In basketball, the player who took the shot is the one with the best idea of where it’s going. As a result, if the ball is off target, he or she has an above-average chance of securing the rebound.
I should know, since my often-imprecise shooting has helped me corral more offensive rebounds than I’d care to admit.
In the same way, one of the ingredients of effective public relations is following up and following through. And that follow-up process should happen on both ends of the spectrum, whether your story clicks or flops with someone you pitch in the media.
If a reporter doesn’t first nibble at a story, follow up in a few days, weeks or months to see if a new wrinkle in the story might spark interest. Sometimes, no new twist is necessary and you just need to capitalize on some external event or trend that makes the same pitch more appetizing at that later juncture.
On the other hand, if a reporter does pursue a story you have pitched, then that ought not to be the end of your behind-the-scenes communication. Be sure to follow up with a note about the final product—acknowledging and expressing appreciation for the time and energy he or she devoted. Doing it by email is fine, though a hand-written note is even better.
Both of those scenarios played out recently in Inside Edge PR's media relations work for Mickey Straub and his “50 Capitols in 50 Days” endeavor. Folks who said "no" on Day 5 or Day 15 of his trip developed more interest as he wrapped up his journey in 44 days.
In your follow-up communication, keep it respectful, being careful not to convey the impression that the reporter or producer (or whatever title the media representative may have) “did you a favor” with their coverage or “blew it” by taking a pass.
And be sure to do it in a timely fashion. Dave Severn, a leader with World Wide DreamBuilders who has become a noteworthy motivational speaker in the world of Amway, has become something of an expert on the issue of following up and following through. And one indispensable ingredient, Severn emphasizes, is to put the time and date of the follow-up in your calendar.
“Dreams and goals without dates never happen,” Severn has shared at many WWDB leadership conferences such as Dream Night and Free Enterprise Days. His is an overarching message that has particular relevance when it comes to the discipline of following up with the media.
As publicists and marketers, we can get so wrapped up in the new thing that we forget to tend to the weeds sprouting up around those earlier “new things” in our pipeline.
One of the most fruitful follow-ups in history was Bob Woodward’s following up on an initial chance encounter he had with Mark Felt, aka “Deep Throat,” even before Woodward was at The Washington Post.
Would President Richard Nixon have resigned without that follow-up? And if not, how would that new reality impact other events in the nearly 40 years that have ensued?
Public relations pros are in the business of meeting the media’s need and simultaneously attaining a client’s want. Those are not mutually exclusive occurrences. And they should not be treated as if they come attached with an expiration date that rivals the urgency of getting through your next gallon of milk.