We’ve unfortunately all been in the position where a PR campaign just doesn’t take off as intended. The lack of early results can create panic and stress for some of us, but not all is lost. There are ways to turn around a campaign that hasn’t quite hit the mark by trying a few simple steps.
Questions to Ask Yourself
The best place to start is to go back to the strategy and quickly analyse whether you covered all bases with your targeting. Throughout my career I’ve always looked at the what, where, why, when and who when starting a campaign, but it can be useful post-launch to re-evaluate if a story hasn’t landed to see where you may be missing the mark.
- What is the key headline of your campaign in a nutshell and have you articulated this simply to the journalist? – If you can’t explain your key campaign/pitch headline in one sentence, it’s too complicated and needs a revision
- What is the point of your story? Are you promoting a product, sharing data, providing an expert comment or something else? Make this clear in your pitch
- Why are you reaching out? Do you have an exclusive story, interesting data or something else
- Why should they care? This sounds harsh but journalists are inundated with emails, what is it that makes yours timely/relevant/newsworthy/original for this news cycle?
- Why is this relevant to now/this journalist/this publication? Put your story into context or why it works for this timeframe and for this publication
- Who is the brand? Explain how they relate to your pitch and make sense in relation to the story. Never assume a journalist has heard of the brand just because you have
- Who are you? PR is a relationship industry, it’s important to introduce who you are and what your relationship to the brand you are promoting is
- Who is the intended audience for this story? Does this fit the demographic of the journalist’s audience? – Look at how you can frame your story to suit the demographic and make sure it is relevant
- When is information gathered between? If you have data then provide the dates it ranges from and to
- When can they use this release? Anything under embargo should be clearly stated
- When does something launch? If you are sharing a story about a product, give the date it is available from
- Where can they find supporting resources, data sources, imagery or information? – Providing this from the outset saves them time and increases the chances of pickup
- Where can they purchase the product? If relevant make sure you have given the necessary information for product launches, is this online/in-store/local to certain areas?
These are just quick questions to go over, if you haven’t included these in your initial strategy.
Gain Some Perspective
It can be common when you’re working to short deadlines to get things out the door without having the chance to get much feedback first. If you have a campaign that isn’t delivering results, go back to your team and get some perspective. Share your pitch email with them, setup a short meeting with a group of different colleagues and ask them if the messaging of your campaign is clear, get some feedback and ideas for this can be re-angled. A good idea is to not just ask PR teammates but involve other colleagues, it can be invaluable to see how people outside the PR bubble perceive your story and would consume it as regular readers.
You should also take on board any feedback journalists have given you on why they won’t cover it. It could be it’s not the right media target, wrong timing, not newsworthy enough or been doing too many times/recently by another brand. All of this feedback can inform where you go with your campaign from there.
Read the News
Do a short daily read of the key publications you are looking to target, look at news stories broader within the topic areas of your stories.
Are there new or more relevant people I haven’t targeted yet?
Is there an emerging news story or hook I can relate my pitch to?
Ideally you should be reading the news of the publications you target and following journalists specifically, understand common themes and audience interests featured. You’re flogging a dead horse if your story is nowhere in the scope of what an outlet covers.
Re-angle Your Pitch
Look at how you can give your pitch a new angle. Is there a different angle or story to lead with which could be more relevant?
I always recommend having different targeted pitches for different media types, e.g. for specific regional media you should provide and lead with stories that have data or local interest to those areas. Find new targets to trial this with and see if this improves results.
Assess whether there is additional value you can provide with your story, are there designs or data that could make it more compelling or increase the scope of relevant media to pitch to?
Whether this is your own, your teams or your clients it is important to keep an eye on outreach progress and keep the relevant parties updated. If you haven’t had the success you wanted (it happens in PR to everyone) and you are worrying about how it will be perceived, you can manage expectations and show people you have a plan.
Give feedback: provide to the team/client what feedback you have to demonstrate you understand where things have fallen down
Have a plan: any reasonable person can accept things haven’t worked out and trust in you if you have a plan for next steps – look at whether you can re-angle, find new contacts or whether you need to try a new campaign instead. Having thought about this in advance shows competence and gives confidence to other parties that you have a handle on things
Provide learnings: every failure can be a lesson, it gives us more insight to what to change next time and how we can better position something to increase chances of success. Use what you have learnt to provide insights to your team or client and take positives from the negative result
Don’t be afraid to ask for help: whether from a teammate or manager, always ask for help if you don’t know what to do next. No one person can have all the answers and asking for help is always better than suffering in silence
SEO & DIGITAL PR CONSULTANT
Leanne has a decade of experience across SEO strategy, content marketing and digital PR. She has worked for a range of clients from SMEs to global brands.