PR Exclusives: Part One Of Two On How To Slay This Beast Of A Strategy

In Today’s 24-Hour, Sometimes Fake, News Cycle,
PR Exclusives Are Riskier than Ever – So Why Do We Still Use Them?

When successfully orchestrated, PR exclusives can reap gargantuan media results. One major New York Times or CNN piece not only means tremendous audience reach for a particular story, it also brings prestige and credibility to a brand’s overall image.

But PR exclusives can often cause more damage than good.

There’s the danger of alienating important journalists not privy to the scoop. In addition, it takes instincts, skill, and even luck, to determine not only who to pitch but how long to wait for them to bite before moving on. Because timing is everything, it often requires simultaneously offering the pitch to multiple outlets, which can lead to the potential of overpromise and the inadvertently leaking of the news along the way.

Once you do place the story, there’s an enormous amount of coordination required to synchronize the piece with all the other moving parts of the campaign. As an example, it’s critical to keep everyone in the know from sharing it on their socials before the traditional media placement runs. And that’s, of course, just one piece of the puzzle.

In summary, it’s a mind game of massive proportions and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Fortunately, I cut my teeth on PR exclusives many years ago while serving as a VP of PR at Turner Broadcasting. In those days, there was intense pressure to secure “above the fold” or “front page coverage” in either Daily Variety or The Hollywood Reporter. These two entertainment trades were fiercely competitive at the time and therefore more much more likely to give you the coverage your executives demanded if you offered them a scoop.

Fast forward to 2018 where we’re still pitching PR exclusives whenever the occasion calls for it to secure impactful client stories. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, it’s riskier than ever to pull one off, so we carefully weigh all the pros and cons before employing this beast of a PR strategy. Perhaps more importantly, we often choose instead to use content marketing tactics, where we have complete control over the wording and distribution of the brand message.

Imagine my mild displeasure this past week when, not one but two prominent, New York media outlets both asked for PR exclusives on the same pitch. While I’m thrilled by their interest, I’m once again negotiating yet another one of these tricky deals.

Sound like the perfect time, then, to share some advice on this topic? We thought so too.

Over the years, we’ve identified two key reasons to use PR exclusives:

When It’s a Matter of Control

In certain instances, an exclusive may be the best/only way to maintain some level of control over a traditional media placement. For starters, the reporter involved will most likely be more cooperative and willing to agree to certain terms. Celebrity publicists, for instance, do this all the time to dictate the specifics in a sensitive client situation on questions permitted and photos allowed. Wendy Williams recently gave People Magazine an exclusive about her battle with Graves disease and then followed up with a Good Morning America cover story.

Because there is only one journalist to manage, (versus many different reporters who will all put their own unique spin on the news), the odds are in your favor that the coverage will be more accurate. This holds true for any follow-up stories, too, because many reporters will take their cues from the original piece.

Finally, PR exclusives tend to offer longer, more in-depth coverage than stories that are widely distributed. If your goal is one major, consistent placement from a credible source, usually with the potential for vast repurposing and longevity, then this is the strategy to take.

However, if you really want complete control over your news, consider instead posting your story verbatim on your own brand channels, including the company’s blog and/or socials. Disneyland Resort, for example, has their own robust newsroom on their website where they frequently announce news and provide sneak peeks.

When it’s a Feature or Lukewarm News

PR exclusives also work extremely well when pitching feature or lukewarm news pitches. Remember my earlier example about the two New York outlets? That’s a feature story. It’s got a very unique and interesting angle, but so do hundreds of others out there. Many times this extra carrot is just what’s needed to secure the placement.

If one of the above reasons makes sense for your next publicity campaign, be sure to check back next week when we share the critical steps necessary to secure these coveted PR exclusives for your brand.