How To Create Meaningful And Long-lasting Relationships With PR Contacts
Guest Post from Jon Bailey of 2DadswithBaggage
Take it from me. I have spent more than 30 years as a PR/marketing executive and agency owner, specializing in the hospitality and destinations industry. PR people are an interesting bunch, and it’s hard to win their loyalty and friendship. However, when you do earn that connection it lasts through thick and thin.
I sit on both sides of this fence now. I’ve built a successful career in the agency business representing clients like Hilton Hotels, Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, Marriott Hotels, the Hotel Del Coronado, Newport Beach, Catalina Island and many, many more. About four years ago, I was encouraged to start my own travel blog to share my love of travel and keen interest in seeing the world with my husband and kids. It turns out many other families like mine want to know more about travel, and I can offer them valuable information and details. So 2DadsWithBaggage has become a thing.
After operating in this dual role for a few years, my vision has cleared considerably on our symbiotic relationship. PR folks need media, and media folks need PR folks. Approached correctly, this is an obvious win/win for all parties. But unfortunately, this is seldom an easy path. Why?
Tips on How to Create Meaningful Relationships with PR Representatives
Why is this so hard? Let me help you understand the perspective of a PR rep as it relates to members of the travel media and content creators.
How A PR Rep Works
First, a PR rep is being paid by a destination to get them press coverage. Often the client is very demanding and has high expectations for agency performance (in some cases, these expectations can be unrealistic given the circumstances, but that’s another story). The pressure to perform is very real, and if the PR reps don’t produce great results they are fired and/or the agency loses the account.
A PR rep is a professional juggler, which can be far from the glamorous reputation some assign to them. They must balance their list of top tier media contacts with incoming requests from smaller and less valuable outlets. This leads them to a quandry. How much time should they spend pitching high-level media with story ideas they nearly always reject? Versus how much time should they give to considering the millions of pitches they receive from smaller media who want to cover their client/destination. Obviously the bigger outlets produce larger results, and literally every client says they want to be in Travel & Leisure. Not many say they want to be in 2DadsWithBaggage (yet!).
The PR rep must supply the client with an acceptable mix of big news opportunities and smaller but impactful bloggers and influencers. They must convince the client that this mix is valuable and will result in great exposure and lots of bookings. This makes the PR rep time-constrained, pressured and cranky.
Why Do Media and PR Folks Butt Heads?
Strained relationships between PR reps and media have taken place since their careers were invented. Because the connection is a struggle for the wants and needs of both sides, it can be easy for either party to feel like they got the shorter end of the stick. Media have been notoriously unreliable and sometimes downright irresponsible and unprofessional.
PR people have many war stories to share about being burned by media who promised a story and did not follow through as planned. Or worse yet, wrote an unflattering story that came as a complete surprise. Sometimes the media contacts the PR rep at the eleventh hour with a cancellation, or request for photos, or list of new questions that must be answered before 6 am the next day. Bloggers and influencers have been known to completely flake on coverage, having used the destination for a free stay without producing good content in return. This fosters a general distrust.
From the other perspective, PR folks are being paid for positive stories. They want the media to present their client in the most positive light, so they can sometimes be known to share only the best news about a destination and suppress the less flattering details. The line between subjective and objective “news” can become very blurred, bordering on advertorial instead of editorial. This earns PR reps distrust from the media, which pride themselves on objectivity. When circumstances like these are out of balance, it’s understandable that it can drive a wedge into any attempt at relationship building.
How Can We Help PR People Be Successful?
If we can approach this with the attitude of good karma and positive relationship building, bloggers should try to be extra helpful to PR reps. By establishing ourselves in their minds as useful resources, we can earn a place on their radar and ultimately in their hearts. We don’t need to compromise our own principals to do so, either.
Here are some tips on how to accomplish this quickly:
- Show you know the destination and can predict what the client needs, saving the PR rep time in having to explain their goals and objectives to you. (Newsflash: they won’t – they will just ignore your attempts to connect.) This can be easily surmised by reading recent stories about the destination – good and bad. What stories are they trying to tell? What problems are they attempting to overcome? What new products are they introducing? My point is to DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE APPROACHING. It’s about what they need, not necessarily only what you need and want.
