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No kisses needed for product placement. Really.

Days after Computerworld published my most recent story on infrastructure as a service (IaaS) a friend in PR called to thank me for mentioning his client.

A nice gesture, and probably standard operating procedure at many PR firms. But it was unnecessary, and represents the kind of thinking that actually makes it harder for PR pros to get their clients’ products placed in trade pubs.

A reporter isn’t doing a PR person a favor by mentioning their client or “placing” their product in a story. The PR person did the reporter a favor by connecting them to someone who had something worth saying, and thus made it easier for the reporter to write a good story.

By thinking reporters are doing them a favor by mentioning their clients, PR pros go about the pitching process all wrong. They tend to fall into a mindset of “calling in a favor” with a reporter to get them to listen to their client’s pitch, hoping something will stick.

They should instead remember that PR is a service industry, whose customers are not only their clients but the reporters and bloggers who follow their industries. PR folks should (and the best ones of course know this) build relationships based on trust, where they pitch only the clients who have something good to say and can say it well.

The tough part, of course, knowing when a client is a good fit. Ask yourself:

  • Have I carefully read the reporter’s description of the story and completely understand what they are looking for?
  • Do I have the courage to pitch only those clients who I genuinely believe are a good fit, rather than pitch someone with only a tangential relationship to the story and hope the reporter doesn’t notice?
  • Does the client have something new, interesting or relevant to say about the subject?
  • Is this client ready, willing and able to focus on what the reporter is writing about, rather than turning every question into an opportunity to pitch their products or services?

Yes, I know many clients haven’t developed a good story or the skills to tell it. That’s where the messaging and media training most PR firms offer becomes so important.

I also know many PR clients insist on being pitched even when they’re not a good fit for a story. If you have such a problem client, gather a list of stories for which they were interviewed in which they should have played a major role but got only minor billing, or were left on the cutting room floor altogether. Or, if you think a candid, gentle  (and complementary) one-hour feedback session from a former trade press editor would help, drop me a line.

But above all, remember that when a reporter mentions your client in a story, we do it only because they (and you) earned that mention. Now, it’s up to they (and you) to earn it.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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