• Lyle Neff

How reactive public relations gets you media coverage

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

The second chapter of the Mind Meld PR Vlog, addresses a commonly asked question: what is reactive public relations? One quick note on this chat -- reactive PR is not to be mistaken for its reputation-managing cousin, crisis communications.

“Reactive” is simply the process PR pros follow when, in a reversal of usual practice, journalists reach out to them. Reactive PR isn’t outreach - it’s about what’s inbound. But let's take a look at how reactive public relations get you media coverage.

The conversation touches on telepathy, foot-stamping and copy that’s good enough for Newsweek - plus we’ve added a few more tips and comments we thought might be useful. Please enjoy.

“Reactive public relations is all about knowing what reporters are going to be writing about and reacting to it very, very quickly and effectively. So we subscribe to newsletters and services that reporters use. They throw in their working title, the questions they want to ask expert sources -- or the type of expert they want to talk to -- and their deadlines.

“And we just look at 150 of those a day, together with the evidence that’s in the record -- and maybe two or three times a day sometimes, there’s happily something that will apply to our clients. No telepathy required. You just have to remember it exists.”

Aside from the dominant player, Help A Reporter Out, there’s a wide range of services that connect journalists hungry for information to experts, leaders and PR agencies looking to provide it. Some of these services are paid, most are freemium. They typically follow an email-newsletter model and will show up in your inbox a few times a day. Some are specialized, like MyBlogU. All of them, for reactive-PR purposes, just work.

In a typical 120-inquiry HARO list, you might discover three new reporters working in a client’s field, a relevant niche publication or two you’ve never heard of, and more importantly, a snapshot of what people are talking about that’s far more detailed than Twitter Trends. That’s all strategically valuable -- even without the perfect inquiries that lead to earned media placements.

Reactive public relations gets you media coverage by getting there first

“It doesn't seem like a lot of other PR agencies use these services, and I think part of the reason for that might be -- once you've got this actual reporter query that comes over a subscription service, and it fits -- that’s just where the work starts.

“From there you're going to have to get verbiage from the client, do some very fast writing, some very quick juggling, you’ve got to get final approval -- so there's a multi-stage process which I can confirm took me a long time to learn. So you’ve got a reporter on deadline stamping their foot, the client’s also busy and under pressure -- and juggling all that stuff might be a little too labor-intensive for other PR agencies. Good thing us guys are such pigs for work, eh? Reactive public relations is underestimated, in our opinion.

“... Imagine you're at your office -- if you're not working from home -- and a reporter is actually knocking on your door, saying “Hi, I’ve got questions, I want to write this story, can somebody help?” And if you leave them standing there for hours -- or worse, days -- that’s a problem. Someone’s gonna open another door down the hall and tell this valuable journalist -- psst, come over here -- yeah, actually we’re the ones you want to talk to.”

If your outreach material has to be quickly and constantly adjusted to keep up with the world’s conversation, that’s as nothing compared to the speed and focus required to consistently develop relevant journalist inquiries into a good chance at a media placement.

You’ve got to execute on the reactive public relations response. You need to get material from the client, work it up to a high-quality answer, get it approved, and answer that journalist as fast as humanly possible. With skill and luck, you might get this process done in a couple hours. If you dawdle even a bit, and you wind up as say, the fourth of 25 responses an inquiring reporter might receive…? Then your reactive public relations wasn’t reacting as it should, and your reply almost certainly won’t even be read.

Need help getting media coverage for your tech company?

We should talk! Tell us about your business and PR goals -- and we’ll help you share your story with the world. Contact a tech PR agency that knows reactive PR strategies.

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