By Melissa A Vitale
Have you ever had an interview with a journalist, either written like via email or verbal, over the phone or in-person, but when the piece was published, your quotes and insight were excluded? Welcome to media. This is something that happens more often that any publicists like. It’s one of the tradeoffs we face because we’re relying on relationships, not advertising dollars for feature coverage.
Providing commentary or quotes is often “in consideration,” meaning it has the potential to be excluded based on the direction of a story. Often times, commentary is excluded from publication for reasons even the most seasoned publicists cannot control.
These reasons may include but are not limited to:
However, there are times when answers or commentary is excluded because it simply isn’t relevant to the conversation.
Because mainstream outlets won’t cover sex-positive or legal cannabis stories regularly, for Vice-category brands, making the most of every media opportunity is paramount. If your quote was excluded from a cannabis article on Allure, another opportunity may not come around for 6+ months. If you continue to give commentary that isn’t relevant, the opportunities may stop all together.
By keeping a couple things in mind while crafting your quotes, you can reduce the number of times your commentary gets cut from stories you have the opportunity to speak to.
Answer the question in your answer
At any given moment, journalists are often working on multiple stories with three-to-four sources per story. If on a time crunch, journalists don’t have time to fill out a quote. Journalists need to quote complete thoughts, so when you don’t repeat the answer in your question, you’re only giving them half a quote.
For instance, the answer to “Why do people enjoy cannabis consumption during intimate play?” should be start with “People enjoy cannabis consumption during intimate play because….”.
By saving the journalist time filling out a complete thought, you avoid your answers being cut because of a time crunch.
Short & Sweet
Journalists can source 2-5 sources per article. I know one journalists who will source up to 20 sources per article. This is how journalists provide complete and unbiased reporting as is their job. But for this reason, it makes concise answers all the more important when responding to a media opportunity. If a journalist gets 8 sources commenting on a topic but only needs a 15 word quote, he’s going to avoid the big paragraphs.
Diversify your answers
Unless you’re speaking as an expert in a niche area, answers to questions usually don’t need to be more than three sentences. Try to dedicate only one sentence to a thought. Keep your thoughts unique. Journalists are often puzzle-piecing commentary from a variety of sources. Having unique points betters your chances that your insight is complimentary to the other quotes provided.
Take your ego out of it
Like many things in PR, providing commentary for a story is more about helping a journalist out than it is centering your product. If your entire quote is all about your brand but the story is on a trend in the industry, your quote is not going to be relevant. Journalists often want to promote the brands that help them out and will include a description of your company and usually a link in your title. It’s far better to leave your ego out of your quote and provide non-branded expertise. Sure, you won’t get quoted talking about how wonderful your brand is, but you will establish yourself as a vital industry source, which can often carry more weight than a favorable mention.
Have a title (and website) ready
Once have an opportunity to contribute to a story, have a title ready for them that you send over with your responses. Your title should be the name you want known with your brand, a link to your website and a brief description of what your brand is. I also include a link to a drive with brand images in the title. This way, everything the journalist needs to drive traffic back to you is already given with your quotes. If you don't have a website yet, you're going to want one once you start getting press mentions. Site editors are less-likely to link to social media handles because it's so easy to change the name - which results in a dead link for them. Even if it's just a landing page with links to your social media accounts, it will help streamline all your traffic from press mentions.
Return answers BEFORE the deadline
Most times, journalists are sourcing from multiple experts. They're also working on other deadlines. If three of four experts have returned commentary for one piece, a writer may start their draft without waiting for the last source to return insight. Get your quotes in well before their deadline to make sure your insight is considered!
This list is not definitive and due to the nature of organic media coverage, there is never a guarantee your quotes won’t get cut (unless the story is about you)
If you’re still confused on how to form a great quote that doesn’t get cut, you can always read trend stories by your favorite industry reporters to familiarize yourself with the style of quotes editors and writers look for.
For vice brands looking to explore cost effective public relations packages, learn more about MAVPR via: melissaavitale.com/services.html
As I mentioned in my last post, public relations became even more valuable in 2020 as the effects of the pandemic strip advertising budgets with subscriber-rates already dwindling. For any brand launching products in this coming year, hoping to win awards, or just looking to see a return on their investment, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with affiliate marketing,
Once a buzzword for the silicon valley bros building marketing funnels for life coaches, affiliate marketing is now one of the hottest areas of media.
