We are often asked what questions are the right ones to ask when hiring a media relations services firm.  Every agency out there has a different idea of what a successful project looks like, and the only way to make certain it matches your vision is to put everything out in the open before any work begins.  We have broken it down here to give you an idea of what our take is and what pre-planning will help to make sure the firm hired is the best fit for the work to be done:

  1. What is the overall goal?  Is it to drive listeners and viewers to an event or to watch a show?  Or, is it for overall brand awareness?  Maybe to change the mind of one or two legislators?  You should start with the ideal end result; figure out what your ultimate goal is and work backwards to determine the best service.  A general rule of thumb is if a story can fit on one page, with double-spaced lines, then the issue is straightforward enough to use an audio news release (ANR).  ANRs tend to get a quantity of airings over the longer-form quality of airings you can get with a radio media tour.   If the issue is a little more involved and warrants more explanation than a 60-second release, such as new medical treatment options, a multi-faceted financial or high tech story or an issue discussed as the focus of a television documentary, a radio media tour is the best option.  That way spokespeople can really interact with reporters to provide more explanation and maximize their on-air time.
  2. How did you identify which stations, networks and reporters to target?  Each one of our projects is specifically targeted based on our clients’ demographic and geographic needs.  We don’t have a set “list” of reporters we reach out to no matter what the content of story and what the local angle(s).  We believe that targeting each project individually and letting each reporter pitched know why we are pitching them can increase the opportunity for engagement on an issue, and that results in greater usage of a story.  For example, pitching an Alzheimer’s drug innovation to a top-40 station makes no sense for that station’s audience.  But, when there are just lists that firms go to no matter what the subject matter, those types of miss-pitches can and are made all of the time.  We want your story where it matters and resonates with the audience best.
  3. Is there a guarantee on the number of hits we will get?  This is where we differ from many in the industry.  We do not use guaranteed placements.  We specialize only in earned media placements, because they result in the highest quality and most relevant coverage for your issue.  There are many differences between guaranteed and earned placements.  The first and most important being that guaranteed placements are advertisements, where money is exchanged between service companies and stations/networks.  Second, earned media placements run in news and public affairs programming, and guaranteed placements run between newscasts and in advertising segments.   As such, guaranteed placements have less credibility and less value than earned placements, since they fall into a station’s advertising lineup, rather than its programming content.
  4. Do you do follow up after you pitch a story?  We are big believers in follow up, and it’s central to our mission to provide the most comprehensive services in the industry.  We want to see how the stories we worked so hard to pitch and place were used.  Also, we want to see why they were not used.  That is typically the most useful feedback we get. It not only helps us with that one client we are working with, but for future projects with that client as well as other clients.  Each time we pitch a story, we have the rich history of all the ones we have pitched and followed up with in the past to make each future project even stronger in terms of targeting and pitching.
  5. What is the difference between using AQH figures vs. CUME figures for radio audience measurement and which do you use?  We are strong believers in using AQH, or average quarter hour, for our form of measurement. This figure tends to be a bit more conservative than CUME, but we believe a more accurate depiction of usage because it doesn’t count the listener who is switching from station to station.  AQH is an average of all dayparts to determine the number of persons listening to a particular radio station for at least five minutes during a particular 15-minute period, and is based on data provided from the industry leader in radio information, Arbitron.  CUME listenership tends to be about six times AQH, and in our opinion does not depict a true reflection of listeners, and can count those quickly scanning through channels multiple times, and not true listeners to a particular station’s broadcast.

In summary, some advance thinking about end goals and project parameters are needed before one can get the best results from any firm hired. Ultimately, project success comes from a great partnership, based in clear communications and mutually understood expectations.


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Send an email to EVP & Founder Susan Matthews Apgood at sapgood@newsgeneration.com.

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