The earned media trap: your disorganization

Imagine my surprise when, writing a piece for The Washington Post, someone who wanted to be interviewed, no-showed the call. “How crazy!” you’re probably thinking, but there’s a good chance you will suffer a similar fate: simple preparation is key.

After getting ghosted, I simply moved on to interview their competitor. One week later, Mrs. No-show realized her error and asked for a redo. But the ship had sailed. This has happened numerous times. Including my live iHeart radio days for thousands of people.

Many a founder dreams of getting their startup featured in the press. Earned media from a journalist lasts a decade or more, it’s instant credibility and the value is truly incalculable. It far exceeds the going rate of $250,000 for a full-page color ad in The Wall Street Journal. Ads have only a 24-hour shelf life too. Oh, and also the SEO benefits are enormous: when people do a web search for you, it’s a huge brand boost to have Wired Magazine pop!

Don’t screw up your big press opportunity. Do this now…

Press win process

To take advantage of a press opportunity, you need to prepare in advance. A minor note, press opportunities don’t come to you out of the blue. They’re the result of hard work and intentional efforts. Please read the recommended posts at the bottom of this post.

1. Make yourself easy to contact

Is your phone number listed on your website, and is that number staffed? Does someone regularly check the voicemail? Does your online form work? (They often break) In most cases, journalists aren’t going to wait 24 hours for a return call. Also, if they leave a message on Friday at 5:30pm, they aren’t waiting until Monday morning at 9am. You’re not that special.

Action Step » Check your contact numbers now. Test your online forms and make sure a [email protected] email is set up and forwarding to the right people.

2. Appoint on a responsive POC

It may sound odd, but many companies hire a PR company or start a press push and don’t actually appoint a point of contact (POC) in charge of scheduling and coordination when an opportunity come their way. If they are fortunate to have a POC, this person has loosely defined goals. That’s dumb.

Action Step » Appoint one person as your interview coordinator. They need to own the results, and responsibility needs to fall on their shoulders. AND you must ask what resources they need to do this job, and give them what they need.

3. Let the interviewee know

Does the CEO, CMO, CISO, or CHRO actually know you are volunteering them for interview requests? I’ve had more cases than I can count where a company actually offered their person for an interview, picked a date, then told me they weren’t actually available. The Ladders PR team pitched me an interview with founder Marc Cenedella. After I gave them a time, they canceled when I wouldn’t share my data. After a quick DM on Twitter, Marc likely having no clue what was going on, blocked me.

Action Step » Make sure to coordinate with the people you’re offering for an interview and frequently check on their availability.

4. Reduce bureaucracy

In some cases, bureaucracy will kill your interview opportunity before it takes root. In a recent case, someone pitched me an interview with their CEO on The Justin Brady Show. After the PR agency agreed to an in-studio interview, they told the marketing VP, who told the executive assistant to the CEO, who told the CEO. As you can imagine, not everything was communicated to the CEO who didn’t actually have the time blocked.

Making matters worse, the PR agency refused to take responsibility, and after I requested they not contact me again, pitched the same guest again 1 month later. This actually happens more often than you might think!

Action Step » The POC must have direct access to the people they are positioning for an interview opportunity. Yes, they can CC an executive assistant but this is not negotiable.

5. Decide on logistics ahead of time

PR opportunities can require a range of time. It’s not uncommon for me to ask my clients to hop on a plane and fly halfway across the country with 48 hours notice. Obviously, I understand there are more important things in life, but I have these conversations up front. We decide on logistics that work for their schedule and they know responsiveness is vital.

In the case of a live Bloomberg interview, I had a client fly out just one day before Thanksgiving. The result was his reach to over 2 million people.

Thank you for contacting me!