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 in the media.
And why wouldn’t they, if allowed? That’s the path of least resistance. You don’t have to talk to anyone and you can hide behind your desk.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t really work.
According to a recent survey, only 37% of journalists use wires daily, 30% of journalists use wires occasionally, and 21% of journalists never use wires.
That means that over 50% of journalists rarely or never use newswires. They never see your press release. Your story doesn’t get published.
And to make matters worse, of the reporters who do use wires, only about 3/4 use them for stories. The rest use the for monitoring industry trends and checking facts. Factor in the number of journalists seeing your wire that cover your industry and these numbers get really dismal.
Rather than rely on passive tools like newswires and press releases, the best PR teams are proactive and treat the PR process like a sales process. That means targeting the right people in the media, crafting your pitch, and making cold calls to sell your story.
The question is, what’s a reasonable expectation for landing stories with a proactive PR team that using 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 follows is a rough estimate of the numbers you might 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 makes six outbound pitches to journalists. Each pitch, most of which should be phone calls, includes these components:
• Taking notes from research on the target
• Recording what was said on the call
• Setting up follow-up times to call the writer back if necessary
• Verifying the writer’s contact info
• Sending out follow-up information
• Following up with prospects from calls made in weeks prior
Tally: (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.
The numbers are pretty conservative too. If the angles are well thought out, and if the PR person sells well, he or she will land even more. We’re talking about roughly a 4% success rate. If they complain, tell them the national average for cold call success rates is 6.16%—and that’s for people selling product that costs something. Your stories are free!
Don’t waste time with fancy ROI metrics
The only thing your PR salespeople really need to track is how many total stories they are landing each month.
Don’t 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 great ROI. Spending time over-tracking things just wastes time that you could spend pitching the media!
Some helpful metrics
That being said, there are some helpful things for your PR people to track to monitor their progress at landing stories.
How many writers have they called back after the initial pitch? They should keep a simple database in Microsoft Outlook, Sage ACT!, 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 on him or her again in the future with other ideas.
Personally, I call back such writers at a later date with perhaps a new twist on an old angle or when the business tide has changed to make that angle interesting again. I’ve had the same writer cover me for different stories in different publications. Many writers freelance for a variety of publications, and they can cover your story in a few of them. Always continue to follow up until you’re told to never call again!
Finally, don’t let your PR folks limit themselves to small and local media outlets. Dream big to see big results!
Start pitching the writers from the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Dow Jones News Service. Even some of the regional papers work in syndicates, in which case your story could run in multiple papers. Pitching one person from the Associated Press could get you into more than one hundred papers that same week (versus trying to pitch a hundred writers). Leveraging can yield huge results.