The typical PR person likes to write press releases, post them out to newswires, and say a little prayer to get your company’s stories out into the media. Why wouldn’t they do this? It’s the path of least resistance. You, the COO, nor your PR team have to talk to anyone. You can just hide behind your desk.
But that’s just too good to be true. The problem with that approach is that it doesn’t work.
According to a survey by Vitis PR in 2012, only 37% of journalists use newswires daily while 30% of journalists only use newswires occasionally, and 21% of journalists never use them at all. That’s a large chunk of journalists who likely won’t see your press release. If they don’t see it, your story doesn’t get published.
As a COO, it’s your job to be a leader and find solutions. So, what should you do instead?
A Sales Approach
Rather than relying on passive tools like newswires and press releases, the best PR teams are proactive and treat the PR process as a sales process. That means targeting the right people in the media, crafting your pitch, and making cold calls to sell your story.
“Once you see that sales and PR are virtually identical in terms of process, that opens up an entirely new door to how you train PR professionals. Instead of just being great writers, they also have to be great salespeople in order to make the process work most effectively.” – Shift
The question is, what’s a reasonable expectation for landing stories with a proactive PR team that uses sales tactics well?
The PR Output
Assuming you are targeting writers who write your types of stories in media outlets that have readers who would be interested in them, what numbers might you expect from your PR team? Here is a rough estimate of the numbers to expect from a PR person once that individual has been trained on your product, your company, and your industry:
- Monthly: You should expect five stories per PR person at a minimum.
- Daily: Each PR sales team member should make six outbound pitches to journalists. Each pitch, most of which should be phone calls, should include these components in the end:
- Notes from research done on the target
- A recording of what was said on the call
- Follow-up times to call the writer back if necessary
- Verification of the writer’s contact information
- Follow-up information is sent out
- Total: (6 calls a day x 5 days a week) x 4 weeks a month = 120 outbound calls a month, which should generate five stories a month.
These numbers are pretty accurate and cover national, regional, and local media. They also cover spreading the calls out over TV, radio, print, online, newsletters, and bloggers.
These numbers are pretty conservative, too. If the angles are well thought out, and if the PR person sells well, they will land even more! We’re talking about roughly a 4% success rate. If your PR team complains that that’s too high, tell them the national average for cold call success rates is 6.16% — and that’s for people selling a product that costs something. Your stories are 100% free!
Don’t Waste Time with ROI Metrics
The only thing your PR team needs to track is how many total stories they are landing each month.
There is no need to waste time tracking media impressions to come up with some fancy ROI. You’ll know after six months that it works, and for the salaries and bonuses you’re spending, you’ll get significant ROI. Spending time over-tracking things just wastes time that could be spent pitching the media!
Some Helpful Metrics Instead
All that being said, there are some helpful things for your PR team to track in order to monitor their progress at landing stories.
This includes things such as, how many writers have they called back after the initial pitch? They should keep a simple database on Microsoft Outlook or a similar contact management system to track what they talked about and when they need to call the person back. Keep it simple.
Which writers will they contact again if those writers fail to express interest in the pitch the first time? If a writer shuts your PR person down, they should always call them again in the future with other ideas.
It can be useful to call them back with a new twist on the old angle you were selling, or when the business tide has changed to make that perspective interesting again.
Finally, Your PR Team Should Dream Big!
Don’t let your PR team limit themselves to small and local media outlets. Only taking the risk to dream big can get significant results.
Start pitching writers from the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Dow Jones News Services. Even some of the regional papers work in syndicates, in which case your story could run multiple newspapers. Pitching a single person from the Associated Press could get you into more than one hundred papers that same week. Leveraging can yield tremendous results.
Your PR team is a sales team. Finding success for your stories is about more than just newswires. It’s about taking risks and taking initiative. It’s about picking up the phone and calling hundreds of people. It takes work, but the work works!
Do you have any other strategies you use with your PR team? Are you going to try any of this out? Let us know in the comments below!
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send us an email, and someone from my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.