Avoiding Common Pitfalls When Seeking Media Attention

In the age of instant information and digital media, companies often ask us to seek media coverage to boost their visibility and reputation. However, it’s crucial to understand that gaining media attention is not as simple as sending out a press release and expecting immediate coverage.

There’s a significant amount of work and preparation involved, both on the part of the client and their media agency. In this article, we’ll explore the common mistakes companies make when asking their agency to solicit coverage and we’ll provide insights into how to reshape expectations.

Don’t Expect to Completely Control the Narrative

One of the biggest misconceptions about media coverage is the level of control a company can exert over the narrative. PR professionals play a crucial role in shaping the story and making it appealing to the media. However, it’s important to remember that the media ultimately determine the content they publish. Expecting your story to be printed verbatim is unrealistic in most markets.

A case in point is a former client who agreed on a media pitch regarding the company’s exponential growth and rebrand. But, unfortunately, when the media came back with basic questions on market trends in the client’s industry that led to the growth, the client only wanted to discuss their rebranding campaign and their new hires. Refusing to address broader market trends or industry-related questions left the agency in a tricky situation. To maintain a positive media relationship, the agency had to resort to sourcing another interviewee in that industry, which ended up being the client’s competitor. Needless to say, the story published talked about industry trends and how the competitor was shaping trends without any mention of the client’s rebrand.

Be an Expert on the Topic

To effectively engage with the media, you must be an expert on the topic you’re discussing. Whether it’s your company’s expansion, a new product launch, or industry trends, having a deep understanding of the subject matter is essential. If you’re doubling the size of your company, you should be ready to provide profound business statistics or insights into market trends that support your reason for growth. Similarly, in fields like healthcare, being able to explain the science behind a new pharmaceutical solution or medical device, its working principles, and potential side effects is critical.

Immediate Turnarounds

Media operate on tight deadlines. Once your agency sends out a press release, you (or another subject matter expert) must be prepared to respond promptly, often within 24 hours or even sooner. While your agency may be able to serve as a spokesperson, chances are the media want to speak to the company for quotes and deep insight.

The types of responses your agency will need to work with you on to respond to media may include written answers to questions or dates/times of your interview availability. Failing to meet these deadlines could result in your story being sidelined or dropped altogether.

Open Availability

It’s crucial to be available to speak with media from the moment your agency pitches a story. If key team members, such as the CEO or the subject matter expert, are unavailable for days or weeks at a time, consider retiming your release or designating an alternate spokesperson. Being consistently accessible and responsive to the media is vital for building and maintaining strong media relationships.


Media stories are not just about words; visuals are equally important. Ensure you have high-quality images ready to accompany your story. This includes logos, CEO headshots, product photos, or images related to any community involvement. Your agency will request these items and are often pressured to hit send without these elements. But the fact is: having these visuals prepared before your press release goes out — and including them in the pitch – will save valuable time and increase the chances of your story being featured.

Person Quoted in the Release Should Be the Spokesperson

The person quoted in the press release should ideally be the spokesperson for any media inquiries. The designated spokesperson should have a deep understanding of the subject matter and speak with authority, which is outlined below. If the person quoted can not live up to these tenants, consider enrolling them in a media training course or have someone else attributed for the quote.

Spokesperson Must Be Able to Speak with Authority

The designated spokesperson must speak with authority, especially in interviews and when addressing tough questions. This often involves speaking eloquently and confidently, not just over the phone but also on live radio, TV, and streaming video, which cannot be edited. Navigating challenging questions and taking control of the conversation is a valuable skill

Practice for the Interview

Preparation is key. Spokespersons should think in sound bites, practice key messages, and avoid over-explaining. Your media agency will provide speaking points, and it’s essential to review and rehearse them.

Keep Your Appointments

Lastly, respect media professionals’ deadlines and keep your appointments. Last-minute cancellations can tarnish your reputation with the media and strain your agency’s relationship with them as well. It can lead to missed opportunities for you and leave media without a story to air. Plus, keep in mind that it’s the agency’s business model to protect its valuable media relationships. Clients who break their commitments regularly could find themselves without an agency willing to pitch for them!

So, remember, it’s not just about hitting “send” on a release – it’s about active involvement and preparation on the part of the client and the agency.