Exclusive media placements can be a complicated process. Sometimes they might be appropriate, and sometimes they might not be. So let’s explore what they are, and whether you should consider offering one up.
I generally put exclusives in two buckets: “pure exclusives” and “exclusive first runs.”
What I call a pure exclusive offer is where only one media outlet gets a unique element of a story. Often, traditional media throw around the term exclusive when they get an interview or video that no other station has.
For example, Lebron James’ “The Decision” could be considered an exclusive announcement. To refresh your memory, in 2010 James gave ESPN the sole rights to carry his live announcement of where he was going to next be playing basketball.
Exclusive first run
The second type of an exclusive is what I call an exclusive first run. This is where you let one media outlet run a story first and then have the rest follow. Just because you do an interview with the first outlet doesn’t mean you don’t do an interview with another. You just allow that first outlet to “break” the news. For example, after the Wall Street Journal ran the article about the Online Trust Alliance’s Presidential Candidate Online Trust Honor Roll, CNN, USA Today, NBC, Fortune Politico and many more covered the news, reaching a potential audience of hundreds of million people.
In general, as a company, the types of announcements that warrant an exclusive first run would be unique industry data that your company has (such as the OTA honor roll above) or a big name hire. Unless you’re Apple or of that level, most journalists these days don’t care about having an exclusive run about a product launch.
Advantages and disadvantages of exclusive first run
Now that we’ve got the definitions straight, let’s get to the why of an exclusive first run. The primary reason I offer up exclusive first runs is because they often lead to a top outlet covering your news that otherwise might not have. The second reason is that it eliminates much of the endless coordination that usually goes with pre-pitching and pre-briefing outlets. The third reason is because many media outlets utilize a herd mentality. If one outlet sees a respectable top tier outlet covering the news, they feel like if they aren’t mentioning that same news, they are missing out. Thus, if a top tier outlet covers news comprehensively, chances are many other top tiers will follow.
There are obvious risks of picking one media outlet to tell your story first. If you do offer an exclusive first run, do not pitch that same news under embargo to another media outlet. The reason: if that other outlet sees the news out before the embargo lifts they will feel slighted, and potentially not cover that news and future announcements. In addition, outlets not pre-briefed may recognize that one specific media organization got a head start on the news and not cover your organization in the future.
Prepare for a wild ride
An exclusive first run isn’t for the faint of heart. You may put in weeks of interviews and back and forth with an outlet. Despite all that work, the reporter’s editors may decide they don’t want to run the story in the end. You are also putting all of your eggs in one basket that a media outlet will tell the news like you want it.
But at the end of the day, if you think you have news that is really intriguing and takes a top tier reporter to tell it properly, I’m always a big proponent of exclusive first runs. Just be ready for a wild ride!