The short answer is: “No. A PR agency cannot guarantee (specific) media coverage.” But let us elaborate on the topic a bit more. There are ways to make coverage likely…
If you are just considering working with a PR agency, have no experience or – worse still – have had a bad experience with a PR agency, then you feel you are making a risky decision. “Will they be able to arrange publications? Why can’t they promise where they will appear if they say they have such a good relationship with the media?” In short – you don’t want to buy a pig in a poke.
Such questions are understandable. We hear them frequently. Often we see the look of displeasure or perhaps disbelief / outrage / disappointment on the faces of “PR beginners” – those with no experience of working with a PR agency – when they hear that no decent PR agency will guarantee a concrete number of publications.
We would like to see as few of such faces as possible, so we have prepared a few words of explanation below.
Don’t miss Authors’s next article: How to choose a local PR agency?
Publications will (most likely) appear
Let us start with an analogy: what do you expect when you go to a small grocery shop for the first time, for example in a holiday village, and want to buy orange juice? You usually expect to find orange juice, but you don’t know what brand this juice will be, whether it will be from concentrate, or sweetened, or have additives… There may be several different brands, or maybe just one brand available.
The problem with a publication guarantee is exactly the same as with the orange juice. Publications will most likely appear… There will be orange juice in the local shop, but we don’t know what brand, if one or more, if sweetened or not, etc.
The PR agency will certainly provide publications – as long as the news is solid / the news is strong enough* – but cannot say exactly what media outlets will publish it.
The job of a PR agency is to get the media to publish articles, news stories, or other forms of mentioning their clients. Agencies are able to deliver this without additionally paying the publisher thanks to the ‘earned media’.
We “earn” media through a set of good practices:
- our know-how
- well-chosen topics
- well-written texts
- the agency’s credibility gained among journalists
- the essential merit of the text
- a well-chosen base of journalists
- our relationships with journalists and news outlets
- and good timing might be helpful too…
A good PR agency suggests what should be highlighted in the communication, what content will be convincing and what data is worth sharing.
Why it fails sometimes
Agencies do their best to ‘earn media’, but they cannot guarantee publication. Here are some reasons why publications might not appear:
- *The press release is ‘missing something.’
The most common mistakes – on the part of the clients – are:
- the news is too general – you don’t give any interesting details, just meaningless generalities (learn how to write a good press release);
- too many similar stories on the same topic – news that can be sent out by companies in tens / hundreds and journalists are already bored with the subject and just don’t even want to open another e-mail about it;
- the news is not news anymore – it “got old”;
- the subject matter is niche – although the information is important for your company, the topic may be very rarely covered by the media; if you can’t relate to some broad, more common trend – your chances of getting published are minimal;
- bad luck (unexpected events). If you are unlucky – the press release scheduled for dispatch on a particular day may not get anywhere, because something very important happens in parallel – the death of the Pope, the French Revolution or a truck attack on the Brandenburg Gate. And then journalists’ fingers on the keyboard will be occupied with another topic. It would be petty to expect a journalist – at ‘normal’ times interested in your news – to ignore The Event and cover your ‘regular’ topics.
- advertising departments’ interests may come into conflict. A press release or article may be ignored or withdrawn halfway through if a competing brand runs an advertising campaign with a particular title. You expect a free publication, meanwhile, your competitor has paid. In this case, advertising departments can withhold an independent publication prepared by a journalist. And this is not particularly strange at a time when many publishers are struggling to survive.
- Last but not least, in democratic countries where freedom of the press is guaranteed, it is always the publisher who has the last word before publication. The agency can deliver a strong story, develop the topic well and send a press release to the right media, but it is not the agency that decides whether the news gets published or not. And if something is not up to the agency – it cannot give guarantees on it.
How to guarantee yourself coverage
As the PR agency, we do everything we can to ensure that the information reaches specific journalists potentially interested in the topic and that it is interesting, readable and, of course, credible. We can also ensure that the topic is more attractive with additional material, e.g. in the form of a video or infographics. And we always check if this is the kind of news that is usually published. But we are not in a position to predict whether – if all good practices are followed – there will be 1, 4 or 37 such publications. (BTW: It’s always worth asking to see an agency’s past results for real clients so you can see the quality of their work.)
- can’t handle uncertainty,
- want the publication to appear in a specific format or style, without significant interference from journalists,
- want it to appear on a specific day,
- want your online publication to include a link to your website,
ask the public relations agency what other methods they can suggest. Because sending a press release is not the only tool available to PR agencies. Media doesn’t always have to be “earned.” Sometimes they can also be “paid.”
The agency can advise you on who is worth paying – which media for an advertorial or which influencer for a sponsored post or article. They may also suggest other tools from their PR toolbox.
You have to trust. If you can’t – don’t work with a PR agency. Buy a sponsored article.
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