Exclusivity: Dead or alive?

As a PR professional, I’m often asked by higher ups or even newbies: Do you think we should offer the journalist an exclusive?

Ah, the great exclusive. In today’s highly fluid information-fuelled world, where hardly anything is secret anymore, where does the exclusive come into play? If you have leaked a launch to your customer, the word-of-mouth itself could be built up within your community. Your customers and perhaps some reporters are already expecting news at a certain date and when you finally announce a launch, is that really an exclusive or simply a launch announcement? The reality is this: unless you are Edward Snowden, Lindsey Lohan or have a top and I mean, news or industry breaking, revolutionary, tier-1 story to break, you should not be considering exclusives.

It is not a word to be bandied about lightly. The exclusive is often offered to journalists who are your cream of the crop. And you offer the ONE exclusive. Look at the late Princess Di and Barbra Walters. She had one story to tell, to one of the most powerful women in journalism on one of the most watched news networks in the world.

Do you have that kind of story to tell? How do you know if your story is exclusive-worthy? Whether you are in B2B or B2C, what is considered an exclusive to you, may just be a run-of-the-mill announcement to the reporter.

So what is exclusivity all about? Here are a few things to consider:
  • Is your story strong enough to BE an exclusive? Journalists have no time for bullshit. They want a breaking story that is told to no one but them. Does your story have concrete figures, does it affect how people live; are you unveiling something that has never been seen before; will it bring down the stock market or will are you offering a side of the story that has not been heard?
  • How will it affect your relationship with the rest of your target media? Look at your media list. If you work in B2B, that list would be extremely succinct. Should you risk offending the other journalists on your list just for a single story? Or can you offer them specific angles of the story? Journalists remember things like this and worst of all, they can chose to ignore your company down the road. So really consider all options carefully.
  • Who do you want the story to reach? There is new trend in the way consumer technology companies make their announcements these days. Stories are leaked to the fans.  It is smart and rather sneaky because fans will help generate buzz for the story to drive sales. This tactic may perhaps help navigate tricky relationships with journalists.
  • How much ROI or coverage do you really want to achieve? If your exclusive will eventually be distributed to everyone on your media list, where is your credibility? Down the toilet for sure.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong in offering a journalist an exclusive. However, you do have to consider all your options and then decide on an approach. 

So in the race to tell your specific story, are you ready to be exclusive?

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Ever prodded a sleeping dragon, only to have it whip up and bite you in the ass? Well, neither have I. But I advocate that you should try everything...once ;P
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