With the ever-revolving news cycle seeming to accelerate faster as each day passes, the work that goes into getting stories picked up and presented for public consumption is often an afterthought. Truth be told, a quality press release, matched with the right strategy and execution, can make all the difference. From our experience, an interesting hybrid can come about in the form of marketing-driven public relations. Getting your clients the results they want (and deserve) is paramount within any agency. Having the right team and tactics to guide your PR efforts can bring about this much sought after success.
In our latest blog post, we sit down with Wingspan’s Account Executive, Kaitlyn Thomas, to get her thoughts and insights on how marketing and PR can work hand-in-hand to meet your customers’ objectives.
- How do you determine what would make a good story?
I genuinely believe that knowing what story to tell is imperative and being able to identify newsworthy storytelling amidst a company’s everyday endeavors and, further from that, being capable of selling that story to a storyteller is all the difference. Treatment trumps topic. It’s not about what exactly the story is on, but how a story is told is more important to the audience.
- How has the global health crisis altered your approach to writing press releases and effectively pitching them?
Keep it short, keep it relevant and send it early. The biggest shift I’ve had to do as a press release writer is to take a more understanding approach and know that reporters are being inundated now more than ever with pitches. You either make your pitch worth that small window of time you have, or you don’t write it at all. And that small window of time is always earlier than when you start your workday, so planning is essential.
- Do you determine this by the direct need of the client, or do you usually tie it in with a campaign?
Both! Stories can come from any avenue. If a client is running a campaign, the pitch might look like an ongoing story that would have a beginning, middle and end. If a client just has one direct need, a release can also follow that and the pitch would just be an onetime coverage.
- Do you have a specific style or approach to how you would like to angle certain stories when writing press releases?
The first step is determining if the story is to be told nationally or locally. Next is determining the angle the client requires and what their specific need is. From there, we can determine what their angle needs to be. There’s always a certain specific style to each PR professional, but the storytelling never looks the same, even from release to release for the same company. In PR, the best angles highlight the unique qualities of the clients we represent.
A great press release is a mini-story in and of itself. Rather than listing facts right up at the top, it might open with an anecdote that illustrates a crucial feature of the overall subject. It’s no secret that journalists receive hundreds of releases a day—in order to be noticed, there must be some kind of angle to intrigue the writer after they give it the briefest of cursory glances. My default questions remain: Why should they care? Why do they need to write this specific story?
- Does this style or approach also determine the way you pitch the stories to media outlets and publications?
I mainly pitch reporters specifically before I pitch an outlet, and I always do the research of that writer’s beat and personalize it to them. A one e-mail, BCC, send all might be the fastest way, but appealing to one writer at a time is the effective way.
- How do you leverage your media contacts to best serve the needs of our clients?
You maintain a trustworthy relationship with them. You understand your boundaries, but you also build a connection that lies on a foundation of mutual respect of each other’s time and knowledge. Having three trusted media sources with a targeted audience will always be far better than picking and choosing from a curated list.
- Do you know which media outlets or publications will automatically pick up the story?
Not usually! If you’re not counting the relationships you’ve already built up with some reporters, it’s mainly about research. Whatever the topic of the release (or angle) determines the audience and therefore determines the outlet and even reporter’s beats that you would send to. If you send a clean, clear and good release, with a newsworthy topic, you are more likely to count on getting a pickup here and there. The follow up is just as important as the initial send.
- What is the biggest win in your PR Career?
Getting a small interior designer onto HGTV and into Joanna Gaines’ publication, Magnolia Journal. It was all from a chance phone call and it worked!
- In what ways do you feel like Marketing and PR benefit each other?
At a PR agency, all you are doing is securing PR coverage for a client. You don’t need to work off of other systems, other departments working on the same client. Your sole goal is to take their product, service, story, idea, or concept and get media coverage without spending any of their money to secure that coverage.
In an advertising or marketing agency, being in a PR role tends to get more measurable, because you’re working with other departments on one client and their work often ties in with yours and there is oftentimes a benefit to having extra departments working on a common product to help you sell it more efficiently and you are now more privy to the inner workings of a client, versus just what they convey to you in a PR-only contract consultation.
- How does your role best serve our clients (PR-wise)?
I think clients love PR because it’s earned media. I best serve clients because I tell their brand story in a way that makes people want to write about it and tell others and those people listen and tell their friends. Really, my role best serves our clients PR-wise because I get to orchestrate their story in the media and work with others to get them discussing the brand rather than the brand being the voice for a price.
- Marketing and PR-wise, how do you see you and your role progressing the next 6 months to a year?
I think PR is still a new and emerging piece of the puzzle that old age advertising agencies didn’t ever recognize as a very real and happening avenue of marketing. PR used to be in the industry of fashion, beauty, the elite and prestige branding. Recently, it has been adopted into the world of strategic communications and has had an influence on branding, storytelling in an advertise-first world and can only grow.
With an influx of news now being consumed across social media channels, PR has become more of a bridge for communication and an ally in Crisis Management. I think the inclusion of a PR professional within any agency setting is imperative in a time that news is consumed at a more rapid pace than history has ever seen it and getting the story right the first time is the only important thing. To not build a strong PR team within the next year or two is to a company’s detriment the minute misinformation or a crisis occurs.
From Kaitlyn’s insights, we can all agree on one thing: Marketing-driven PR works! Marketing is a game that is ever-changing, and to succeed at this game you must adapt. This adaptation is reliant on creativity, hard work and execution. Stagnation and complacency are off the table.
Putting in the proper leg work to meet your client’s objectives is the ultimate prize for anyone in the industry and utilizing the tools necessary to achieve this is what separates the good from the great. Public relations and marketing aren’t new by any means but combining the two in an effective manner can be the missing piece to your puzzle; for now!