Getting into the media can do a lot for your business. One of the better ways can be to place an article. You write it, so although it will be adjusted for style (so that if they write % rather than per cent it will be consistent throughout the publication) you’re in control, nothing’s going to be taken out of context.
So why do so many people not bother doing the basic research?
A couple of weeks ago I had a pitch from someone for a magazine I edit. It seemed a pretty good pitch and the subject was more or less in the area we write about. I had a quick call with the PR person who said she’d get some bullet points back to me so we could sharpen it up.
So far, 10/10 for process and approach.
An email then arrives.
Her client had gone ahead and written the article ahead of the briefing. BIG MISTAKE. Even if you’re going to write an article in advance, no editor is going to want to think your piece is that unfocused. We want to publish articles that target our readers exactly, so it’s in your advantage to give us the impression that you’ve taken our requirements into consideration.
I open the article. The word count tells me everything. It’s 650 words long.
The publication I edit works in 500-word blocks because a page takes roughly 500 words (it’s still on paper). Yes, an editor can always cut, but we don’t publish single-page articles either.
I made the point by email to the PR executive. I haven’t heard back – given that the guy had written the article in advance she’s probably hawking it around elsewhere hoping someone will take it. She has little choice.
Time to push back
The difficulty really came up when the client decided to write something without taking the target into account. This is where the PR consultancy needs to take the word ‘consultancy’ seriously. The value you can offer is in pointing out that some things just won’t work, and writing a neutral article hoping to catch a niche readership is one of them.
Of course the client might then decide that risking a tailored article, useless to anyone other than the target title, with no guarantee of publication, is not a good use of their time. At least you have them thinking about what is good use of their time!