You see, media outlets have been thrust a quadruple edge sword this year: advertisers fearing mass layoffs are pulling their ad spend. With economic peril falling on most, subscribership has exponentially deceased compared to declines of previous years. Layoffs are hitting media hard, and the opportunity for evergreen product mentions are occasional at best. Plus, media outlets who have transitioned to hosting events to supplement decreasing subscription revenue.
In 2020, outlets like the New York Post, who previously never wrote product roundups, now have commerce teams dedicated to product-centric stories. Things like “Best body oils for summer,” “How to spice up your date night from home,” or “the bougiest bongs you didn’t know existed” are all topics that commerce editors and writers are working on.
When you see the word “Commerce” in an editor or journalist’s title, there’s about a 99% chance we’re talking about affiliate marketing.
Consumers want premium, expert-backed stories but don’t want to pay for it. Journalists and editors need to be paid. Advertisers are willing to pay. But, oh, wait, those same consumers who don’t want to pay for their content, well they don’t want to see advertisements on every page. Media outlets have had to get smart over the years: first we had native advertisement like banner ads; next we say the rise of the advertorial – or an advertisement that is meant to look like an editorial story. These have to be clearly marked that they are advertisements for consumer transparency.
Now, especially in 2020, we’re seeing the rise of affiliate marketing. Don’t let this post fool you. I may encourage my clients and those seeking PR to sign up with affiliate networks, but that doesn’t mean I think they’re particularly good. I’m sure at some point the FTC is going to get involved with affiliate marketing because oh my gosh, it is murky. It is dirty. I cannot in my conscious create a post about affiliate marketing without going over the hazards of this area of marketing.
The Downside of Affiliate Marketing
The reason consumers turn to media outlets in the first place for product recommendations is authority. If Wired.com, a famed technology outlet, recommends a pair of $60 headphones as the biggest value, that means something because most editors at Wired get gifted $300+ headphones. Same thing with Allure. If Allure recommends a lipstick, that recommendation carries more value and authority than a celebrity endorsement because these are people who review and write about lipstick for a living. Most places like The Strategist, Buzzfeed and Heavy, where affiliate marketing makes up most, if not all of their product features, will often times include a product without ever once trying it. Every outlet has commerce editors and every commerce editor has been guilty of including a product without trying it. However the authority is usually not diminished because these factors are not disclosed and any informational on affiliate marketing is written in some vague jargon at the start of the outlet.
I mean, this is why affiliate marketing has risen over the years. Now outlets don’t even designate who is affiliate market and who isn’t so they blend paid content in with evergreen content with few being the wiser.
When it comes to finding out what a magazine truly stands for, or how deep their morals go, look as far as their affiliate program (though, they try to make it as discreet as possible because outlets don’t want consumers to know just how broken this system is).
Need a concrete example? Just last month, one of my BIPOC educators was asked to provide her expertise to Shape Magazine for a story. In her commentary she recommended a product that she sold on her own store and included the link in the submitted copy. Shape’s editor removed my client’s link and linked back to a UK-based brand founded by two straight, white, male billionaires. Not even four months after Shape, along with every media outlet, pledged allegiance to anti-racism and dismantling systemic injustice, the editors of shape are back to using a Black woman’s work and words to promote a white founded company. But why? Why would a media outlet take a dump so hazardously on their own published ideals? Affiliate my dears. Affiliate marketing is king. Moral compass and efficacy be damned if a brand is offering 15%+ of sales to an outlet.
Though lets be clear, this is not a reflection of the editors or journalists who are often times just trying to survive and keep their job during the next wave of media layoffs. Affiliate departments are different than editorial and editorial just has to play that ball game.
The Benefits of Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing however can be super beneficial for a few reasons. Affiliate marketing is what has kept journalism alive the last year. While advertising is the backbone of media, no one likes to look at the backbone. Readers don’t come for the ads; they come for the writers and experts and editors and content. Those are funded by ad dollars. The biggest advertisers for media outlets – places like sporting events, travel services and chain restaurants, have had to pull their advertising budget this year, especially as many of them have endured significant layoffs this year (advertising in one publication can cost $200+K; that’s a lot of salaries and therefore makes for terrible optics). If outlets didn’t adapt with new income streams, more magazines would have folded this year.
For publicists, affiliate marketing can be love or hate. It’s awful to see an editor love a great and deserving brand but exclude them because they’re not willing to give up all their income to Amazon or Skimlinks. However, affiliate linking can also be the gift that keeps giving. If you form a relationship with someone who is always sourcing affiliated products for stories, all you need is a great product that wins their favor. They’re going to include products they love because they have to include products daily. Affiliate is never make or break – if an editor loves a product they will find a way to include, regardless of the affiliate or not. But affiliates mean they can mention a product whenever its relevant not just when its pertinent.
