Public relations is a lot like sales. In this case, you’re selling your story. And just like in sales, one or two critical mistakes can not only kill your chances to close the deal this time, but forevermore.
That’s why it’s critical to make sure you aren’t making the following ten basic mistakes. Conversely, shoring up these areas can help to vastly improve your PR campaigns.
1. Over-reliance on press releases
Press releases are a means to an end, not an end in itself. Too many companies think issuing a press release is the final goal, then are dismayed when press doesn’t suddenly come pounding at their door. The truth is, there are thousands of press releases put out every day. There is absolutely still a need for a good press release, but don’t view it as the silver bullet to get any significant media coverage.
2. Spamming releases or pitches
Simply blasting your press release or pitches to everyone under the sun is a sure way to get marked as “Spam” by the media. Obviously, you don’t want to be sending pitches on women’s fashion to a technology writer. But even more specifically, within particular industries you need to know who is the right editorial contact for what you’re promoting, which leads us to…
3. Not targeting your pitch
The larger the media outlet, the more important this becomes. Blogs or smaller media usually rely on the general Editor. But in bigger companies, there are all levels of editorial people. Your job is to find out who covers your area. A simple way to do this is to do a quick search on their site for news stories related to your field. Note the reporter and find their contact information.
4. Attaching files to emails
The press always hate having attachments to your emails. First of all, it’s a security concern so it may never get opened. Secondly, many press check emails on Blackberries or other mobile devices. Trying to open and view different format attachments is a pain in the butt. Always paste in the press release directly into the body of the email. Any other files, include hyperlinks to them (pictures, videos, etc.)
5. Not having a compelling pitch
Your job isn’t to sell your client. Your job is to come up with an interesting story for the press that somehow includes your client. This is critically important to understand. The press doesn’t care about you or your client. Spend considerable time coming up with an interesting story angle, one that includes current hot topics in the media.
6. Grammatical or spelling errors
This should be obvious. Nothing will get you ignored faster than press releases and pitches riddled with basic spelling errors and poor grammar. If anything, hire proofreaders on eLance.com to do a quick once-over.
7. Relying only on email for outreach
Email is great. It’s fast, cheap and relatively non-intrusive. But it’s also notoriously unreliable. Some emails get filtered to Spam folders. Others don’t even make it to the recipient. The ones that do get buried in overflowing Inboxes. Try directly messaging reporters on Twitter to follow up. Don’t forget to try quick, polite phone calls as well. And for those who are still in offices, even a traditional mailed letter might get their attention.
8. Not building a long term relationship
Your goal is to become a valuable resource for the media. Remember that the press are people too, and all rules related to getting people to like you apply here as well. Be polite. Be deferential. Be valuable. Be cheerful and friendly. Building a strong relationship with key editors and reporters will go a long way towards a successful PR strategy.
Want to instantly get blacklisted in the media? Lie. Even once will sink you. The press is a small, interconnected world. Being blacklisted with one outlet could very well earn you the same demise in others. Never, ever intentionally mislead or overpromise. If an honest mistake was made, quickly fess up and apologize profusely; try and find a way to make things right soon as you can.
10. Not responding quickly
Most press are usually writing against a hard deadline. As such, if you are lucky enough that they reach out to you for information, nothing will help raise your esteem in their eyes than responding to their inquiries within the timeframe that they need it. The problem is that at times your client may be slow to turn around requests. You need to act as the conductor and press home the importance of getting answers to the press.
Easy, right? Many of these are common sense, but reviewing this list once in awhile will help make sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
Edward Yang is Managing Partner of Firecracker PR, a public relations agency focused on helping small and mid-sized companies generate press. Visit them at http://www.firecrackerpr.com.