Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could give up pitching and just watch the media enquiries roll in? It’s what happens to a lot of PR professionals, (even it’s not welcome). How can you get journalists to think of your clients first when they’re researching a story?
In PR, the primer involves an honest conversation with the main spokespeople, to hone in on the differentiators and benefits a target audience will care about.
Successful PR campaigns are similar to painting woodwork in that you need a lot of preparation to get the job done properly. After you’ve spent ages getting the surface ready, you then apply several layers - then add more layers over time. With enough effort, the right timing and a lot of patience, you’ll get a finish you can be proud of.

 In PR, the primer involves an honest conversation with the main spokespeople, to hone in on the differentiators and benefits a target audience will care about. Once that’s applied, you can introduce the company to the journalists who regularly write for the relevant audience.

Over time, the same key messages are repeated through customer stories, interviews, presentations, press releases, comments on breaking news, social media and company blogs, to convey the core values of the company. It's something you can't rush if you want it to stick.

 Playing the long game

 A couple of years ago, one of my clients appeared on Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary. It wasn’t as a result of my pitching – the producer came to us to request an interview. This wasn’t just luck; it was the result of a sustained PR campaign.

 The producer had undertaken some research and seen several comments that the spokesperson had made on information security over the previous months. During the initial call we established that the most appropriate person for the documentary makers to speak to was an expert on ‘social engineering’.

 As a result, the Dispatches programme featured Gavin Watson, from security company RandomStorm discussing how “blaggers” gain access to private information from organisations charged with protecting people’s data. 

 This is a topic Watson had been discussing for the previous six months at industry events, within opinion articles in the information security press and in comments made to journalists when they were reporting on high profile security incidents. 

 Research involves looking way back

 Another example of this long term approach was seen in a recent issue of the Financial Times Connected Business, where the only vendor quoted was a company CEO who had been blogging on the topic for more than a year. His quotation was taken from a post that had been written long before the FT’s editorial calendars had been published. The journalist had gone back into the CEO’s blog archive to discover the company’s true position on the topic.

 Clients often task PR teams with positioning their spokesperson as an industry expert but don’t provide them with sufficient time, or high quality information, to establish that reputation. Trying to raise the client’s profile without adequate preparation and investment of the spokesperson’s time is likely to waste resources and lead to an unsatisfactory result. Like any rush job, it simply won’t stick.
Josie Herbert, Phiness PR 
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