Without the right guidance, a company’s public relations efforts can potentially destroy its brand image. There are plenty of things that you should avoid when trying to establish relationships with journalists and your target audience. We’ve compiled a list of the biggest mistakes you can make when doing media outreach.
Things to avoid in public relations
For a company
1) Having too much pride
In the PR world, a company with too much pride can hurt itself significantly. Of course, it is perfectly normal to be happy and have a sense of accomplishment when you succeed as a company. However, if you fail to understand the importance of doing the little things and being humble through the public relations process, you will turn many people off. A high and mighty attitude could cost you valuable media coverage.
2) Not having a proper plan
While most companies may have a general plan in their minds, they may not have thought about the specifics of their idea and objectives. Looking at PR activities in a superficial way can cause you problems in PR strategy planning and rob you of the time required to establish a crisis management plan.
Whether it is about your industry, your target media professionals, or your audience, not doing the right research will prove to the industry that you do not have sufficient knowledge to emerge into the market. From the lack of planning, you may run the risk of developing inconsistent and ineffective plans. Rather than looking at the big picture, you only focus on one aspect of it. For example, if one of your main goals is “increasing brand awareness,” you need to measure everything that goes into trying to reach this goal.
If you fail to do research, you may end up choosing communication channels that are popular in general but not popular among your target audience. The simple answer is that you did not do enough research to see that the channels you’re using are appropriate for your target audience.
3) Hiring expensive agencies
Tying in with the previous point, a company without a solid plan may not succeed. That does not necessarily mean that you are incapable of developing a project; you may simply need some help. Established companies can afford to pay thousands of dollars for a marketing/PR agency. Luckily for smaller companies, there are PR professionals and agencies that do the same work at a fraction of the cost.
The PR professionals and writers at Pressfarm can work with companies and startups with a smaller budget to help them achieve media coverage at a lower cost. Their PR packages are well-suited for whatever you need. They will help you create quality content like email pitches, press releases, and press kits to distribute to journalists and media outlets.
The team at Pressfarm can also help with the research process by providing a PR database of 1 million+ journalists and influencers. With this database, you can narrow down your target media list. The experts at Pressfarm also help companies increase their online visibility in relevant search results across major search engines.
Sometimes it is better to work with PR agencies that produce quality content rather than one that is too expensive but doesn’t do the best job.
5) Only focusing on the big guns
The whole point of public relations is to get noticed by well-established and high-traffic media outlets. Many companies focus their efforts on big outlets. This is because many of them have proven that they help bring a mix of high-impact coverage and saturated coverage in more niche communities. They help build credibility and obtain high-exposure placements as well as boost SEO. However, there are plenty of media channels out there that you shouldn’t forget about.
6) Getting upset
If you don’t achieve media coverage, there is no reason to get upset. When working with journalists, there is no point in getting angry if they may have made a mistake because it damages the relationship. Of course, if the content needs to be changed, you can point this out. You can also make suggestions on how to fix the mistake. Just make sure you do this in a respectful way.
If journalists don’t pick up a story, that does not mean that the pitch isn’t salvageable. It simply means that you need to go back to the drawing board and create a more creative spin for your content. Alternatively, you can create another media list with different journalists and media outlets that may better fit your target.
Public relations is ultimately about developing and maintaining relationships with journalists. For this reason, you should also avoid these mistakes that would alienate or annoy a journalist.
1) Not doing the research/planning
As mentioned previously, proper research and planning are essential steps for media outreach. In fact, before you send anything to a journalist, you should start with research.
One of the biggest pet peeves of journalists is receiving mass emails from companies trying to reach multiple journalists and media outlets at once. This will only destroy your chances of building a relationship with a journalist because it shows that you are only communicating with journalists for the sole purpose of getting media coverage. It’s easy to forget that media relations is about relationship-building and that you need to put in the effort to connect. Journalists receive hundreds of pitches daily. In order for yours to stand out, you need to be personable and take time to get to know the person you’re writing to, as well as the kind of content they create and the audiences they create content for.
2) Long, dry emails
We all live relatively busy lives, we all have deadlines, and journalists are no exception. In fact, they deal with more deadlines than we can possibly imagine. As a result, they do not have the time to read emails that are long-winded and boring.
