I think it’s safe to say the most challenging part of my job is explaining how the industry works to my clients. Before I take on any client, I do my best to explain what I do, how I do it, and what the expected outcomes are – the good, bad, and the ugly.Basically, I do my best to under promise and over deliver due to the nature of the business.What’s the nature of the business? Well, let me break it down like this: Public relations can do wonders for your business. It can make your brand more credible and visible which leads to more business growth. But, it’s not what you want, when you want it.

You’re not ready for a Public Relations retainer fee if…

1. You don’t have a story to tell.

This is what’s going to earn you media coverage. Storytelling. It’s not how amazing your brand is or how much money you generate. It’s about the educational, entertaining, and emotional story you can share that will shed a light on your brand.Now, this light isn’t always a huge spotlight. Sometimes it’s a little flashlight that turns on for a split second, but it’s something.free-mediaI once worked with a client and I explained to him,
Me: “Everyone thinks their business is the greatest ever and should be featured in most media outlets. That’s not how journalists see things.”Client: “But Christina, our business really is the greatest ever.”
That = unrealistic expectations… with a mindset that you don’t need a great story to earn coverage.

2. You mistake marketing for sales.

I hate it when people say “sales and marketing” like they are the same thing. They’re not. In fact, they are very different.I don’t work in sales… not directly. Instead, I get someone to want to make the next step to sales.If you’re a local restaurant and I earn you a cooking segment on the local NBC station, I did my job. I earned you a three-minute segment on TV in your market in front of millions (depending on the market) of potential customers.The part that comes after that is the sales part.I lead the horse to water. You make the horse drink it.

3. You want instant media coverage. Like tomorrow.

If you want to earn media, you need to be patient. If you don’t want to be patient, then you can spend more money on an advertisement and get it right away.Convincing someone your brand has a great story takes time. It takes time to build a relationship with a journalist. It takes time to pitch journalists INDIVIDUALLY.Speaking of time, TIMING is one of the biggest factors when it comes to a journalist answering the question, “Why should I cover this right now?” Just because something isn’t a good fit now, doesn’t mean it won’t be in a month, three months, or even a year.

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I could go on about this, but instead, I’ll share this response from a journalist at a popular, national magazine after he was asked, “Why not?” in response to a pitch he turned down:
“Because I get 200 pitches a week and can’t and don’t want to read them all. My job is not to sit on my derrière waiting for pitches. I create my own pipeline of stories and it is full for months ahead of time.”

4. You don’t want to be involved in the process.

Yes, a publicist will handle most of the work, but I need you to help me help you.When the media comes knocking, you need to drop everything. Like, right now.When I was in TV news, I was given an assignment at 9:30 am and I had to have it done by 4:45pm. Many times after I was pitched, I would call the number at the bottom of the email and the conversation would go like this:
Me: “Okay, we’re ready to talk to about this. Can we come by in 30 minutes?”Publicist/Person who wants media exposure: “Oh no. We’re not ready!”Me: “Well, you just sent me this information and my assignement editor would like for me to cover this for the 5pm newscast.”Publicist/Person who wants media exposure: “Okay, well can you just give us the questions now and call back next week?”
Do you see what’s wrong with this? When was the last time you watched the 5 o’clock news and saw something that was not relevant today, but instead looked like it was a week old? Yea… never.When a journalist wants something, nine times out of 10 they will go with whoever got them the information they needed the quickest. Journalists work on tight deadlines. If you want to earn media exposure, you need to work that way too.“But Christina, you told us in #3 is takes time.”Yes, it does, but when that time passes and an opportunity knocks, you run to the freaking door!

5. You’re a control freak.

When it comes to earning media, you have no control over the final product.Again, if you want that, spend all your marketing budget on an advertisement.It’s a journalist’s job to tell a story that will educate and entertain their audience. If all 10 of your quotes are boring, then a journalist may use three out of the 10… and they may not be your favorite three. It happens.Your goal is to earn media that looks like a “free commercial.” That is NOT the goal of the journalist. Remember that.So, the next time you’re considering hiring someone to handle your PR and are getting ready to shell out a public relations retainer fee, ask yourself, “Am I ready for this?”