Dr. PR Column

Happy Holidays to the PRSA NJ Community and PR pros – Dr. PR is in to deliver Season’s Greetings!

As the sun sets on 2022, it is replaced with the aspirational promise that 2023 provides! A perfect time to reflect on the past in a way that informs and empowers our future. 

Dr. PR selected a few questions posed by the PRSA community. A common theme emerged among submissions: the importance of matching team experience to the specific PR Fire Drill scenario. 

With both empirical data and ample original content from reporters showing how broken the relationship is between the PR Pro and Reporter, the difference between success and failure lies in the ability to identify, deploy, and trust the tactical teams to generate on-brand Earned Media coverage.  

Let’s dive into some of the more common challenging inquiries received.

  • Our client is radioactive; how can we generate positive Earned Media coverage?
  • Leadership is applying pressure, need Earned Media wins; how do you “make it rain?”
  • Embargo pitching has been met with zero response from targeted media; is there any hope in the final days/hours before launch to secure a “breakthrough?”

Our is radioactive; how to generate positive Earned Media coverage?

Scenario Overview: A client’s proactive Brand launch strategy, set and executed by another PR partner, failed in a very public way; negative headlines and public perception existed. 

Challenge: Correcting the narrative through media relations; converting a liability into an asset.

Many can relate to the “cleaning up someone else’s mess” challenge that is all too common in PR & Media Relations. This is the opportunity/crisis that everyone dreads and is hoping to avoid.

In one such instance, the kickoff meeting started and the conference room was filled with both our team and clients. Only small talk was heard, everyone was trying to avoid the taboo topic; where do we go from here? 

I broke the silence with, “While the launch announcement set the brand on an unintended trajectory, the path to success does exist and requires leaning into that negative perception for a bit longer; rebranding through holding a mirror to brand action.” 

Silence hung over the room; all attention was on the CEO for their reaction. After what seemed like an eternity, they spoke ….

“Why can’t more people tell me ‘as it is’ compared to telling me what they think I want to hear?”

Like a gunshot officially starts a marathon, the anxiety and darting eyes were quickly replaced with excitement and collaboration.  It wasn’t an easy conversation or strategy to build nor execute. We successfully rebranded the company from “also-rans” to “industry leaders.”

Outcome: Within 2 years the company was acquired for a mid-nine figure exit.

Dr. PR TakeawayTake Your Shot! When you have done all the research, asked all the right questions, and amassed the experience, the only element left is to ensure your voice is heard. You miss all the game-winning opportunities that you never take a chance at; “control your controllables.”  

Leadership is applying pressure, need a big Earned Media win; how do you “make it rain?” 

Scenario Overview: A client prospect/target had an Agency of Record (AOR) they were not looking to replace. The PR Agency still saw potential and prioritized “wowing” the prospect through highly targeted media relations coverage.

Challenge: With an AOR in place, no direct client assets could be utilized. The lone element to leverage was the prospect’s longstanding Cause-Related Marketing (CRM) partnership that their AOR had been unsuccessful in leveraging previously and weren’t actively supporting. 

“Controlling the Controllables:” We knew that while our challenge was daunting, the path to executing it successfully would be straightforward. We only had the CRM partnership to explore; it wouldn’t take long to know what we had to work with. 

Knowing the objective was National daytime TV, aimed specifically at programs like The View, we knew every path required “reverse-engineering success” by watching previous segments. 

We audited the media outlets while also interviewing the CRM partner; we found an angle. A media strategy emerged that all were confident in; we sold it to our senior leadership and the Client.

In the weeks that followed, the senior execs at the agency grew anxious and wanted to expedite the timeline. Following counsel, we showed how we were ahead of schedule; they eventually relented and trusted the plan.

Outcome: Within a 24-hour period, a quadruple exclusive landed, including National TV segments on The View and ABC World News Now

Dr. PR TakeawayTrust your Data, Research, and Experts. When your identified experts are selected and trusted for the PR Fire Drill, trust and empower their voices to do what they do best. Communicate and challenge your colleagues using this knowledge. The primary objective is always to be successful for clients; regardless of the path chosen or who chose it. We win, lose, and most importantly learn as a team. 

Embargo pitching has been met with “crickets” from targeted media, is there any hope before launch to secure a breakthrough placement?

Scenario Overview: A client had been pitching an embargoed announcement that was days away from launching. They had no secured coverage and hadn’t heard from any reporter.

Challenge: In less than two (2) business days, we needed to target, engage, and convert media outlets and reporters that had previously been pitched, generating positive coverage.

This is a very common challenge. An important client initiative is launching next week. Despite embargo pitching, not a single target has engaged and/or committed to coverage. I can still feel the anxiety from when I was first in the “hot seat” on a situation like this.  

Again, leveraging the “Controlling the Controllables” strategy, we mapped the client assets to the key reporters at the outlets of importance. We quickly unearthed synergies in previous coverage in the priority outlets that authentically connected to elements of the embargoed announcement. We were confident and ready to roll in less than 45 minutes. 

Did we ask to see/review the previous pitch? No. Why would we waste our shrinking timeline reviewing something that didn’t work?

Within 16 minutes of sending our pitch that was mapped to previous coverage, we had engagement from the same reporter that had ignored prior pitching. 

Outcome: 24 hours from deploying our pitch, we secured an embargoed exclusive with the top outlet; two days from public announcement. 

Dr. PR TakeawayAvoid “Paralysis by Analysis.” So many of the challenges in PR come down to the wire; making it critically important to do more with less. Mobilizing quickly with the valued assets you have in a way that provides authentic value to the reporter’s audience is the critical objective to clearly communicate within one or two sentences.  

Dr. PR is in! Submit questions, comments or topic ideas by emailing DrPR@riverbedmp.com  

Ryan Smith, Founder and CEO of Riverbed Media Partners, is an international award-winning communications executive with a track record of measurably improving results for brands in diverse industries and challenging situations. For more than 24 years, he has been succeeding for brand partners including Tyson, Kentucky Derby, Red Lobster, Deloitte, McDonald’s, Morgan Stanley, and TIDAL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *