Even though it’s been a while since I was in college, I can vividly remember sitting in my Media Relations 101 class eagerly learning about the art of media outreach and securing coverage for clients. It was my favorite class…and I learned a lot about the importance of the press release and pitching hard news. But, looking back, I realize that the course had little, if any, discussion around proactive PR campaigns. And this makes sense; times were different 10+ years ago.
Today, the media landscape is very different. For most companies, the press release now serves as a vehicle to improve SEO and increase visibility with customers, rather than being a coverage driver, and many reporters no longer care about company news that once dominated headlines (e.g., product launches, momentum announcements and executive hires).
The reality is, we can no longer rely on hard news to drive PR program success. We, as PR professionals, now have to get creative to get coverage – and this requires a change in approach. Instead of waiting around for client news, switch your PR strategy from defensive to offensive by developing a pipeline of proactive pitch, byline and survey ideas that you can execute on over the course of a time period (90-days or six months, for example). This will help ensure a steady cadence of activity and coverage, even when company news is lacking.
One of the best ways to develop a proactive campaign pipeline is by doing periodic calls with your clients’ thought leaders and customers to learn about industry challenges, emerging trends and hot-button issues. You’d be surprised at how many ideas you can pull from a 30-minute conversation. (Often, things your clients’ experts think is “duh” is actually “aha!” to the rest of the world, and then you have a pitch!)
Additional ways to build out a robust proactive pipeline are to:
- Canvas your clients’ websites for existing collateral that you can repurpose for pitches and bylines.
- Join client webinars. This is an excellent way to get expert input without taking up their time.
- Consider human interest angles. If any of your client executives have an interesting background or a unique hobby, then play it up! Executive visibility coverage is great company coverage, too!
- Read, read and read some more. Carve out some time every morning to read the news. Not only will this help you stay on top of your clients’ industries, but it will give you fodder for rapid response commentary opportunities and interesting pitch ideas.
Even with a comprehensive proactive PR program in place, it’s still harder than ever to secure standalone client features – but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to secure coverage. When it comes to proactive PR topics, think outside the box and target opportunities such as podcasts, video interviews, executive Q&A columns, slideshows and daily newsletters. The coverage opportunities are out there – you just have to uncover them. And the best way to do this is by knowing your target publications inside and out and building strong relationships with reporters.
Being proactive is the name of the game in PR, and the good news is, you can start prioritizing a proactive strategy immediately. I’m willing to bet that, if you make this change, you’ll unlock a whole new world of opportunity and see an increase in client coverage and satisfaction. And, most importantly, you’ll grow as a PR professional – and that’s something they can’t teach you in school!