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I was recently talking to a friend who is a freelance publicist in the Midwest. Somehow the conversation turned to client expectations.
She told me the tale of two clients – one is a woman entrepreneur with a very small but successful service business. The business owner gets most of her projects through local advertising and customer referrals. She only hires the publicist to get her a mention in the announcements section of her local paper, a couple times a year, to highlight lead generating events she’s hosting.
The entrepreneur has in the past done local radio interviews, and a few local morning TV talk shows and is a lively and interesting interview, but she is very busy and really just wants those tiny free local newspaper listings. The publicist helps her identify a news hook and writes a press release or edits a release the client has written herself. The publicist distributes the release and makes the follow-up phone calls. Most of the time, but not always, the announcement gets printed in the newspaper. The client knows what she wants and is happy with the result.
The other client is a large corporation with a lot going on and very high expectations. When an article in the New York Times featured a competitor’s service, they demanded to know why their company was not included in the piece. There were many reasons and while the publicist could not say this so bluntly, here are a few:
- Her client corporation is not the only one that provides this service or is well known for it.
- The publicity plan the corporation mapped out and agreed to with her did not include pitching this particular service to the media. (and perhaps their competitor WAS pitching it)
- The publicist is not clairvoyant. While she has a solid local and national media contact list and keeps in touch to nurture and maintain those media relationships, there is no surefire way to KNOW exactly what stories the New York Times is working on.
What does this say to those of you who want to do your own publicity? Be clear about your goals and recognize that there are factors beyond your control when dealing with traditional media. Know who you want to approach in the media and what you want to achieve.
The woman entrepreneur provides a very hands-on personal service in her community. Her focus is on getting local attention for her events to draw in potential new local clients. While it might be great for her ego or her standing in her field to get a major national media hit, it would not necessarily serve her business goals. She’s set a narrow framework for the kind of publicity she’s after and is satisfied when she gets it.
The large corporate client seemed to expect every story anywhere that deals with any service they provide will include their brand. I’m all for going after lofty goals, but unless your publicist is a mind-reader, I think that’s an unrealistic expectation.
Pitch your best stuff and don’t give up or be disappointed when your efforts sometimes fall short. It takes patience and persistence to make media relations pay off. Despite their best efforts, even PR professionals can’t always get you what you want.
I was recently interviewed by a print reporter and my comments were not included in the published story. Disappointing? Sure, but it happens all the time. Still, I will keep in touch with the reporter and offer to help her as a resource. Who knows what the future might bring.