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One of the primary reasons we are contacted by a potential client is they want to get some media exposure.  And after much discussion around process and strategy, our philosophies and how we work, if we are good fit, we get started.

But as my fellow PR practitioner Charlotte Shaff posted on Twitter a few days ago….

I have never understood businesses that turn down an opportunity to be highlighted in the media. It is FREE EXPOSURE!

And that got me thinking.  There may be a few reasons why a business may decline an opportunity.

  • Timing might not be right.  Perhaps the primary spokesperson isn’t available or there are some other issues going on at the company that would be impacted if the company were to be in the media at this time.
  • The spokesperson hasn’t been media trained.  Saying the wrong things can be devastating.
  • Not the right kind of coverage.  I do not subscribe to the theory that “any coverage is good coverage.”  Perhaps the publication doesn’t reach the client’s intended target or maybe there are others being quoted in the story and our client would prefer not to be there.
  • Too much else going on.  If there is major news occurring, such as we’ve seen recently with the Yarnell Hill Fire or other significant events, it just might not be appropriate.

Yes, we are in the business of helping our clients raise their profile and be recognized among their target audiences.  But perhaps, maybe just maybe, NOT being recognized is the right thing to do.

Your thoughts?

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio


  1. Ken Reinstein says:

    While working for Todd McFarlane, we turned down two requests by Oprah Winfrey (when she was the queen of all media in the late ’90s). She wanted Todd and the Mark McGwire $3 million baseball on. Oprah’s audience at the time was NOT Todd’s demographic and he defiantly declined. Her producers then countered with having lowly Ken Reinstein bring said baseball to the show, and we still said no! They were, to say the least, livid. I don’t think many people said no to “The O” back then.

    • Stephanie Lough says:

      I love that you clarified that Oprah was queen of the media. Even without her show (and now a disappointing network) I still hear aspirations to be mentioned by the big O!

  2. Charlotte says:

    I completely agree not every opportunity is perfect for a client. But if you are sending out pitches for your client, they should be targeted to the right person who you WANT to cover your client. Also, your client is media trained, available and ready to respond to media requests. I was quite generic in my tweet when I posted it, but the back story would make you shake your head….In the end, the person who said “no,” lost out on a great opportunity and a competitor of theirs got the spot instead. It boils down to some folks who just can’t hustle a little to make things work.

  3. Stephanie Lough says:

    I think there have been several celebrities on the verge of mental breakdowns that have shown us when is a good time to decline an interview 😉

  4. Dianne says:

    Also, I’ve learned that skilled PR practitioners know their way around the media enough to be able to conduct an effective and friendly “pre-screen” with reporters. Though I honor the objectivity of most journalists (because I am one, too), I have had several experiences where, through questioning, it was clear that the reporter had already mentally written the end of their story and was looking to my expert to play out a set (and unfriendly) conclusion. No way, was I going to invite my client into that trap.

    It’s important that the PR pro establish first that the interview will be fair and unbiased.

  5. This is a great post and jolt for anyone who sees all publicity as good publicity. I feel for Charlotte and other PR specialists/publicists like her who have had clients say “no” to an interview for which they’d be a great fit. Sometimes circumstances just don’t allow (illness, travel, etc.) in addition to it not being a good fit, but when you have to decline without a solid reason, you know the rejected journalist may be disappointed not just with your client, but you, too.

    You represent your clients, but you also have credibility at stake with the media. It’s as important to decline with professionalism as it is to pitch with it.

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