When it comes to the art of public relations, there are several tried and true tactics that work, like getting to know your key media, being organized and respectful of a reporter’s time, and providing juicy nuggets of information as an exclusive to a single reporter. But, there are so many potential cringe worthy mistakes that are actually pretty easy to make.
Life in the PR lane is FAST and the following mistakes are simple missteps that even the most seasoned professional can sometimes make. As someone with nearly two decades of PR experience, I’ve witnessed firsthand the horror that some of these mistakes can create. Here are three of the most common PR mistakes I’ve seen and why you should avoid making them.
The 3 PR Mistakes To Avoid
1. Sending Mass Email Pitch Blasts
How would you feel if you got a text message from somebody asking you to dinner, but they got your name wrong? Or, asked you to dine at a steakhouse when you’re vegetarian. Would you say yes? Probably not. Why would you? This person didn’t take the time to get to know you or your preferences (and some of these are surface-level!). The same goes for the media.
Too many people don’t take the time to interact with the media as people and not just story pushers. But this one is an easy fix. Spend time researching who they are, what they cover, and how they prefer to receive news. Don’t send out mass email pitch blasts to the press. The whole point of media relations is….relations. Your pitch needs to be personal and relevant. Slow down, understand the person you are trying to get in front of and cater your message directly to them. Your media contacts should feel like the approach is personal.
Think about the following when making your emails personal. What are their interests? What did they last write about that was interesting to you? Do you have any mutual friends? Think about how you would like to receive a message.
2. Choosing Poor Timing
A few years back, I got hired by a company to help them tell an amazing story to the press. It was a story I knew would get headline coverage and it had all the right pieces.
So, you can imagine the surprise when our press release crossed the wire and our media pitches went out and we heard…nothing. CRICKETS.
It wasn’t long before we realized that we made a huge mistake. We were so in the weeds with getting our own announcement right that we didn’t see what was going on in the industry and our timing couldn’t have been worse.
Our product was in the tech space and we launched it the same day as Apple’s Developer Conference. As this is one of the biggest tech shows of the year, every single media outlet that we wanted to talk to was going to be covering Apple. They weren’t interested in anything else so our press release—in all its newsworthy glory—was obsolete.
We learned in this moment the importance of knowing what’s happening in the news cycle and paying attention to big ticket events. After that, we created an events calendar that outlined every company in our industry and what major conferences they had, so we could strategically plan around or figure out how to collaborate. I encourage you to do the same for your organization.
3. Throwing Around Buzzwords
“This is the world’s FIRST, GAME CHANGING, PROPRIETARY device that will be REVOLUTIONARY and upend the ENTIRE INDUSTRY with its BLEEDING-EDGE technology.”
YUCK. That is a pretty lofty statement and it takes a lot to back that up. Furthermore, if you can’t, you will lose a lot of credibility.
I’ve been told by many reporters that they immediately distrust an email or press release that says “WORLD’S FIRST” or “BEST-IN-CLASS” because, chances are, it’s not the world’s first (and usually also not the best in class).
Don’t throw around buzzwords. If your product is that unique, that good and that game changing, you don’t need them. Use clear and concise words to explain how and why you are different, what you are solving for and who you are. The media appreciates transparency and efficiency, so consider cutting down on the noisy buzzword-filled messaging.
Bonus Tip: “Following Up” Just to Follow Up
I’ll never forget the first time a reporter called me out for following up on an email pitch. And, it wasn’t because I followed up—it was how I followed up.
It had been 24 hours and I hadn’t heard back, so I replied-all to my previous pitch with “just following up on this.” I was excited to get a response shortly thereafter but it was not the response I was looking for. The reporter said “Please do not just ‘follow up.’ I have seen it. Unless you have something new to say, I have 500 emails in my inbox and am triaging.”
And I totally get it—imagine if you finally got through 500 emails, went to the top of your inbox to reply, and then you had ANOTHER email from that person?
If you have not heard back and it has been a few days (and not 24 hours, *facepalm*), here are some recommendations based on what journalists have told me: Be mindful and add value. Do you have new information they don’t have? Can you share a new stat, a new angle, a new finding or something that makes the story better? Those are great things to follow up with. You may even want to hold back some non-critical, but helpful information in your initial pitch so you have a nugget in your back pocket to include in any potential future follow-up.
If executed correctly, PR is a very potent tool that has the potential to not only get your message across, but drive potential leads to your business. If not, the results can be downright detrimental. PR is also one of the fastest evolving industries which means as a business owner, entrepreneur or PR professional, you need to stay on top of your game to continuously evolve your own skill set and approach to securing media interest and coverage. And by knowing what NOT to do, you’re already a step ahead!
For more powerful PR tips and tricks or to brush up on your PR know-how, check out this guide to all things PR. Ready to tackle a new challenge? Sign up to receive weekly jobs emails from RemotePRJobs.com.