Why is PR so time consuming? If your clients ever ask why it's taking so long to see any results, here are 10 straightforward answers you can give, as well as some practical advice to help your content and your approach be more in sync with journalists’ needs and clients’ expectations.
Seasonality Affects PR Results
This summer 2016 is going to be hectic. Not only we are witnessing a number of major sporting events, including the Rio Olympic Games, Tour de France, Royal Ascot, and Wimbledon, we also have the usual summer festivals like Glastonbury.
All of these events will dominate the media both online and offline this summer. But as if that wasn’t enough, we also have an historic EU referendum to compete with. All of this will make it much harder to gain any results from our PR efforts.
To top it all off, PR pros also need to take in consideration various seasonal trends, such as:
Leisure: Top travel destinations, summer reads, outdoor toys and games, things to do with the kids, fitness fashion, new fitness classes and trends, gardening equipment and gadgets.
Fashion and beauty: swim and beach wear, holiday fashion, sunglasses, self-tans, hair sun protection, travel size products, nude and bronze cosmetics, summer fragrances, foot and nail makeover.
Food and drink: BBQ recipes, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails, expert comment on summer trends, ice lolly and frozen dessert recipes, picnic ware, ice-cream makers.
This is particularly key for national newspapers, which often place embargoes on their stories. They also have legal papers coming in, like court cases to talk about. These are all factual aspects that we’re competing against, and which for obvious reasons we are unaware of.
Whether It Works With The Stories Running That Day
It might not be a good idea to send a piece on cyberbullying during National Women’s Engineering Day.
Media Outlets’ Lead Times
This is particularly the case when dealing with trade and consumer publications.
Consumer titles – These usually stick to a three months’ lead. So if your client sells fireplaces, you need to start promoting those in the summer if you’d like to be mentioned in the winter issues.
Trade titles – They draft a yearly calendar split by month, with each month featuring the topics they will cover during that time. Stick to that as a starting point.
Here’s an example of nearly 5 months of waiting time:
Being Gazumped by Something More Newsworthy
This is common with the big national newspapers, when they lose page space because of a big breaking news story.
I always say to my colleagues: “Please do not promise anything to clients. If, God forbid, the Queen has an accident or worse, ALL media outlets will cover nothing but the Queen.”
In House Photographic Style
The likes of the Daily Mail or the Telegraph will never use images sent by us mere PR mortals, even if they are professionally taken. They have their own way to photograph and display images. So if you are dealing with a reporter, 99% of the time you will be requested to send out a real item to be photographed by them.
For example, I once had a client who wished to be featured in the How To Spend It page of the Financial Times. The finished piece took nearly two months to appear, from first contact (24 August 2015) to the day of the link being published (on 13 October).
Those weeks included a total of:
- 47 emails
- 13 phone calls
- Five proof checks to/from the editor (about RRPs, materials, details used in the copy)
- Two special delivery services (one there to deliver the product and one back to be returned to us)
Many stories simply get overlooked if the business isn’t an advertiser. This is common in trade publications, regional press, and memberships type news sites such as the Chamber of Commerce Bulletin. Admittedly, when dealing with those media outlets it helps to say “we advertise with you”.
You contacted the editor or reporter. You agreed on the tone of voice to be used. You are feeling pretty confident it will result in a link. Then you send the drafted copy, approved millions of times by the client, complete with images.
Then the bomb drops in your inbox: They didn’t like the finished feature, so they changed their mind and dropped your piece altogether. Just like that. Time consumed and zero results.
Too Promotional or PR Led
This is an obvious one, and one that experience PR pros usually avoid. Your piece wends its way through far too many people, all of whom want to have their say on the direction you should take. This, of course, will slow everything down.
- Online or offline, never promise your clients a set date for publication. Ever. Just explain you hope to see something by whatever time frame seems the most appropriate, such as the end of the month. But even then, you should make it clear that you can’t guarantee anything for sure.
- Educate your colleagues and your clients about this. To see PR results will always take time.
- Remember, you are not alone and the media pool is not infinite. PR professionals everywhere are fighting against stories, every day, exactly like you. They are competing with other clients and competitors, so it’s very tight arena for time-poor journalists.
- Try to bank as many as hot leads as possible, even if you know the publish date may be months away. Sooner or later they will appear, and all your hard work will pay off.
- Take pride in every link you gain as you know how hard the process was.