The goal of public relations is to portray your business in the best possible manner. This can range from establishing yourself in the market to damage control. Unlike advertising, your goal is not to pay for space in the media but to persuade the media to take an interest in your business and to write or report on your business activities.
Below are some of the common pitfalls to watch out for when handling public relations.
1. Bad timing
Among the most common and bad mistake, timing has the unenviable position of number 1 on the list of PR mistakes. A lot of things fall under this category, but the most common ones are sending out press release too late, too early, with too long of an embargo or during a big news event that isn’t related to the story.
This came in third. Many journalists complained that PRs had phoned them to check if they’d received their press release. But repetition is not the same as a follow-up, because a proper, useful follow-up will offer something extra that could help the journalist. For example, I sold in a story contained stats for regions in the U.K. After I issued this, I went through the stats again and created versions of the release that focused on individual cities, which offered journalists interested in the story something extra.
3. Language goofs
Attracting many of complaints are language errors. All the obvious culprits are here, like typos, spelling mistakes and incorrectly capitalized letters. It shouldn’t be a surprise that people who write for a living are annoyed by bad writing.
4. Too audacious
This also takes some percentages of complaints were about the audaciousness of PRs. Most of the examples were of people who were trying so hard to be persuasive that it was in bad taste. Asking a journalist if they want to interview you or starting a press release by referencing a recent tragic news event, both of which were featured in the complaints, is not persuasive.
5. Tech blunders
Mistakes taken up by tech blunders, by far the most common involves attachments. Journalists often don’t have time to go through an email and open a lot of multimedia attachments. In fact, it’s a bad idea to even attach a single Word document or pdf – putting your press release in the body of an email makes things a lot easier for everyone. Complaints about font choice were also common.
6. Overenthusiastic niceties
Five percent of complaints were about overenthusiastic niceties. Being polite and courteous is fine, but don’t overdo it. Putting kisses at the end of emails to journalists you don’t know well is inappropriate, and asking how they slept or calling them an overly-affectionate name annoys them.
7. Inappropriate methods of contact
Many complaints from journalists were about the ways in which PRs chose to contact them. We all know that some journalists hate being phoned, while others hate being sent a press release without a phone pitch first. That’s personal preference, and there’s no consensus on which is better. What’s certain is that most journalists will be uncomfortable with you pitching them over social media or receiving unsolicited phone calls on their personal mobile phone or personal email address.
8. Too much jargon
Mistakes about jargon made up some percent of examples. This is related to language goofs, but it’s still distinct. While a language error is accidental, jargon is deliberate. Obscure or pretentious language confuses or annoys the reader. Part of a PR’s job is to explain what their clients do in a simple, appealing language that anyone could understand.
9. Lack of plan
You cannot do public relations by winging it. It is hard to know what to do next if you have no plan of action. You need to determine where, when, and how you are going to proceed. You also need to be flexible and have backup plans should all else fail.
10. Press releases without purpose
Like the boy who cried wolf, if you send out press releases every time there is a minor development in your business, people will stop listening. And when something really important occurs, editors will already be in the habit of hitting delete when they see a press release from your business. Do not try to make stories where they do not exist. Some publicists actually do this to look busy and justify their billing.