By Melissa A Vitale
With continually reduced staff, freelance budgets and increased global events with local impact, in today's ever-evolving media market, public relations takes creative ideas, genuine relationship-building between a brand and reporter, with the biggest ingredient to successful story placements: time. Even with passionate interest from editors and journalist, a single evergreen profile can take six months from pitch to publication, which is why publicists often work multiple stories at a given time to ensure continued consistency in their results. One story may be in the fact-checking phase right before publication, another journalist is working on the pre-interview in preparation to pitch the story to their editor, and another editor may be arranging photography assets, which happens before fact-checking. The result for clients: a profile averaging every two to six months.
With all those moving parts, it's no surprise that entrepreneurs want to take a pause from Public Relations during their slower seasons to maximize their rest. Despite the lack of revenue, Publicists often welcome a break from pitching a client especially if it's a short month or two-long pause. A break in your PR campaign can have benefits beyond recuperating before a busy season. For freelancer writers trying to find the right publication for their desired angle about a client, there is less pressure to find a home as soon as possible. They can take their time researching editors, asking for referrals, and crafting a perfect pitch without a million follow-ups from the publicist. For momentarily-deflated writers who have received passes on stories about the pausing client, a few months can turn the tide of social conversation where that angle would be timely and therefore accepted.
Especially for single entrepreneurs in the need of a break from public relations from being burnt out with interviews, media interactions and creativity is severely effected, take a break from PR. Your publicist doesn't want an interviewee running on empty with runoff thoughts and missed key message opportunities. As entrepreneurs, we create our best with a full cup. A month of rest can lead to more money making opportunities with a creatively strategic mindset than when you're stretching your brainpower thin.
If you've had a passing or invasive thought along the lines of "wow, if I do one more interview I'm going to scream into the abyss" or are starting to have anxiety nightmares revolving around press, definitely consider pausing your public relations campaign during your next slow season. Your sanity and publicist will thank you. Every publicist is different so inquire about your publicists expectations from taking a break. As long as you don't exceed two short breaks a year, taking a month or two long pause won't impact your campaign significantly, though it will delay it noticeably. Because of the multi-prong and long-lead nature of media relations, its no surprise that inconsistent public relations efforts yield inconsistent results.
As mentioned above, during any given month, a publicist is working with a number of journalists and editors in various stages of writing a story about the client. Publicists typically work on about three to five stories per client per month. Many of those stories overflow to oncoming months. When a client pauses, a publicist will inform every journalist that is working on a story that the client is taking a brief pause and intends to come back. Publicists must notify the journalists in regard to transparency in the relationship, in addition to avoid working without compensation. Often times, unless the story is already written and only awaiting photography and fact-checking, the journalists take the story off their pitch list and won’t pick it back up until they’re pitched by the publicist signifying the client has returned. That could extend a three to six month timeline for a story by the length of the pause, potentially longer if the pitch process takes longer with a change in social conversation.
If your business goals hinder on consistent profiles around your company, products or thought leadership regularly, consider talking to your publicist about a break in interviews rather than a break in services. Your publicist can continue to secure interest and line up interviews for you upon your return from your time away from interviews.
If you are moving forward with taking a break, be conscientious of timing. Public Relations agencies can have pauses when they are not taking new business. Publicists know to expect the unexpected and anticipate a revision or shift of strategy when a client resumes their campaign. When clients take a pause in their retainer, they can lose the privileges of clients - many agencies have set dates and times for discussing new business, even if you are a returning client. Have an idea of your restart date when you pause with your PR firm and give them enough [2+ weeks] notice when you're ready to return.
Switching public relations firms between a break can maximize your time away from media relations when you're dissatisfied with your current service. The time away from pitching are ideal for any re-strategizing or passing off services to a new firm. Every public relations expert has different connections and areas where they exceed, therefore trying out a different PR firm can yield different and potentially better results. Before you switch, make sure to doublecheck fine print of your previous contract as well as your new contract. Always make sure there's an out to any multi-month or ongoing contract (15 - 30 days is desireable). Any contracts without a mutual resignation process in place is often a major red-flag in the PR industry. Note that when switching firms, stories being written with one PR firm usually don’t carry on if they’re before the photo and fact-checking process.
Unless you're running up credit, don't consider money when thinking about a pause. Because a single story can take six months from first pitch, taking a two month break can derail a number of stories already past the pitch or even interview process. Journalists don't know that a client is coming back, and therefore they may completely scrap the story and restart at the pitching process. Missing two months in PR can cost more in missed opportunity from potentially secured placements than two months of your PR retainer.
Any good publicist can navigate breaks when their clients require it to keep going. Make the decision on taking a break from your public relations campaign based on your needs.
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