The 7 Stages of Grief: How to Get Over the Article that Got Away

Your Article Didn't Make The Cut
Your Article Didn't Make The Cut

It happened: the perfect story for your client ran in one of your target publications, but your client wasn't in it. That’s right – you've been left out. Despite all the networking you do, the relationships you maintain with industry reporters and your constant media outreach, you somehow managed to slip this reporter’s mind when she was drafting her piece.

First of all, don’t beat yourself up. This can and does happen to the best of us: even the most successful PR pro doesn't bat 1,000. No matter how good you are, at some point in your career you’ll lose an article that should have been yours - and when it happens to you, you’ll go through the classic 7 stages of grief. Here’s how to deal with each of them:

1. Shock

Finish reading the article and take a few deep breaths. Maybe walk a couple laps around the office to process the terrible injustice unfortunate fact that this reporter didn’t think to include your client. Give yourself a few moments to get over the shock before moving on.

2. Denial

Maybe your client WAS mentioned and you just missed it on the first read. It’s possible, but try to suppress the desire check the article over and over. Here are several places that it’s almost certainly NOT hiding:

  •         On the fold of the newspaper
  •         Copied onto some rogue Silly Putty
  •         On a section of the website that didn’t load properly
  •         On a “deep web” section of the website
  •         On an insert that fell from the magazine
  •         On a fragrance sample that fell from the magazine

No use denying it: it’s not there.

3. Anger

You’re right – it IS completely outrageous to write an article on that industry without including your client’s perspective. How could anyone think that’s a good idea? How could the reporter do this to YOU?

Although it may feel like it, remember that this omission wasn’t personal – reporters, like everyone else, are subject to a broad range of professional pressures that affect what they produce. It’s totally possible that the omission of your client was out of the reporter’s control.

4. Bargaining

Resist the urge to promise the PR gods that you’ll never send a pitch using mail merge EVER AGAIN if they’ll just make the reporter revise the online version – though cathartic, it’s unlikely to have a meaningful impact on your success. Instead, focus on concrete things you can do to make your relationship with the reporter stronger and ensure you’re included their next article.

5. Depression

It’s OK to indulge in the other steps for a bit, but just don’t go there with this one. In PR, like in life in general, there’s always something that can knock you off your horse if you let it – don’t let this do that to you.

You need to look at this omission as an opportunity for growth. That means pulling yourself together, meeting with your team and starting to brainstorm some solutions.

6. Testing

Now it’s time for things to start looking up. Talk with your team about realistic actions you can take to respond. Start with reaching out to the reporter - if you already have a strong relationship, she should be willing to explain what happened and why you got left out.

If you don’t know the reporter so well or haven’t talked to her in a while, this is the perfect chance to get your client on her radar. Think of an inflection point where your client could have fit into her story. Then, give the reporter a quick call (or email, or tweet) to share how much you enjoyed her article and explain what your client could add to any future discussion of the topic.

7. Acceptance

Remember, this happens to the best of us. Accept that you were omitted and think about what you can learn from it. What defines successful people in this business isn't getting omitted or not, but how they respond to it.

By clearing away negative emotions, tweaking strategy and communicating effectively, effective PR pros turn omissions into opportunities. Work through your loss and make sure that your reaction includes a clear strategy for ensuring it doesn't happen again. Finally, communicate that strategy to your client so they know it’s under control!

Have you grieved the loss of the article that got away? Any tips for dealing with it constructively? Let us know in the comments!

Contributed by Greenough Media Team members Andrea LePain (@alepain), Karen Laverty (@LavertyKaren), Christine Williamson (@ChristineDBW), Rachel Vaccari (@Rachel_Vaccari), Lucy Muscarella (@LucyMuscarella) and Caitlin Cimino (@caitlin_cimino).

Feeding the Media: Turning One Strategic Placement into Multiple Big Hits

These days producers, editors and reporters are under constant deadlines. The pressure is on to fill digital and cable news sites with fresh content 24/7 and reporters are often asked to file three or more stories a day. So how do journalists continually feed the beast? By sharing content.

The latest RTDNA/Hofstra University study finds that nearly 76 percent of stations are involved with other media in newsgathering and sharing agreements. Almost a third of news directors (31.2 percent) said they ran news on another local station, and the study finds that content ran on an average of 1.4 stations. The majority of stations also have cooperative agreements with outlets in other mediums including local newspapers, radio stations and websites.

Whether it’s a pitch for an article, video, slideshow or story idea, good media relations professionals know how to take advantage of these sharing agreements and identify key “feeder” media. Take Bankrate.com for example, a feeder site for Fox Business, Yahoo! Finance and MSN. The online outlet already has an impressive 63,695,333 page views per month, but combine that with the views top tier outlets like Fox are bringing in and you’ve just increased the exposure exponentially with one strategic pitch.

