When you ask a client what their dream publication/piece of coverage is, nine times out of ten they will name a top tier business publication: Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. When I hear this it simultaneously makes me apprehensive and excited. While these hits are sometimes the hardest to come by, they are also the most exciting and rewarding.
So what happens once you finally get that business press reporter interested? They take a briefing, the client is excited and wants to know when the coverage will hit…and then nothing. In my experience, sometimes the fruits of your labor can take anywhere from three months up to even a year to turn into coverage. That’s a really long time in the world of journalism, where reporters are sometimes cranking out two or three stories a day. So what do you do in the meantime to keep your client fresh in the reporter’s mind without becoming that annoying PR person? Below are my tips for cultivating a long lead business press opportunity.
Be selective about when touch base.
The last thing you want to do is start checking in with a reporter weekly on the status of a story. They are busy with plenty of stories to write, events to attend and breaking news they have to jump on. There is no science to the frequency with which you should check in, but go with your gut. If the last time you called them or emailed they seemed annoyed that you are asking again, it’s probably a good sign that you should ease up on the follow up. Instead of sending another email I often like to give them a call and try to catch them on the phone. This allows it to be more conversational and you might get more insight on what they are working on than over email. I also like to put reminders on my calendar for every month or two so that it doesn’t fall off my radar. It’s easy to forget about it when other projects become a priority. The calendar invite helps me stay on track and remember that the opportunity isn’t completely dead.
Use timely hooks to check in.
I also like to time my follow up to current events that I know a reporter will be writing about or are relevant to my client. For example, a big announcement from Facebook or Apple, a key tradeshow they will attend/cover, a competitor’s earnings. In doing this I also ask if they are looking for any commentary from sources related to any of these events. This not only helps put your client back to the top of their mind but it gives you a reason for reaching out. Even if they don’t end up using client commentary or information from the original interview in a potential story, it helps continue the life of the relationship and familiarize the reporter with your client.
Offer something new.
If it’s been awhile since the reporter interviewed your client, there is a good chance there has been some sort of update within the company that you can share. Since business press don’t often care much about product news, is there a customer willing to speak that you can offer? New survey data that ties back to your original conversation that they might find interesting? The CEO is involved in a cool new project since the original conversation? The key with this approach is to not force it. If you are grasping at straws to find a “new hook” for the reporter, odds are they are going to see through that as well. When clients share updates on activities and new information, make sure to ask if that is something you can share with the reporter. The new information might be enough to push the reporter towards publishing a story that they were putting off because it was deemed “evergreen.”
Pay attention to what they are doing.
A lot can happen in a year! Keep an eye on what the reporter is writing about. Has their beat changed? Is there a topic they seem to be writing about a lot that you can fit your client into? Do they take a long vacation in the summer? Do they have other roles at the publication like putting together conferences or events? By paying attention to what the reporter is up to you will sound smarter in your follow up and you’ll find new ways to engage. It goes without saying but following them on Twitter helps too. I also like to keep an eye out for events they might be speaking at on a panel. It’s not only great for networking but you get more insight than you would normally get over email and it gives you something to reference in your follow up.
At the end of the day, not every business press briefing is going to result in coverage, but if you take the time to find ways to keep the spark alive, it can result in a big payoff with a great hit that was many months in the making. As they say, patience is a virtue. Any other tips that you use to help keep media opportunity alive? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Senior Account Manager