PR is an exciting profession that can enrich your life if you do it properly, but it can also give you a lot of trouble if you keep making the same mistakes. For example, it’s never easy to get journalists to open, click, and love your email pitch, but especially so if you don’t do your job flawlessly.
I’ve seen way too many PR officers who did not understand some major communication obstacles, even after years of work experience. A professional practitioner cannot allow him/herself to fall into the same trap, so it is fundamental to learn how to recognize and avoid PR blunders.
While the list of possible misconceptions is endless, we can point out essential errors that have proven to occur most frequently. Without further ado, let me present you the seven biggest communication mistakes PR managers may not know they’re making.
1. Not tailoring pitches
Media outlets receive anywhere from five to 500 pitches a week, which makes the success rate rather limited. That’s why sending a generic, one-size-fits-all pitch is the worst thing you can do.
First of all, you don’t have to send a PR announcement to every single journalist on your mailing list. Reporters tend to specialize in one or two fields of interests, and don’t have time to be bothered with extraneous issues.
But even when you send a pitch to the right journalist, you need to customize a story so as to match the style and expectations of each media outlet individually. Some of them look for the latest news, while others demand data-driven insights or even sensationalism. Your job is to tailor messages that convince journalists to publish your story.
2. Not realizing your news is irrelevant
Here’s another very common mistake: PR pros are often not able to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. This is exactly why some press agents bombard journalists with all sorts of less important news—and why reporters stop taking their pitches altogether.
Needless to say, it’s a disastrous habit that can jeopardize your relations with the media. If you don’t want journalists to ignore you completely, I suggest following this principle:
- Breaking news: If something truly important to the full range of your target audience is happening in your organization, you can send it to news-focused media outlets.
- Interesting news: Sometimes you’ll have an interesting story to tell, but you should save it for niche-related magazines and journalists who are directly involved in your industry.
- Irrelevant information: Your clientxs probably share new facts or trivia with you every day, but it can be considered irrelevant to the public. The best option is to save these stories for your own site’s newsroom.
3. Creating too much hype
If you select stories carefully, they will probably be interesting and highly relevant. However, it still doesn’t give you the right to over-hype. Using superlatives and sensationalism like “the best ever” or “revolutionary” won’t convince anyone that your pitch is amazing. Instead, try to focus on real-life proofs, facts, and statistical findings that really show that your story is worth publishing.
4. Not preparing for follow-up
This is another very common mistake among PR pros because they think their job is over when they click SEND and disseminate the message. But this is often where the real work begins because you have to follow up in a timely and useful manner to make sure you’ve caught the reporter’s attention.
Jake Gardner, a public relations expert at Assignment Masters, says press agents must prepare for lots of calls and be ready to answer all sorts of questions: “Don’t underestimate the intelligence and curiosity of journalists—they will research the topic and try to find pain points in your story. Therefore, you have to prepare for it and learn everything there is to know about the topic.”
5. Going mute in crisis
Crisis management is a big part of the PR business, so it would be unwise to remain silent during unexpected events. As a PR representative, you have to react and find a way to communicate the issue and update accordingly—silence is only going to raise additional concerns and speculation.
6. Covering up negative information
The golden rule of PR is that a press consultant should never lie. I’m not talking about so-called white lies, but rather about big lies that the public is going to find out sooner or later. There are two reasons why you don’t want to hide negative information:
- You will harm your client long-term. The role of a PR officer is to minimize the impact of negative news on the overall reputation of a client.
- You will destroy your own credibility and journalists will not trust you anymore.
7. Writing poor copy
This one goes without saying, but a surprisingly large percentage of PR pros still don’t pay attention to their style of writing. You must spend enough time creating a flawless pitch because even the smallest grammar or spelling error can undermine your credibility. Fortunately, it is rather easy to make corrections these days using online editing services like AustralianWritings or Grammarly.
Journalists receive dozens of pitches on a daily basis, which means you really need to impress them if you want your story to be published. However, a lot of PR pros make serious blunders in the process without even noticing it, thus minimizing the odds of telling their stories to the public.
In this post, I showed you the seven biggest communication mistakes PR managers don’t know they are making. Remember these mistakes and make sure to avoid them – it will help you to strengthen your professional authority and build a career in PR.