A Journalist's Rant: Why Do So Many Firms Suck at PR?

A Journalist's Rant: Why Do So Many Firms Suck at PR?
Photo by Austin Distel / Unsplash

Five basic tips to either kickstart, or upgrade, your Media Relations / Publicity efforts. {HINT: It's actually not that hard.}

True Story:  Earlier this week a news release headline caught my attention, so I opened the file and skimmed the body of the release.

Since I found the information interesting, I scanned to the bottom of the release to find contact information for the firm. There was none.

No name, no email address (not even a "press@xyzcompany.com" email), and, of course, no phone number.

So I jumped over to the organization's website.

"Surely," I thought, "There's gonna be PR contact info on the website, right?"

LOLOLOL ... not on your life!

"You've got to be kidding me," I thought. "Why did they even bother?"  🤦‍♂️ 🤦‍♂️ 🤦‍♂️

Un-burying the "Lede" - Five+ PR Tips Your Organization Can/Should Implement ASAP!

By way of background, I've been in the Public Relations / Publicity / Investor Relations / Communications / Marketing / Journalism field(s) for over 40 years. {A summary can be found here.*}

In spite of the claims of some so-called experts, Media Relations (or Earned Media) is not dead.

Nor is the need for it. It's just evolved.

In fact, in some ways, when done well PR can radically benefit an organization, driving massive visibility, engagement, and yes, even sales - especially in today's hyper-connected and super-fast-moving world.

A strategically thought-out and well-implemented Media Relations program can also be one of the most effective, least expensive, and fastest way to drive prospects into and through a LeadGen Funnel to become actual, ready-to-sample (or buy) prospects.

That said, the reverse is also true, as badly led/managed/executed Publicity efforts can literally "kill" a product, service, and/or company/organization overnight!

So ... without further ado ... here's my short list of Five-plus Media Relations Tips any firm can implement quickly to help drive Publicity Success.

Tip No. 1:  Decide to Start/Upgrade Your Own PR Program

Rather than assume anything, this journey starts with the first step. And in this instance, that means deciding to either start, or upgrade, your PR program.

Don't know where to begin? Easy: Search for "Public Relations Book" on Amazon.com.

As of this morning, there are over 30,000 results for that search term on Amazon, so get started.**

Tip No. 2:  Hire a PR Professional to Run Your PR Program

This may seem like an obvious tip too, but trust me, it's not.

And although Public/Media Relations are subsets of Marketing, they are not the same, and your program deserves someone who truly knows the craft and not someone who is learning on the job.

If you don't know where to begin, I recommend looking for either intern candidates at, or individuals who have graduated from, either

  1. The School of Communications at Brigham Young University, and/or
  2. The Department of Communication at Utah Valley University.

As it turns out, both universities have undergrad PR programs that are consistently ranked in the Top 5 in the United States:

  • UVU for over a decade, and
  • BYU for over a quarter-of-a-century.

{And if you don't believe me, you can look it up.}

But trust me; it's true.

I would start my search there.

Tip No. 3:  Have a Press/News Section on Your Company Website

It's shocking to me how many organizations, large and small, do NOT have a Press or News section on their website. Seems like Marketing 101 to me.

But many orgs do not.

Tip No. 3A - Include 24X7X365 contact information for a Media Relations person within your company News / Press section too. Ideally, include

  • Their name,
  • Their email address, and
  • Their mobile phone number.

Tip No. 3B - If you're privacy-concerned, for your employee and/or company,

  • Provide your PR pro with a company phone that they use just for Media Relations work, and
  • Assign a generic email address for all PR contact, like News@XYZcompany.com.

Tip No. 3C - Ensure that your PR pro responds to all inbound messages within one day.

That is the absolute minimum response time I would accept. {Yes, even on weekends or on a holiday.}

  • A Good Response Time would be within 3-4 hours;
  • A Better Response Time would be 1-2 hours; and
  • The Best Response Time would be within 20 minutes or less.