- Realize the PR rep has heard from many bloggers just like you. Like 10 or more email pitches per day – no joke. What makes you different from the others? Find a quick way to explain your point of view as it relates to their destination, and why your readers will respond favorably to a story about it. A succinct email pitch will do the trick. Remember, it’s not about you – it’s about WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR THEM. Do not ask for the world. Perhaps a one week all-expenses-paid vacation for your family of eight is asking a bit too much in return for your audience of 50,000 readers. (They won’t even do that for the largest of media outlets, so don’t get greedy!)
- Make it easy to say yes. Position your story idea in a way that requires the least amount of work necessary for the PR rep. Include in your pitch:
- Your story idea and why it hasn’t been written about by a million other creators.
- Who is your audience and why will they care about this story.
- How you hope to craft the story with the destination’s resources.
- What you are asking of the destination in return (free room nights? meals? itineraries?)
- Mention you are flexible to work with them on crafting stories that will fit both their objectives and yours.
- If you are fortunate to get a yes from the PR rep, make them look like a hero in their client’s eyes by delivering more content than you originally promised. No need to go overboard – some ideas for this include:
- More social media posts that you promised. I often post while onsite and then again when I am promoting my blog story. Twice as nice.
- Photo libraries. Share a collection of your best photos with the PR rep as a gift. Just send them 5-10 photos so they can use them on their own channels (just ask for photo credit, not money).
- More blog posts than promised. Maybe they thought you would produce one story, and you find a way to do one or two additional short versions that cover some part of your visit in more detail.
- A surprise video they didn’t expect. Produce a short video about your experience that features footage of the destination.
- Ask them about their goals. Show them you care about helping them achieve whatever successes they have promised their client. Are there specific programs you can mention to support them? Are there highlights the client would love to be included? I’m not suggesting your write anything you don’t believe in, but how hard is it to at least try to understand what the PR person really needs from you?
- Report your results. A big pain in the butt for PR folks is gathering proof for their client that you were a solid investment. Make their lives easier by sending them a follow-up report with links to your stories and social media posts, including performance metrics. Things to consider here:
- How many views did your story receive (grab from google analytics).
- How many likes/impressions did your social posts receive? Where they shared?
- Select favorable comments from your audiences that will make the client happy to read.
Maintaining the Relationship
After the trip is over and you have completed your content, it’s imperative you follow up to continue the relationship with this PR rep. Send them a handwritten thank you note, or flowers, or a really nice email they can forward to their boss/client. Help them remember you and how pleasant it was to work with you.
Check in with them every so often, not to pitch them again right away but with a solid reason. Maybe you decided to repost a story or social content and it had new results you can share as an update. Don’t ask for anything more immediately.
Most PR reps have more than one destination client if they work for an agency. Pay attention to who else they represent, and if that destination is a fit for your audience you can approach your contact with a story idea about that place. Not right away – wait a few weeks until after you’ve shown some successes and you can legitimately offer them new opportunities.
It’s All About Trust
As in any relationship, trust builds over time. Give it the breathing room for a true relationship to develop, and that PR person will sing your praises to other PR reps. If they leave their job for a new destination, they will take you with them. Become a valuable resource for them and the investment will pay off in real dividends. Even better, you might end up with some true friends as a result. I know I have, and I cherish them deeply!
Learn More about Travel Writer, Jon Bailey and 2 Dads With Baggage
2 Dads With Baggage Launched in May of 2016
Bio: Jon Bailey is father to two teen girls and husband to one outstanding man. He’s combined his marketing talents and passion for travel to build 2DadsWithBaggage.com into a social gathering space for savvy travelers and their friends. In addition, Jon writes for The Points Guy, San Diego Magazine, National Geographic, Passion Passport and more. Jon is also co-founder of i.d.e.a., an integrated marketing agency based in San Diego focused on helping brands tell their stories.
What is your blogging niche? LGBT and family travel
Favorite Travel Blog and Websites:
Other than 52 Perfect Days? 🙂
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Jon was also my guest on episode 142 of the podcast: How to Pitch Brands, Destinations & PR with Jon Bailey of 2 Dads With Baggage
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