully can one day earn the good graces of this reporter and outlet once again. We like and respect our media colleagues and never want to alienate them. To the contrary: we’ve been in business for many years and worked successfully with all types of reporters, bloggers and media outlets.
Although we wish things had unfolded with a much better outcome, we see this as a learning experience. As we pause and reflect on how we interact with media and clients going forward, here are some good rules of thumb and lessons learned from this experience:
- Don't harass a reporter for an answer. If you don’t get a response after 1-2 emails or tweets, do conclude that means “no”.
- Don’t assume that because you or the company have a good rapport with a reporter that contacting them will result in coverage or they will be less annoyed with an overkill of outreach.
- Don’t reach out to more than one reporter without telling them that you’ve already reached out to their colleague. This will avoid any duplication of efforts and wasting the outlet’s resources.
- Do push back hard on the client with their demands and expectations for either securing news stories from a particular outlet or for more coverage around a news item.
- Remember what matters most is protecting the delicate relationships that have been developed between PR and media, who are on the front lines of all our pitches and follow ups. For clients who cannot adjust their expectations to the changed landscape in which we operate, PR agencies need to work with them to adjust those expectations. Ultimately, what matters most is maintaining goodwill with the media as that is irreplaceable.
We look forward to continuing our work with media colleagues and will always do our best to be a helpful resource in the interaction between companies with a story to tell and the people who help them do just that.