Influence but Not Control: 4 Ways to Troubleshoot PR Issues
After nearly a decade in the communications and public relations industry, I continue to learn new things every day (and every hour, on particularly challenging days). That’s one thing I truly adore about my job. We are continually pivoting with industry changes, troubleshooting issues, and thinking strategically and creatively. The fast pace is refreshing, and I love the challenge.
But, one aspect that seems to be fairly unique of PR is a phrase I learned from Heather and remind
myself often: “We have influence, but we do not have control.” There are things that we simply cannot control. Mind you; this isn’t an excuse for underperformance or lazy behavior. But it is a good reminder that there are many aspects of the communications and public relations industry we can’t control, including:
Changing industry trends: Media and public relations are changing almost daily. We communicators always stay on top of what’s hot, what’s out and what’s coming up next. Sadly, some of our favorite print magazines have shut down, online outlets are increasingly more influential, and social media and influencer relations have changed the game altogether.
News cycle and overburdened editors: I bet if you asked any television producer or online news editor what they will be doing today, you would get a resounding, “Who knows!” In fact, we were recently in an elevator at Good Morning America, and one employee asked another what he was working on. He responded: “The news cycle has changed three times in the last hour, there’s no telling what will be next.” They are bombarded on an hourly basis with breaking news stories from across the world. No wonder it is hard to grab their attention.
Seasonal trends or something happening: On top of this unpredictable news cycle, we are often competing with seasonal trends (like upcoming print holiday gift guide pitching) and world events like elections or the Olympics (both of which are coming up in 2020, prepare accordingly).
With all the above going on, it can be frustrating to know what to pitch when and how. What we do have control over is not giving up and continuing to think creatively and strategically, despite the hurdles.
Keep reading for four ways to troubleshoot when you’ve hit a dead end.
- Be a consumer: One thing that helps our team stay on the ball when it comes to what’s happening with the media we are pitching is researching and consuming this media. Every day, we watch the shows and read the magazines and online outlets we pitch. While time-consuming, it’s a priority because understanding the outlet is key to securing coverage.
- Phone a friend: On top of the above consumption, we are constantly sharing our findings with each other. If we have an issue or we aren’t getting coverage, we brainstorm solutions and new ideas together. Communication and collaboration amongst our team have made for much success and happy clients.
- Simply ask: If you feel like your client or product is absolutely perfect for a segment or feature and you are shocked that there is no movement, it never hurts to go directly to the editor or producer and ask what isn’t working or what they are looking for. This simple question will not only yield insight, but it helps to build a stronger relationship.
- Go back to the drawing board: If you are really stuck, start over. Stop pushing forward with an okay pitch or half-baked idea, and go back to the start. This is also helpful for veteran clients. Some of my clients have been with us for years, and the content we pitched in 2017 is no longer relevant or the editors we pitched last year need new information. I find it constructive to start all over and build new pitches from scratch. People change, and the content you pitch should change with them to authentically reflect their brand and message and to cater to the needs of the editors and producers you pitch.
At the end of the day, we do not have nearly as much control as we would like over how and why our clients and products are covered. What we can control, though, is our ability to keep pushing forward, thinking creatively about what could move the needle for coverage.
We’d love to hear your tips for tackling roadblocks in your job!