It’s a common PR problem: you’ve spotted a news story relevant to your client’s expertise and have a fantastic ‘comment piece’ in mind for them. Or you’ve drafted a press release and come up with a juicy top line that you know will get editors emailing back. But your plans get scuppered because your client wants turn your media-worthy ideas into an advertorial. Maybe because their compliance team is over-cautious or their marketing team says it isn’t ‘on message’ enough. So what can you do?
Don’t be afraid to push back
It’s your job to be their advisor. As a PR you should know more about what the media want than them. Don’t be afraid to give your opinion, and don’t be a yes-person. That’s why they pay you. You could explain diplomatically that a certain line in a press release sounds too promotional. Assure them that while their words may be good for attracting customers, but to attract the press it’s different. Earned editorial is very different from marketing content.
Send in examples for extra support
In my experience of placing opinion pieces in the media for clients, they often don’t understand that they need to have punchy opinions. I once had a client who thought that they needed to supply a statement and the editor would just select one nugget from it as a quote. So I sent them examples of other comment section of this publication, highlighting that the authors of these pieces need to show strong thought-leadership, not bland marketing claims. The penny dropped and the client realised that in order to have an ‘opinion piece’ published, they have to show an opinion, even though they may not perfectly fit with corporate ‘brand messages’. They then wrote a piece rich with personal anecdotes and views, and in a much more chatty tone and it made the home page of the national publication.
Put some pre-amble before your press release
We all know how clients can insist on a press release being worded a certain way – often in a way that buries the story and will cause a journalist to ignore it. So keep the press release as it is but write a short intro in your email pre-amble, highlighting what the real story is. Keep it short and punchy, with the main story right at the top. A decent preamble has often rescued the most meddled-with press releases!
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You might also be interested in our blog on getting an opinion piece commissioned.