When so much of our time as media relations professionals is spent proactively pitching our clients’ expertise, inbound queries asking for a comment can feel like a gift. The work’s done, right? Not exactly. Some opportunities seem perfect off-the-bat – a chance to work with a high-profile outlet on a topic that precisely matches the client’s focus. More often than not, we receive requests that give us pause. There are a few lenses we can use to examine inbound inquiries and see if they’re worth our client’s time. Here are three strategies to determine ROI.
Traffic on the website
Thinking of visibility and impact, it’s important to consider the number of unique monthly visitors that online outlets receive. Sometimes an unfamiliar website may have surprisingly large traffic. Make sure to run all names through a tool such as Muck Rack to get a feel for how many eyes could see your client’s comments. One hundred thousand is typically a good benchmark. Still, like much of what we do as communicators, this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
A site with slightly lower traffic could still be worth one’s time. The tradeoff can be the audience makeup of a website. For the colleges and universities that make up TVP Communications’ client base, an up-and-coming parenting blog might be worth engaging in if readership is clearly composed of parents of teenagers who plan to pursue higher education.
When sifting through inbound inquiries, evaluating the publication is a necessary step. By clicking on a few different articles in various sections of the website, it should be pretty clear if the writing is high or poor quality, if they produce original content or repurpose stories from other websites and if any political leanings match the client’s mission. After getting a general feel for the publication itself, scan through some articles authored by the reporter who reached out. Do they cover your client’s area of expertise frequently? Is this seemingly a one-off opportunity or is there potential for a relationship with more clips in the future?
What’s the catch?
Assessing the visibility and impact of an outlet and potential audience can help guide a communicator in pursuing opportunities, but even an inbound request from The New York Times requires careful consideration. High-profile clips are extremely valuable – when they are positive. For inbound inquiries, communicators need to understand what the reporter is asking about. You often need to read between the lines to see if there is potential for an article that would use your client’s commentary in a way that backs up a harmful idea. This is a critical part of media relations. Professionals should serve their clients to minimize interviews that are a waste of time at best and damaging at worst.
These tips can also be engaged when evaluating the queries that come through source request resources such as HARO and ProfNet. They’re not quite the same as a more personal inbound query, but there are chances for commentary that can be mined from these sources if you’re being mindful of outlet, audience and fit.
Instead of chasing links and risking burnout with our clients, carefully considering the oftentimes incalculable value of an opportunity before saying yes will net a higher return on investment.
Kylie Kinnaman is an engagement strategist at TVP Communications.