The pros and cons of offering first refusals
For anyone unaware, a ‘first refusal’ is exactly what it sounds like: a PR sends a story to a particular journalist and gives them the chance to snaffle it before anyone else. Or, indeed, to refuse it — the term being weirdly pessimistic!
This tactic has some obvious upsides. Chief among them is flattery: you’re effectively suggesting to the chosen journalist that they are most important to you, they are your favourite.
There’s also potential to better manage your story, and to avoid the potential fall-out caused by a widely distributed press release and, subsequently, interest from multiple interested parties keen on publishing first.
Less helpful is the fact that, in the event of your chosen person saying no, you lose crucial time — and time is the most important commodity of all when it comes to a news story. In an ideal scenario your recipient will reply very speedily with a yay or nay… but what if they don’t? The trick, I’d think, is to politely impose a deadline when issuing your first refusal, so that you can’t be faulted for going elsewhere if no answer is forthcoming.
Politics are at play here, too. Offer too many exclusives to Travel Weekly, for instance, and I imagine TTG will be properly peeved. And so on with other rivals. Try to share them out if at all possible.
The big no-no is to contact a second journalist, after your first choice says no or fails to respond, and, ahem, offer them “first refusal”. Just imagine if you get found out (which is perfectly possible); there would be a permanent loss of trust and reputation.
Final thought: when offering first refusals, try and ensure they are highly relevant to the journalist. And don’t offer that journalist two or three per month. Less is more here; you want to make the person feel like this is a very unusual, unlikely-to-happen-again occurrence on which they’d be mad not to capitalise.
What Richard Thinks…
“While this release by Kristie is too long for my tastes, it does lead with an excellent newsy angle that I hadn’t come across before, so kudos for that.”