When you’re a small company trying to get into the news, media placements are really just a numbers game. At some point, you can even start to predict how many pitches it will take per hit. If one in every 20 reporters finds your story compelling, but you know you won’t be satisfied until you’ve landed in five publications, then you’ll need to pitch 100 reporters.
But the real question is, how do you know when to finally stop?
My company recently launched an innovative feature that we knew was newsworthy, so we wanted to spend some real time making sure it happened. Our software company was the first company to develop a solution in response to the European court ruling that Safe Harbor — a provision that enabled US companies to comply with European data privacy laws — was no longer valid. Our company gave our European users the option to store their data exclusively on European servers with a single click.
What was different about this feature release versus our previous was that Safe Harbor follow-up articles were being written every single day (and still are). We felt like it was an opportunity to pitch this for weeks beyond the initial release. To date, we’ve individually emailed more than 500 reporters, not including however many our outsourced PR agency sent. Plus we sent follow-up emails to each and every one of them. The yield from all of that? Three articles, including a big one in the Wall Street Journal. All of the articles came more than a week after we launched our feature, so we’re right in assuming it’d be newsworthy as long as Safe Harbor stayed in the news.
We proved there’s always someone interested in the story, but it didn’t come easy. And to our disappointment, our pitches slowly stopped garnering interest. So when to stop pitching? Here are three signs it might be time to move onto a new topic.
The reporters have stopped sending courtesy response emails
I was fascinated by this. At first, when the story was hot, we were getting loads of responses—albeit plenty of them friendly rejections. We even interviewed for a handful of publications that never ran the stories. But at least, there was interest. Reporters understood that it was a legitimate pitch, with legitimate news, but they were either too busy, or it didn’t quite mesh with their beat. But all of a sudden, the responses stopped. It’s as if our quality pitches were being deemed as some sort of spam mail.
It’s getting in the way of other opportunities to get in the news
Sometimes not having a new release actually frees your ability to get in the news because you don’t have restrictive pitch angles. Part of the fun of being an in-house public relations professional at a smaller company is that we get creative with the stories we pitch to reporters. But if our new release has stopped being picked up by reporters, continuing to pitch it might be getting in the way of other possible stories for your company.
Other companies have caught up
What was particularly newsworthy about our release was that we were the first company to develop a comprehensive solution to a major problem. But others followed, including major companies like Microsoft. This made it a little more difficult to generate interest once we couldn’t claim to be the only solution. We still pitched with the hopes of reporters including us in a roundup of companies that offered a solution, but we could no longer be the sole company.
For what it’s worth, we still check the news every day and try to find new reporters. But we’re not putting all of our eggs into the basket anymore. Pitching an idea is sort of like microwave popcorn. You keep cooking it until your hear three seconds between pops; wait any longer, and you might ruin the whole thing.
Guest contributor Chad Reid is the Director of Communications for JotForm, an online form building tool. He loves all things related to cats and considers himself a professional-level rock skipper. He’s currently receiving his master’s in strategic communication from Purdue University.