Rejection is a part of the game. PR professionals are used to being told “no” – or worse, nothing at all – by editors, stylists, producers, and bloggers regularly. And while it can sting, we learn not to take it personally.
For clients however, the back-and-forth between publicists and journalists, not to mention the regular practice of stories being cut at the last minute, can be frustrating and even scary. And as our clients’ direct line to the media, we need to plan and be prepared for tough conversations when pitches are not leading to press, no matter how perfectly crafted the pitch!
In order to both manage client expectations overall with regard to securing media coverage and take rejection as an opportunity to better refine strategy and messaging, keep the following in mind.
Educate your client about current media challenges
Before rejection can happen, be upfront and open with clients about the likelihood that not all outreach will lead to an immediate yes. Remind them that media are inundated with packages, calls, and emails on a daily basis – on top of the work that they need to get done. With shrinking pages, staff and titles consolidating, and magazines folding, placements are a bit harder to come by than in days past. Alert clients ahead of time that there is always the chance that their product or quote can be eliminated completely from the final edit or that you might not get a response to a pitch or product mailing.
Provide Constructive Feedback
If you’re lucky, an editor will let you know why they can’t use your client for a particular feature, but this tends to be the exception and not the rule. If you do get this helpful feedback, pass it along to your client so that they can gain a better understanding of why their products/services did not make the cut this time. More than likely, you won’t get much insight from the editor, but break down common reasons – poor photography (if the publication isn’t shooting in-house), a price point that’s too high (many outlets have pages dedicated to under $50, under $100 – if your necklace is $105, it won’t make the cut), that space was limited and an advertiser got the placement (not exactly above board yet realistic), or the managing editor preferred a brand with a stronger celebrity connection.
With shrinking pages, staff and titles consolidating, and magazines folding, placements are a bit harder to come by than in days past
While no client likes to deal with rejection, it’s helpful to know if it was due to something they can change (getting better photographs or offering promo codes for certain outlets to lower the price) or whether the decision had nothing to do with the company’s products at all.
Emphasize that Publicity is Impossible to Control
Speaking of – more often than not, being cut from a story or not getting a green light on a pitch from an editor has nothing to do with the brand at all, but simply things out of anyone’s hands. While you might think your client’s new digital marketing campaign is a perfect fit for a hot trade outlet, they might already have their editorial calendar planned far in advance, covered something similar two weeks ago – or just cannot find a way to make it fit in their current cycle of stories. Perhaps the story direction changed and now instead of products with a green color scheme, they’re now working with only purple products.
As a savvy media expert, you were hired for your ability to keep your clients in the press. By involving your clients in the process you help to ensure they understand the landscape properly and feel included and clear on what is happening with their account. And, so that when those media hits DO happen, they understand how all the elements came together and how they can start thinking like an editor to help you to be more successful in the future.