That said, if you ask your sales team, they'll tell you that their "Close Rate" on inbound leads is highest when they respond immediately / under 90 seconds.

Something to consider for your PR program too.

Tip No. 4:  Produce and Distribute Press Releases Regularly. (Just make sure they're actually "news-worthy.")

The fact that the CEO's dog gave birth to a litter of six puppies is not newsworthy. Generally.

But if you worked for a company that made pet food or for a veterinarian's office, such info would be newsworthy - for the right journalist / media company.

I have an internal ranking system I use for prospective media announcements that looks like this:

  • "A" News Releases announce something interesting to virtually everyone, and as such, you're as likely to see said releases transformed into stories for international wire services as well as your local newspaper or radio station.
  • By contrast, "B" News Releases are specifically interesting to categories of journalists (and their audiences), like a geographic region or a specific industry. Case in Point: The headline "Outdoor Clothing Company XYZcorporation Raises $10 Million in Funding" will be instantly compelling to both journalists who cover the outdoor and recreation markets, as well as those who report on venture capital / financial markets.
  • Last of all, "C" News Releases tend to be important to only a small subset of journalists/publishers, and then only to a subset of their audience members, including relatives and best friends. The classic example of this is a press release that announces the hiring of a new employee. In many instances, such announcements garner a one- or two-sentence write-up, perhaps in the local paper or in an college alumni magazine/newsletter.

Tip No. 5:  Know Your Audience(s)

Any sales leader who tells you that they plan to sell your product/service to everyone is either delusional or a fool.

The same is true of any PR or Marketing professional who says your company/products/services are so important, so unique, so "whatever" that every single media company on the planet is going to regularly publish stories about you.

Ok. Maybe. But most likely, not.

So, a key component of any successful Media Relations program is Audience Segmentation,

  1. By Industry,
  2. By Geography,
  3. By Type of News (Corporate vs. Product vs. Personnel vs. Etc.), and
  4. By Journalist.

For instance, as explained here, Utah Money Watch is ONLY interested in stories that relate to A) Utah, and B) Money/Finance.

Any announcement/pitch/newstip that does not include both is not something  I or Utah Money Watch are interested in. Period.

I'm not trying to be rude; that's just reality.

That said, is it possible to be creative with a pitch to me? Sure.

But without some aspect of both money and Utah in

  • that tip,
  • that press release,
  • that story idea,

chances are I'm just not gonna rise to the bait.

This same principle applies to every legitimate media outlet and journalist around the planet as each always has an angle, a beat, a focus.

So ... when it comes to journalist outreach / news release distribution, please make sure your organization and its PR pro/team have done their homework first.

Doing so will dramatically increase your chances for Publicity success.

A Journalist's Rant: A Closing Thought and A Free Offer

As someone who has lived/worked on both sides of the Media Relations equation (Journalist vs. PR Pro), I get that I'm biased.

However, a well-crafted and executed PR program can produce stupendous results for virtually any organization, regardless of industry, locale, stage in life, etc.

BUT ... if you don't have a PR program, or if you're NOT following the five basic PR Tips outlined above, chances are you're gonna struggle. Sorry.

That's just the way it is.

So ... If you still have questions about PR / Media Relations, drop me a note at me@davidpolitis.com to share your questions/concerns.

I'll visit for up to 15 minutes with you (or one of your employees) - at no charge - just as a way of giving back.

{Well ... okay, it is perhaps a bit selfish in that this may actually make my life as a journalist a bit easier.}

But seriously, drop me an email.

In the meantime, good luck with your efforts to Start/Upgrade your Media Relations efforts.


* - Rather than bore you with a lengthy writeup about my professional experience/expertise here, I'll simply point you toward my LinkedIn Profile and my personal website, DavidPolitis.com.

** - Back in 2016 I published my first and only book, 66 RULES for Publicity Success: Boost Your Company's Value for Pennies on the Dollar. It's probably due for a refresh, but I believe the bulk of what's found there is still quite valuable. You might check it out.