When the Hunt for Ink Runs Slow

Patience when lobbying for media attention can be a virtue -- or a complete waste of time. Problem is, it might take an age before you find out which

By Sherry Alpert

Here's a scenario: Your focus is on getting media coverage for your business -- or, if you're a PR pro like me, you client's business -- in a major business publication. Nothing else will do. You call the reporter who covers that particular industry and get blown off. She's just not interested. You achieve some smaller media placements, but you still want that big enchilada.

A year later, you're feeling brave, and you call that reporter again with virtually the same pitch -- and this time she jumps. Not only that, but she asks you not to talk to any other media. You gladly honor her request.

ON HOLD.

  Even better, you fly off to, say, New York and meet the reporter for breakfast at a swank hotel. You research the reporter's articles to prepare, and after a 90-minute interview, you're ecstatic that things went so well. You send the reporter all the follow-up information requested. A month later, you call and ask when the story is appearing. She's backed up with other stories, she explains. You call her in another month and get the same response, although this time with a hazier promise that she'll get to it soon.

Four months later, you call her again and tactfully ask when the story is appearing, reminding her that, at her request, you haven't talked to any other national business media. She thanks you for your interest, but now she tells you that her story has gone "in another direction", that she doesn't write about everyone interviewed, that she will probably use your client in a story in the future, that she's impressed with him and his company, that you should feel free to go to other media for the time being, and she's grateful for all the time you and your client have given her.

And that's how six recent months of my time was spent. I did exactly as the reporter requested, and all that time, effort, and consideration went right down the tubes.

Is the client unhappy? No. But I sure am. I have ceased the self-congratulations about getting him interviewed by this prestige publication. At least for the foreseeable future.

WAIT AND SEE.

  Now let me tell you a story about another client, an e-tailer in Boston, whose products have been featured in the home sections of major metropolitan dailies around the country, but it took 18 months to get any interest in her outfit from the Boston Globe's Life at Home section. In the interim, major home and women's magazines looked but wouldn't commit to writing anything.

Since the Globe story appeared, I have e-mailed it with electronic photos of her products to those same national magazine editors and received much stronger responses, including some commitments. The 18-month wait paid off, because the Globe story had the right photo, the right description, and the right layout to grab the eyes and attention of editors at other publications.

Then there's my fitness expert. He has been featured previously in Boston's media, but not during the past year. However, when it was revealed that Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino is suffering from Crohn's disease, my client, who also has Crohn's, quickly scored two major stories by talking about about how Menino should try a fitness-and-nutrition program tailored to his illness.

The lesson from all this: Sometimes you hurry up -- and wait. Sometimes you have to wait indefinitely, with no guaranteed payoff. And sometimes you simply need to follow the news and plug yourself into it.

Have a question about the best way to promote and publicize your business? PR pro Sherry Alpert is here to help. Clickhere to e-mail your queries, or write to Spread The Word, BW Online, 45th Floor, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Please include your name and phone number in case we need more information. Only your initials and city will be printed.

The principal of Sherry Alpert Corporate Communications & Graphic Design in Canton, Mass., Sherry Alpert, has been representing clients ranging from corporations, retailers, and nonprofits to books, trade shows, and entrepreneurs for 25 years.