For starters, they are most likely only going to click on emails that capture their attention. If your headline or subject line is generic, the whole pitch could be sent straight to the trash or overlooked. It might not seem like a big deal since it’s one line of content. Even so, that one line is what makes or breaks a pitch. The content of your email itself is also crucial. After all, if there is no clear message, journalists will not waste time trying to make sense of your pitch.
3) Over-the-top self-promotion
Yes, public relations and press releases are designed to get a company’s name out there. However, public relations is about reaching out, making a difference in people’s lives, and talking about something they’re interested in. Sending out materials that are solely self-promotional shows that you are only interested in the bottom line. Moreover, this shows that you have not put any thought into how your brand, product, or service will impact the industry.
4) Being vague
A press release needs to have all the necessary information while also being clear and concise. Many companies make the mistake of being vague and providing misleading information. Journalists are not only writers but also researchers. They will most likely do their research for the piece that they are going to write. If you provide insufficient or misleading information, a journalist will eventually find out and feel like they have been lied to.
5) Constant follow-up
Once an email has gone out, it may take some time for a journalist to respond. Doing a follow-up a few days after the initial pitch goes out is expected. This helps you stay top of mind. However, continually following up with multiple emails and phone calls will make a company seem needy and annoying. Journalists are very busy, and they do not want to feel like they are being bombarded to write a story. While following up is an essential part of a public relations plan, you should do it wisely.
How to avoid & plan for a PR crisis
We have now looked at some mistakes that companies should avoid internally and while communicating with media professionals. Let us look at how companies can prevent a PR crisis and plan an appropriate crisis management plan.
In today’s digital age, news, complaints, and other reviews are sent out within seconds. We are all human and make mistakes. However, when you run a company, it is essential to be prepared before a crisis emerges to ruin your brand reputation.
1) Make the ethical choice
Poor ethical practices can cause many problems for a company. In order to practice proper ethics, you should add information to a pitch, give an appropriate response to any doubts a journalist or media outlet might have, or change or recall a product or service when it receives bad reviews. If you want to avoid a PR disaster, then you always need to make an ethical choice.
2) Be transparent
Being transparent about your company generates trust among your target audience because there is less for people to worry about. If people trust your brand, then they will also see you as a thought leader and expert in the industry.
3) Use analytics and monitoring tools
One of the best ways to understand possible issues that may arise is through actively monitoring online media. You can use those tools to figure out whether your efforts have generated positive outcomes. More specifically, these tools will give you an idea of what works and what does not work. Once you have this information, you can choose to continue what you have already been doing or change it up to fit the needs of your target market.
4) Thinking before acting
It is vital to think through a situation before acting. This is especially true if you want to present yourself as an authority in your industry. You need to think about every aspect of the business before coming up with a plan to make it a reality. By doing so, you can avoid possible problems that may arise.
5) Be responsive
Whether you are communicating with a journalist or a potential customer. It is imperative to stay alert and be responsive to any questions or issues they might have.
In the case of a journalist, you may receive a call or email about a story that could potentially lead to a brand disaster. The best way to stay on top of the problem is to talk to the journalist as soon as possible and do everything to get the right story, statement, and action plan to them. You may not have a concrete plan of action, but explaining that the company is trying to sort it out will give journalists an incentive to hear your side of the story despite any biases they might have.
6) Search for early warning signs
You can use social listening and media intelligence tools to monitor brand mentions and set up searches on essential keywords and channels. As part of your social media monitoring, you can keep an eye out for news about competitors, industry news, events, possible controversy, and complaints. It’s important to keep up with high-ranking executives because they are usually authorities in their fields. You also need to find out what is being said about your competition.
After all, how will you get an edge over your competition if you don’t even know what they’re up to? On the other hand, if your competitor is facing a crisis, it’s a good idea to be prepared to face the same crisis. Since you operate in the same industry, the same crisis could spell disaster for your brand. Social listening also gives you a chance to be the first to respond to any negative statements presented about you by the competition. Finally, social media monitoring gives you a chance to understand how the public feels about your brand.
Public relations is an essential part of any media outreach strategy. In order to do your public relations effectively, you need to avoid making the mistakes highlighted above.