Here at Greenough, we’ve been able to implement this approach for several clients. This spring, we secured an article on seasonal allergies in the print and online editions of Health Magazine for Thermo Fisher Scientific. A good hit in its own right, but then the story got picked up by ABCNews.com and FoxNews.com.

For GT Advanced Technologies, we secured an article in MIT Review that went viral – netting more than 60 article pick-ups including Yahoo! Finance, Fox News, CNN and Business Insider. We also saw 30 local news articles and 18 trade hits.

As with any good story pitch, it’s all about the research. Study your target outlets, identify their key “feeder” sites and understand who has a content sharing agreement with whom. The time and effort spent upfront will certainly help you maximize exposure and secure your next top tier hit.

Contributed by Account Supervisor Christine Williamson. Follow her on Twitter: @ChristineDBW.

How Well Does Your Agency Fail?

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons: Nima Badiey
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons: Nima Badiey

It’s no secret to the people I work with that I enjoy video games. Even though other forms of media – especially the ones that aren’t doingaswell – like to portray video games (or “interactive digital experiences,” if you’re feeling artsy) as a waste of time, savvy marketers will realize that they’re the largest form of entertainment by revenue for consumers under 35. Personally, they’re the primary form of media I consume – a bit before books and music and miles ahead of television and movies. This isn’t a post about the media consumption preferences of Millenials, though. Instead, it’s about an episode of the gaming culture show Extra Credits, titled “Fail Faster,” that aired last week. I watch this show every week, but this particular episode got me thinking about the relationship between agencies and clients. Check it out below:

http://youtu.be/rDjrOaoHz9s

So, what can this lesson in game design teach us about what to look for in a PR firm? First of all, how a firm handles failure is just as important as how it handles success. Perhaps because the benefits PR agencies provide can be difficult to measure – in contrast to, say, sales or stock numbers – PR professionals LOVE to show metrics. This is especially true for things like social media – in a pitch, a PR executive will anxiously await the moment they can show their PowerPoint slide with the case study about increasing Client X’s Facebook likes by 468%. The statistic sounds great, but it’s not actually proof of a successful formula.

Look beyond the metrics and ask your potential agency what went wrong along their case study’s path to success. They should be able to describe some errors: maybe they reached out to the wrong influencers, or didn’t understand where a certain customer segment spends their time online. They should also have clear examples of how they nipped these problems in the bud and made corrections that improved performance. If everything went off without a hitch, they either got really lucky or they aren’t telling the truth.

As the video says, “the later you fail, the more expensive your failures will be to correct” – and since the agency will be working off your budget, it’s good to get one that recognizes and deals with mistakes as quickly as possible.

Next, you should always hire a firm that’s smarter and more effective than you. Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to make the best use of your first round of funding or a marketing manager that needs an ace external PR team, they should consistently have better ideas than you do and help your bad ideas fail quickly and gracefully. If your agency is always telling you how great your ideas are and following your lead, they’re one of three things: dishonest, incompetent or obsolete. A great firm will handle failure as well as they handle success, helping bad ideas fail early before they become catastrophes. If your PR team hasn’t noticed and corrected an error in your communications strategy lately, then they’re not helping you innovate: they’re just executing. And if they’re only executing, it would probably be better on your budget to just hire an internal direct report.

The flip side of this is true as well.  Sometimes, a firm will present an idea for a campaign that just does NOT work for the client’s customers. If you’re choosing a PR firm, ask your candidates about a time they had an idea that was way of the mark. How did they deal with the client’s feedback and course correct? If they don’t have a good example, it’s not because they’ve never had a bad idea; more likely, it’s because they’re not very good at failing. By extension, they’re probably not very good at success.

Last but not least, it’s important to make sure that fast failures are an expected and positive part of doing business. As Rob Shelton, the global innovation chief at PricewaterhouseCoopers, argues in this Business Insider article (I haven’t reprinted the title, as its complete clickbait), fostering a relationship where failure is expected and tolerated is critical to success. If people are afraid to acknowledge and learn from their errors – or, for that matter, the errors of others – the problem will only get worse (and more expensive) over time.

Great ideas – especially in creative fields like PR (or game design) – don’t spring forth fully formed.  Instead, they’re the result of a team of intelligent individuals constantly making small failures, critiquing them, and improving. A great agency won’t just have good ideas – they’ll also work hard to reduce the time to failure of bad ones. Next time you’re thinking about the agencies you work with (or plan to work with), don’t just think about how they succeed; it’s equally important to consider how they’ll help you fail as effectively as possible.

