Avoid becoming a time waster

Paul Moore – Account Executive at Spreckley

It’s difficult to name a single technique, doctrine or mantra that can ultimately make or break a media relations campaign. Over emphasising one skill against another can blinker you to the variety of ways in which problems can, and ought to be, solved.

However there is something that, in some way, underpins all our activity – a commitment to saving time for everyone we encounter. Without a focus on cutting out time-wasting tendencies, a PR simply won’t achieve the same level of success as one who does.

For anyone who has worked in a newsroom, this approach is absolutely paramount. With deadlines to keep on very short timescales, the ability to communicate precisely and efficiently could make the difference between your publication staying ahead of the story or lagging behind it. Anyone who slows this process down, being late with information or being consistently unclear, will be someone that a journalist does not want to work with. If a PR is flagged to an editorial team as a time-waster or an irritant, this will seriously hamper their work on behalf of their clients. When client coverage is our bread and butter, a ‘time-wasting’ agency is sure to go hungry for a long time.

Key to avoiding this brand is clarity and responsiveness in all communication with the media, such as:

  • Emails: When pushed for time, journalists will read the subject, first and last lines of an email as they plough through their inboxes. If your pitch or message doesn’t get to the point and grab their attention by that point, they’ll likely discard it. Make your idea or request as clear as possible as soon as possible, and never waste time with small talk. The utterly bland ‘hope you’re well’ never fools anyone
  • Phone calls: For a journalist to pick up the phone to a PR is truly generous. Therefore, PRs need to ensure that they can make their pitch as compelling as possible, as quickly as possible – failing to do so is not only embarrassing, but detrimental to your relationship. So, write a script before making the call and keep your pitch to under ten seconds, five if possible, making it clear what you’re offering and why it’s interesting to their outlet
  • News releases: As much as Mike Butcher of TechCrunch has railed against press releases, they are still one of the most effective ways of communicating news to the media. As with clear emailing, releases only have a few lines to make an impact on a journalist. The headline and first paragraphs need to get all the information across while also making your story compelling quickly. In addition, target, tailor and regularly update your media lists to make sure those receiving your news will care about your release. A reputation as a ‘spammer’ is just as bad as a time-waster

A focus on time-effectiveness is therefore essential for PR success. Without it, your campaigns will never make the impact they have the potential to and you’ll end up working much harder for much longer with far less reward.