Delivering a Column Inch Punch: Fighting Back from Zero Media Exposure

By Jon Kirk


Avoid painful blows by steering clear of ‘DULL’ copy

What do you do in the event that your story or release – often the culmination of several weeks’ work, and considerable client investment – generates zero media exposure? If the copy was genuinely worthy of column inches, it can feel like Santa’s boot in the Christmas baubles. There’s a temptation to run and hide, especially if you’re an account manager and the buck stops with you.

From experience, there are generally three reasons why a story fails to secure national coverage:

1. The concept or copy is “DULL” – Dross, Underwhelming, Laboured or Limp

2. Coverage is not in the public interest. Remember that PR copy vies for space with the day’s strongest news stories, including those of crime, politics and international conflict

3. A major news story breaks on the day of distribution, knocking everything else into oblivion – also called Sod’s Law

You can maximise the chances of exposure by following a few simple rules at the outset.

  • Learn the Green Cross Code of PR: Stop, Look and Listen. Ask for feedback from colleagues, our distributing agent and contacts, and tweak the copy accordingly. Remove gratuitous plugs, URLs and other superfluous information;
  • Don’t distribute during busy news periods, and ensure you check with your contacts that major (still unpublished) news stories aren’t about the break;
  • Avoid the temptation of piggy-backing current stories. Set the news agenda for your clients by creating quality stories and copy at the outset.

But what do you do when your lovingly-crafted release – which is not DULL, is objectively in the public interest, and is distributed on a quiet news day – still fails to make?

1. Realign your Christmas baubles and communicate the situation with the client immediately. Explain what’s happened and, more crucially, the steps you plan to take to rectify the situation;

2. Hit the phones. PR agencies love to boast about their extensive “contacts” – now’s the time for them to prove it. Bear in mind that a friend in high places still won’t publish DULL copy, regardless of your relationship. S/he might be able to suggest alternative ways to write or
produce it, though;

3. Avoid the temptation to upload the story onto one or more free press release distribution websites (unless you’d planned to do so for SEO reasons at the outset) in a bid to gain “coverage”;

4. Don’t flog a dead horse (or polish a t*rd). It’s often easier to re-write the copy – and/or reconsider the concept – than to push a release without legs. Remember that you can’t guarantee coverage, but you CAN guarantee a level of professional service.

5. Keep your clients in the loop and avoid making unrealistic promises. This differs from “managing clients’ expectations”, a much-loved (but much-despised) term banded about the communications arena.

Until next time.