Not long ago I had a conversation with a prospective client. He was confused by some of the media I had suggested targeting for his campaign. He wanted us to go big, fast. As he explained, his story was hot, big; we should go directly to USA Today, People, CNN, and the New York Times. This was a new filmmaker that no one has ever heard of, with a new film that is still in pre-production. No producers or editors were knocking on his door, still, he was sure they would and he didn’t want to waste his time on smaller outlets.
I did my best to explain the process. You build a groundswell, start to generate some media interest and go from there. PR is a cumulative process. It works, but it takes time to gain momentum. I walked him through another client’s campaign where it began slowly and then picked up steam. It began with a small newspaper article, followed by a local NPR story, a larger newspaper then picked it up, that lead to the New Yorker, which caught the eye of the Colbert Report, CBS then became interested. We then pinched and landed a piece in People magazine. It was a consistent build. If we had started by pitching People, chances are they would have passed on the story. I explained that those first smaller placements are not necessarily important in and of themselves (although they can be), but that they offer us ammunition to help land interviews and stories in larger media outlets. He listened and nodded and said it made sense and that he understood.
Then after about an hour conversation he said it all made sense but insisted that he not be pitched to smaller outlets because they were beneath him and didn’t have the readership his story demanded. I told him a story about another client we worked with a few years back. We initially placed him in a very small regional media outlet. I then used that story to pitch Oprah and our client’s second media appearance was on Oprah. I was about to explain the entire process one more time and illustrate why the small media placements are important because they help us land bigger, more mainstream media outlets, but decided not to. Instead, I thanked him for the meeting and suggested we both think about possible next steps.
His campaign would have never been successful, because he wouldn’t have allowed it to be. His preconceived ideas of how the campaign should work all but guaranteed that it never would work. He can teach all of us a powerful lesson. Whatever endeavor you’re involved in, if you start with a set-in-stone view of how it has to unfold, I guarantee you you’ll stop it from unfolding organically. You’ll be cheating yourself and will never know just how amazingly successful it could have been.
Copyright © Anthony Mora 2013