Everyone makes mistakes. To err is human. One of the key traits of successful people is that they learn from their mistakes. Those who are particularly auspicious take it one step further and learn from the mistakes of others. Misguided public relations strategies can cause irreparable damage and ruin a lot of business relationships. What follows are the most common PR errors that should be avoided at all costs.
Taking the press for granted:
The most fundamental mistake is believing that just because your company is interesting, innovative or groundbreaking, it is entitled to press. Media outlets are businesses too and they are not in the business of searching you out. If and only if you have news to offer is the media going to express any interest in you or your business. The question then becomes: What qualifies as news? This question has varying answers, but there are a few common announcements that every business should be using as launch platforms. They are:
- Product Launches/Releases
Being too long-winded:
The sad truth is that most pitches will fail, regardless of how well-crafted they are. A surefire way to have your emails dumped straight into the trash bin is to send journalists what may be mistaken for your latest novel. MuckRack performed a survey recently which found that nearly 60% of journalists want pitches to fall within two to three paragraphs, while 36% preferred pitches to be in the range of two to three sentences. Very few have the desire to read pitches longer than 500 words. This survey concluded that length was the second biggest reason for a pitch to be rejected or ignored. This seems fair enough, as businesspeople should be confident and familiar enough with their product or service to pitch it without including the intimate details of their operation. In the end, the pitch is equivalent to a teaser.
Being careless about timing:
Journalists live in a world of deadlines and because of the frenetic nature of their jobs, time is at a premium. But like most professionals, there are times of the day when they are less busy and more available to be reached out to. The aforementioned survey found that nearly 70% of journalists prefer to be contacted early in the morning, sometime between the hours of 6-11AM. The reasons for this are fairly simple to understand. As the day progresses, workload tends to increase as unexpected obligations arise and stamina, concentration and oftentimes patience begin to decline. The key is to send emails early in the day and early in the week to ensure that your pitch isn’t getting lost or forgotten amongst the deluge of someone else’s stress and exhaustion.
Appearing impersonal and distant:
Putting in time and energy when crafting a personalized email pitch may not be enough if the journalist on the receiving end suspects that the email wasn’t solely personalized to them. Many journalists say that the primary reason for rejecting emails is their cold appearance and feel. If they sense that what they are being presented with is generic, standardized text similar to spam, then the common assumption is that other journalists in the industry are receiving the very same email. Making the extra effort to tailor a specific pitch to a specific journalist can end up paying dividends. The idea is to establish a relationship for the future, in addition to having your pitch heard. Here is some advice:
- Know who you are pitching to
- Use social media to connect
- Include status symbols such as awards and achievements
- Be courteous and polite
Forgetting to follow up:
Never make the mistake of assuming that your emails have been read or that because you haven’t gotten a response, your email has not been read. Outreach is the first step of PR, but following up is an implied part of that. After a day or two, it’s fine to send another email to check in. PR delays are common and oftentimes, a journalist will appreciate a reminder. As long as you’re concise and polite, you don’t have to worry about coming off as pushy. The integral part of PR is getting your foot in the door. Avoiding these common mistakes will keep you from tripping over your own feet on the way in.