Zach Pearson is an account executive at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_p_pearson

The Importance of PR Pitching Via Phone

We posted a blog post a while ago on the importance of picking up the phone in PR, especially when pitching stories. We, as an industry, have begun to rely too much on email as a sole form of communication. However, the reality is, phone pitches can produce some very powerful results. Here are a few thoughts about phone pitching that our director of media relations Aaron Kellogg brought up in an earlier blog post, which serve as a good reminder of the power of phone conversations:

Email gets stuck. A journalist friend of mine once said to me, “My email just piles up! I probably get 20 pitches a day. I don’t know what to do with it all, so I don’t do anything.” His advice? “It’s annoying to get a phone call. But, once the person starts talking, I usually have to listen.” Sure, there’s something irritating for journalists who get phone calls: it’s an interruption. But, those who call immediately have the journalist’s ear. Then, it’s up to the PR representative to make the pitch work.

The open discussion. Sometimes it’s good to lend your ear to the journalist. What does that mean? A couple months back we were pitching a high-level legal publication. But, we weren’t sure if the editor would be interested in the topic we were pitching. After all, we also weren’t sure what angle we wanted to take. So we had a discussion. And upon getting the editor on the phone, our conversation went something like this:

    “This is Susan”      “Hi Susan, I’m calling on behalf of (my client). We realize there’s a lot of news about (a program the IRS is undertaking). Is it something you’ve given a lot of coverage to?”

Two things were interesting about this pitch:

One, this discussion would likely not have taken place over email. By having a telephone conversation, we were able to open up the conversation to get a better idea of what the editor wanted – we lent her our ear to do a bit of listening. Why is it good? Because sometimes I feel like email pitches can be like throwing darts at a dart board. You have a specific, physical idea in your possession. And once you fire off the pitch by clicking “send,” it’s fingers crossed. Instead, the phone conversation is malleable.

Two, there wasn’t really a pitch in this example. Some people might deem this “lazy PR.” After all, our job is to develop firm, targeted pitches. But, I’d argue that tightly-positioned pitches can sometimes be overwhelming for a journalist. In fact, during my days as a news reporter, I didn’t always want a complete story idea. And, as was the case here, by not presenting definitive story idea, the editor had a few moments to consider the topic and absorb it. By walking through our ideas together in conversation, her interest grew with every word, and we ended the discussion with a definitive idea of where both she and I wanted to end up. Sometimes, soft pitches amount to greatness.

You’re kidding me right? These are the words a New York Times marketing and advertising reporter used when I told her I was calling on behalf of a software company. After all, top-tier reporters want colorful characters, interesting anecdotes and stories with a twist. Such details are seldom found in software development stories. And, had I emailed, the reporter would likely have never responded.

But, my voice on the other end of the line forced the reporter to listen to my pitch (as much as she probably didn’t want to). And, surprisingly, she asked a few questions. In fact, her questions amounted to a five minute conversation. And surprisingly the reporter responded to our follow-up email, leaving the door open for future interaction.

Is the telephone conversation the end-all to public relations? Absolutely not. I would be remiss in saying that Twitter, Facebook, Help a Reporter Out and other electronic channels are powerful tools.

But, for those who dread reporter phone conversations: confront your fear. And, for those whose love affair with the phone needs rehabilitation: rekindle your love.

Because sometimes communication by voice can be most effective – and – in the examples above, it produced remarkable results.

Contributed by Aaron Kellogg. Follow him @KelloggAaron

The Art [and Science] of Mobile, Security and Healthcare Storytelling

Storytelling is the most common and memorable form of communication. In its simplest form, storytelling allows us to share experiences and create emotional connections. Today, many businesses claim that they’re storytellers, but few truly understand the art (and science) of storytelling. We’re fascinated with the science of storytelling, so much so that we’ve studied it for years. In our “2012 Prevailing Storylines Study,” we ranked the ten prevailing narratives that appear regularly in mainstream business media. But that wasn’t enough, so in our most recent study of industry-specific media, we trained our eyes on journalists covering mobile technology, IT security and healthcare/ healthcare IT, to look for patterns and potential differences.

The 2013 Prevailing Storylines Study looked at nearly 1,500 articles across 30 business and trade publications spread across three core markets: mobile technology, IT security and healthcare IT/healthcare. The study not only confirmed the prevalence of the ten recurring storylines/narratives, but also showed that certain narratives do indeed appear with regularity in each industry. Within media coverage of mobile technology, for example, “Things Not What They Seem” appeared most frequently. In coverage of IT security, on the other hand, “Recipe for Success” appeared more often, while in healthcare/healthcare IT the most common storyline was “New Kid on the Block.”

What this research showed us is that the science of storytelling is even more nuanced than we thought. In other words, there are enough noticeable differences at the industry level to recommend unique approaches to storytelling in these markets. And, if companies understand what narratives resonate most within their industry and within the media, they can better position themselves for continued growth and success.

Phil Greenough, CEO of Greenough