Why Your PR Isn’t Working

“Target your pitches and press releases to the right reporters at the right media outlets.”  Any PR professional has surely heard this advice at some point in their career, and at some point, despite our better judgment, we’ve all ignored it.

Why?  We ignore this tip because it’s a daunting task; we “don’t have the time” to sort through a massive media list, and reading up on every single journalist would take days and days.  But here’s the truth:  Buy not customizing a pitch or release, we hurt our reputation as well as our client’s, our results, and fuel content for blogs like The Bad Pitch Blog (which is actually one of our favorites, and is on our must-read blog list at 919 Marketing).

So if you aren’t seeing results from your press release or pitch, think about who you’re targeting.  Often, press releases and story ideas get sent out to a massive list of contacts with little to no customization.   When in fact, a best practice is to take the “inch wide, mile deep” approach by culling down your media list to include only those writers, reporters, editors, producers and bloggers most likely to be interested in this particular piece of news.

So, here are some of the techniques I use that I hope will help you narrow your focus.

1. Prioritize your list – by outlet. If you do have a large media list, it’s worth your time to take a few hours prioritizing your media list into three categories: A, B and C. Put your top targets in the A category.  At the very least, make a commitment to always send the A category a custom release or pitch when you contact them.

2. Prioritize your list – for every pitch. Before you send out a story idea, take a few minutes to go through your media list and select only those outlets that would be most interested in this particular piece of news.  Now, only target those outlets with your pitch.

3. Pitch by beat. I try not to reuse media lists for every single press release since it’s unlikely that all the contacts on my master list would care about every story idea I have for a client.  I’ve been most successful when I target writers by matching the subject of a particular story idea with their beat. (For example, my media list for a tech company may include journalists on the technology, business and new product beats. But, if my press release is about the release of a new product, I may exclude the technology and business reporters this time around and only send to new product writers.)   This is one of the easiest, best and surprisingly underutilized techniques.  Many people make one master media list and send every single release to every single contact every single time. Subscribe to RSS feeds. After you identify those writers, blogs and outlets you most need to target, subscribe to their RSS feeds.  (And if it’s a print outlet, by golly, become a subscriber!) This will help you get to know the publication and writers so you have a better idea how to pitch them next time.

4. Interact with them before you pitch themOnce you identify your top priority writers, comment on their stories (not the ones about you or your client).  Use Twitter and even Facebook to connect and learn more about them on a personal and professional level.  The jury is still out at 919 Marketing on pitching reporters via social networks, but one thing holds true – if you’ve never talked to the reporter before, it’s probably best to call or write a personalized email to make an introduction before you pitch them on a social network.

5. Use a newswire service to distribute blanket announcements. If you do have a press release that needs to be distributed to a massive list of media, use a trusted source like PR Newswire or Businesswire to distribute it. If you don’t have room in your budget for these kinds of services, there are lots of free newswires you can use.

6. Do your research. Take those on your “A” list and spend a few minutes Googling those writers. See what stories they’ve published or produced.  Check to see if they have already written about your subject before.  It’s worth the extra time to do this, and when you pitch them and mention that you’re clued in to what they cover, it shows them that you care.

At the end of the day, this profession is really about relationships.  The best PR pros are masters at creating and preserving positive relationships and teaching our clients how to do the same with their customers and other stakeholders.  Working with the media is no different – a positive relationship with a reporter is key to getting good coverage, and the best way to create a good relationship is to operate on the golden rule: treat reporters the way we’d like to be treated.

That begins with a friendly, customized pitch.

What are some of the other ways to start targeting the right people at the right outlets?


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The content on your website plays a vital role (web pages and blog posts) in driving search engine success. To develop the right content, you need to know what topics are driving prospects to your website, what topics are actually being consumed on your website, and what topics convert a visitor into a lead. You need to utilize a marketing attribution data analytics platform to do so.

Once you have identified the right content strategy, set KPI’s for ranking in the top 3 organic search positions on Google around the topics that convert into customers.

3. The New Way To Set PR Metrics:

There are standard PR metrics that should be used as part of the overall evaluation process, including third-party (e.g., Cision) reporting of media impressions and associated media values of the coverage. However, in our view, there are more effective and tangible ways to develop PR strategies and measure PR success using marketing technology and what is commonly referred to a “digital PR’.

Through our 919 Insights platform, we identify the top 28 topics that your best prospects are searching for online as they seek out advice and make purchase decisions.

We then create a PR plan that integrates those topics into our media pitches. Additionally, the use of digital PR is increasingly more effective than just driving traditional media coverage. Going back to Domain Authority, gaining a backlink from a high DA media outlet to your website can provide a big boost to your score.

PR KPIs to consider include the standard media impressions / media values from a trusted 3rd party, the number of PR mentions around your top 28 topics, and the number of backlinks from high-value websites.

4. Organic Social Media:

Again, if you know what topics are most important to your desired audiences, it takes the guesswork out of social media content.  The standard KPIs involve increasing your audience reach, generating engagement and conversions. Again, numeric KPIs need to be used (Increase audience reach from 700 – 1350). You can also include harder to measure KPIs like leads, cost per lead and revenue attributed to organic social media.

5. Paid Social Media

The most effective approach to developing effective paid social media campaigns is to have the data you need to laser focus your messaging on the ad topics that convert. Social media advertising/boosted posts should be measured on the KPIs you need to meet to drive sales goals.

You need to set monthly and yearly KPIs based on your sales funnel — audience reach, % visiting of landing page visits, % of conversion from landing page visits to prospects, % of deals closed from paid social media ads, etc.)

6. Digital Advertising:

From a KPI perspective there isn’t a lot of difference between paid social and paid digital advertising other than that there are more platforms to deploy and measure – Google AdWords, native advertising, retargeting, etc.

Again, if you have identified and validated the topics that resonate based on search behavior you are already a step ahead of the competition. You should set clear, numerical KPIs for each digital channel utilized from reach, conversions and the revenue generated from each.

7. Email Marketing:

Why is Email marketing the most underdeveloped tool in the franchise marketing toolbox? We suspect it’s because its time consuming, difficult to arrive at an approved content calendar and is typically evaluated using soft metrics.

The email marketing KPIs we utilize include delivery rate, unsubscribes, open rate, conversion rate, referral/shares, landing page visits’ lead conversions and revenue attributed to email.

I guess you’ve noticed that we couldn’t help ourselves – there are a lot more than 7 KPIs listed in this article! However, when it comes to program focus and execution, we always revert back to the sage advice of a former Nabisco sales executive who directed us to always take the “fewer, bigger better” approach.

Reach out if you are looking for a fresh approach to your marketing programs and setting the right combination of KPIs that matter most to your franchise.

Every successful relationship starts with a conversation.

Start exploring a new approach to your Franchise Development Marketing efforts today.