Here’s my short take on it, especially when working with smaller companies.
1. Ensure that clear goals are set – what are you trying to achieve? Drive traffic to the website? Get the phone to ring? Impress existing clients? Develop clippings for marketing packets? Stoke egos? Understand your target market. While an article in a major daily may sound alluring, brief mention by an influential blogger or coverage in a trade magazine may better reach your audience.
2. Remember that reporters, editors, bloggers aren’t waiting by their laptops for your ‘news’. While the story idea may be great, there are countless other factors (ones you can’t control) that influence whether a story will be pursued including available staff, previous coverage, news value, competitive pressures, etc. An editor recently told me that she’d regrettably become ‘one of those editors that didn’t respond to PR people’. With hundreds of new emails every day, there simply was not enough time. Aim to be a resource not a noisy mouthpiece.
3. In every story, there are elements that are either not accurate or characterized in a way you don’t like. Reporting involves people. They approach the story with their own biases and perspectives. Live with it. If you want 100% editorial control, buy an ad. I know someone that continues to complain about (insignificant) errors in a profile written 18 months ago.
4. Keep in mind that PR is not a light switch that can easily be switched off and on when time and budget allow. It’s more like farming, which requires sowing and tending. Dividends pay off down the road. Be patient. Stay in the game.
5. Sometimes it’s better to work on the fundamentals. Use the same money allocated for PR to improve customer service or hire an assistant to keep you organized. It’s less sexy, but it helps build your business.