A key activity in PR is crafting a pitch that hooks a reporter… leading to an interview that hopefully leads to coverage. We've all experienced the expectations, and then the disappointment to read an article only to find the CXO or spokesperson entirely absent. Just like a real estate deal, a lot can happen before a contract is signed, or before the story goes to print, making you and client feel like you opened an empty gift box.
While you always want to prepare for an interview, sharpening your message points for clarity and brevity, and being armed with good stats or anecdotes, there can be several reasons for being left out of a story. Some are in your control, and some are not. Here’s a few of the most common reasons for not being included:
The reporter is researching and doing background.
Yes, just like casual window shoppers, reporters often conduct interviews to check out the goods – to see if their instincts, the elements of a story are there. And that often begins with getting a pulse check in talking with different people throughout the industry. While the exercise can feel like a fire drill, it’s the cost of doing business and PR: while disappointing in the short term, in the long term keep in mind you’re building a relationship reporter, so they can count on you as a source for future stories.
No true soundbite.
It’s easy for an interview to feel like its going well, and yet without that clear, distinct takeway message or descriptive turn of phrase to illustrate a key point, all that monologue can be left on the cutting room floor. Interviews can turn into long meandering conversations, so its best to ‘flag’ or call attention to the key takeaways or messages, such as “this is what’s really important to know…” both during and at the conclusion of the interview.
Or perhaps your spokesperson is too technical, when the information the reporter seeks needs to be in lay terms, easily digestible and understood in today’s more colloquial, informal tone of communications. Media training in advance helps identify those key messages, turning them into media-friendly quotes. And to lend credibility, those quotes should be supported with some facts or statistics, along with an anecdote or story to provide the color commentary.
The storyline changed.
The theme or direction of the article may have changed as the reporter researched and spoke with other sources, or reacted to new developments. There’s not much to do but be willing to step up to bat the next time. And while no reporter wants to be confronted, in return for the time and information you provided you can certainly ask politely why the information wasn’t used. But remember, there will always be new story opportunities. And there's no better place to be than in the reporter's rolodex, positioning yourself as a knowledgeable, accessible source that can be called on in the future.