This could be the difference between one mention and multiple mentions per month. Example: A beloved CBD & CBN capsule that isn’t included on an affiliate network will definitely get included in “Best CBD for Sleep” because it’s hyper relevant and consumers need to know about this product. However if that product is also now on Skimlinks, it will be included in roundups of “Travel Essentials,” “Sleep essentials,” “Best things for a night time routine,” and “best CBD for wellness”. Many more doors open with affiliate marketing.
If you’re looking to explore affiliate marketing for your brand, I suggest starting with Skimlinks and work your way out. Skimlinks is the name I’ve heard the most from commerce departments. Well besides Amazon, but my vice clients are often limited here. If you have a custom affiliate link program – it may help with boutique outlets but your publicist probably won’t spend hours trying to set up affiliate networks. If you’re interested in PR for 2021, look into affiliate marketing and if you’re serious about Affiliate marketing, get on Skimlinks. And I should probably say, I’m not affiliated with Skimlinks at all but gosh it makes my life so much easier when my babes are willing to shell out the monthly fee to be listed.
For brands looking to get a jumpstart on PR for 2021, MAVPR is offering $1,000 off your first month if you sign on before January 15, 2021.
To learn more about becoming a client, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/become-a-client.html
By Melissa A Vitale
This won’t be a listicle with short answers to the most common questions a publicist gets asked; rather this article will seamlessly link to the most asked questions, and their corresponding blog posts already on MAVPR under our Public Relations FAQ.
Over the years, I’ve gotten tons of questions from people who seek quick answers from a publicist that are too nuanced to be picked up in google. When I get a couple of these, I usually turn it into an opportunity to update my blog.
It’s been a couple years since I started organizing the blog and didn’t plan for the volume of articles 2020 would give me time to pen.
So, here are some commonly asked questions about Public Relations and links to a corresponding blog post with my answer.
Am I/Is my brand ready for PR? Been thinking about PR but not sure if you’re ready for a publicist? My inaugural blog post reviews how to tell Is Your Brand Ready for PR? Make sure to check out The Pre-PR Checklist below to have everything ready for day one of PR!
What’s the difference between a PR agency and a PR freelancer? Both agencies and freelancers can propel a brand forward on a desired budget. Find out which is right for you in Public Relations Agency vs. Independent Publicist.
What are the expectations of a public relations campaign? So often, PR agencies provide vague sets of expectations. Wondering what’s going to happen during a public relations campaign with MAVPR? Check out What to expect from a Public Relations Campaign.
Why does Public Relations have minimum retainers? For those curious about how publicist set their minimums, read through Why Public Relations Retainers Have Minimums.
How does a publicist actually get results? You follow your publicist on Instagram and damn, she socializes a lot during the workday. Learn how it all fits into place in What does your publicist actually do?
Why wasn’t the article I was mentioned in exactly how I imagined in when I was interviewed? You talked with a journalist for 50 minutes and they included a ten-word quote in an article; you sent in 15 hrs of b-roll for a 45 second clip. These are just one of many Things a Publicist Cannot Control.
Why didn’t I see any results in the first month of PR? You spent a hefty first-month’s retainer – surely New York Times wants to profile you by now… right?? Learn more about Why does Public Relations take so long?
Does a slow month mean my campaign is failing? Public relations is typically at the mercy of editorial calendars and seasonal conversations. In terms of published articles, A slow month of coverage does not equal a bad PR Campaign.
Why wasn’t I given photo credit for a photo I helped create? You modeled or took a photo for a brand and when your image is in Forbes, you’re not credited. Why wasn’t I credited for my photo in that article?
Where is that article I was quoted in? Connected to a journalist for a story opp and wondering where it is? Here’s how to find out when it was published - Where is the story I was included in?
Other helpful links:
Types of Coverage reviews the different types of coverage that can arise from a public relations campaign.
A Running Glossary of PR Terms helps decipher commonly used terms by public relations pros.
The Pre-PR Checklist guides brands through everything you need to kick off a PR campaign with a bang.
Importance of Sharing Media Coverage provides tips on social media driven media relations.
For vice brands looking to explore cost effective public relations packages, learn more about MAVPR via: melissaavitale.com/services.html
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.