Is it OK to Tell a Client Their Product Isn’t Interesting?

Is it OK to Tell a Client Their Product Isn’t Interesting?

PR pitches have to be targeted and written the right way to resonate.In the world of PR, juggling client expectations with reality is always a struggle, especially when it comes to the newsworthiness of their product or service. While it’s great working for a company that has so much enthusiasm for what they’re bringing to market, sometimes their offering or a “big” announcement isn’t as compelling to mainstream media as they may think.

Questions like “Why aren’t we getting in the Wall Street Journal?” or “Is TechCrunch going to pick this up?” are all too common when, in reality, the journalists at these publications would probably much rather cover the latest live-saving, Internet-of-Things app than your groundbreaking sewage management system, or what have you.

A recent article in the Huffington Post, How to Stop Pissing Off Reporters, features commentary from prominent tech journalist Nick Kolakowski, sharing a prime example of this in action:

“The worst pitch I ever received was a PR person who honestly expected that I’d produce a slideshow of the mid-level executives of a mid-level, enterprise-centric tech company,” Nick shared. “When I asked why we would ever do a story like that, she responded that the client wanted the idea pitched around — and that nobody in her PR organization felt that they could push back.”

So, how do you communicate this to clients? …that your sewage management product is crap… almost literally! 😉

While a tricky situation, this is why many companies turn to PR firms in the first place. They want the strategic counsel to understand what they need to do to elevate their company brand or product perception out of the sewers and into the public eye.

So, sticking with the sewage management system example… because, why not?… if the traditional “improved efficiency and cost savings” messages aren’t doing the trick, try taking the solution itself out of the equation. What’s the bigger issue that’s being addressed? Keep asking “so, what?” until you get to something that matters… and may matter to press, too.

For instance, let’s say, hypothetically, sewage backup is flooding people’s yards. So, what? Well, kids play in yards. So, what? Deadly diseases are traced back to sewage. So, what? Children are contracting these diseases and death tolls have actually risen 5 percent in the last year. Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. And, guess what? We haven’t even mentioned sewage management technology yet.

And, while something like this may never get into the Wall Street Journal, being able to provide the right guidance around success criteria is critical. So, if the client isn’t willing to elevate their story or message to higher-level issues, then at least they should be satisfied with the more appropriate outlets you’re able to recommend. Such tier-two or tier-three publications may even reach a more spot-on audience to help with lead generation and sales, but just won’t have the widespread business appeal of the tier-one targets.

So, while giving this kind of guidance can understandably be difficult, pitching something you know won’t be a fit for a reporter at a tier-one outlet could do more harm than good, resulting in being blacklisted or marked as spam and never gaining traction with that publication again! It’s always best to advise strategically – and hopefully get the criteria you need! – than to pitch blindly at the client’s command.


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