By Melissa A Vitale
Since starting my PR operation, I’ve hence had to remove the messaging “accessible to startups” from of my public-facing branding after one-too-many “Can I be in NYTimes? I have a $500 budget” requests. I try to make PR accessible, but there’s a limit to how much I can do with that. If there's a publicist out there who can make that happen, let's talk! Publicists are paid in retainer because we need to be compensated for the work thats done between coverage, not just for results. Coverage can take to cultivate.
In fact, now, in my sales pitch, I make sure to express that PR is the least immediate of all marketing efforts to avoid boxing myself into unrealistic expectations. I warn clients that there could be up to two months before coverage is published. Course they'll see work beneath the surface before then, but for the reasons I'm about to break down, a successful public relations campaign can take months to unfold.
For one, we’re asking for feature coverage for absolutely nothing in return. While you may be paying a publicist retainer (and get quoted at global PR firm to get a sense of normal PR costs), brands are not paying journalists, and cannot ethically. That's why advertising and editorial is separate! It's also why press coverage carries more weight when compared to advertisements in the eyes of consumers.
Just because a brand wants press coverage doesn't mean the editor, outlet, or journalist has time or resources to cover the brand. A journalist may be excited about a brand today, but won't be able to profile them for six months. Every outlet is beholden to advertisers and audiences for dictating their coverage. Not publicists and brands they represent. Sometimes, outlets are only allowed to cover niche subjects like VICE industries once every six months! If a particular magazine covered cannabis in June and a CBD brands starts in July, they may not have potential to be considered for four months at that specific publication.
Another thing to consider: budgets! It's no secret subscriber-ship has decreased across the board. There's only so much money to pay journalists & there's only so many editor salaries a publishing house can afford. Sometimes, editors love a brand, but already planned out their commission budgets for the coming months and need to pause on evergreen brand profiles.
It's the publicists constant pitches, calls, networking and schmoozing that keeps a brand relevant in the time between coverage opportunities.
Publicists balance the interlude between full features with inclusions in stories that are already being written. If your publicist has become a reliable industry source, they will often have media coverage come to them - by way of journalists letting them know the stories they're currently working on that may be a fit for their clients. This way, before a full feature, the publicist can have a brand in a number of stories to maximize a media campaign.
Getting a story secured is only half the wait: Pending any national crisis, seasonal and evergreen media coverage can have a two-to-six week turnover time from the time a journalist submits the story to their editor until the story is published. Once an interview is wrapped or a product is sent to a journalist, the writer still needs to compose their story. Once the article is submitted by the deadline, editors need to review and revise the piece to fit the audience and message the publication is trying to convey. Usually there's a Section Editor (Lifestyle, Beauty, Culture, Health, Tech etc) who, along with editing dozens of pieces a week, determines the order and priority of the stories submitted by all their writers.
Typically there's also a Site Editor who dictates the number of section pieces that are permitted in a given month, newscycle or quarter. For instance, The Culture Editor may love CBD oil, but is only permitted two CBD stories every 6 months. In the same vein, there may be restrictions to how many sex-positive or cannabis-friendly stories go up in a given timeline. If there was a time-sensitive vice story one day, it may push an ever-green story about cannabis or sex a few days. Site Editors make these decisions based on audience reading patterns and what will drive the most traffic to any given story.
The four-plus people (Journalists + editors) involved in creating every article are also humans! They have sick days, they take weekends, they are even allowed to go on vacations! They're also not just editing the story you're included in. They likely have 5+ other stories they need to attend to, today!
A dedicated publicist will keep up to date with both interest, secured and pending coverage as well as the politics of informing clients, thanking journalists and continuing to cultivate new story ideas to keep a campaign moving along.
While press coverage does take the longest compared to other forms of marketing, but the results are often more impactful on potential investors, consumer loyalty and overall brand trajectory.
For brands looking to have regular headlines, be sure to check out MAVPR's suite of services:
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.