May 1, 2017
On a recent trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I visited a retail shop in the heart of Amish country known for its shoo-fly pie, which visitors could sample for free. This Pennsylvania Dutch delight grabbed the attention of many passers-by, who, after sampling, purchased a whole pie.
Most businesses will happily offer sampling products or review units, given that samples often lead to sales. Does the same theory apply when it comes to the press and earned media coverage?
The short answer is that the media likes product. We are human, of course, and opportunities to unbox the latest gadget or lay hands on the first generation of something fresh from the assembly line, be it a smartphone or a high-performance running shoe, is pretty compelling. I’ve yet to find a media representative who would decline an opportunity to taste test the latest potato chip flavor or test drive the newest luxury automobile. But before you offer a sample alongside your pitch, keep the following tips in mind:
- Budget for samples. If your business wishes to provide samples to the media, you’ll want to add that cost to your public relations budget. Sample bags of cookies may not cost much, but a virtual reality system will likely be a larger expense, and may even be difficult to procure in the timeframe the media requires. Before pitching, be certain you can provide samples or review units once you gain interest, otherwise, you’ll miss your opportunity.
- Keep lead times in mind. While most media outlets have a digital presence, many still publish a print version, which follows a longer lead time. This is especially true for monthly magazines and trade outlets. When you’re planning a launch, keep in mind editorial lead times, some of which can be four to six months ahead of your launch date (e.g., the editorial deadline for the July issue is in March). Reach out to the long-lead publications first to determine their interest, as they’ll be able to enjoy the samples/review units and return them (in cases of reusable items such as cars, electronics, machinery, etc.) well before you begin pitching weekly or daily news outlets.
- Don’t pressure for feedback or item returns. Successful PR pros have a rhythm for following up with media. Being overeager or pressuring the media to return a sample so you can send it elsewhere may negatively impact your coverage.
- Be prepared for a roundup versus an exclusive. Many companies introduce new products around the same time of year, which means that reporters may receive several pitches (and samples) at the same time. To maximize editorial space, editorial teams may decide to incorporate a slew of products into a roundup piece. So, rather than receiving a company- or product-specific feature, the media outlet may include your product in a larger-scale story (or photo layout). It’s nothing personal, just a way to creatively combine items for readers.
- Never send samples or review units without express permission. If you pitched a product and your targeted media rep declined a sample or review unit, do not send it. Reporters’ desktops don’t allow for a barrage of unwanted items. Offer samples/review units and wait for the media to ask for one. When they do, be certain you have it ready for immediate shipment.
Securing reviews or sampling new products with the media is a surefire way to gain media impressions. However, the way you go about it, too, will impact your results. Should you have questions relating to product sampling, we encourage you to consult with an experienced PR firm. Or, to get the ball rolling, watch “Q&A from a Public Relations Professional,” featuring Axia Public Relations’ founder Jason Mudd, who can provide further insight and direction.
Wendy Bulawa Agudelo has nearly 20 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and nonprofit public relations. She serves on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force and is a culinary enthusiast and champion for the special needs community. Wendy has worked for Axia Public Relations since September 2014. Learn more about Wendy Bulawa Agudelo. Connect with Axia on Twitter @axiapr or tell us what you think in the comments below.
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