PR Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

PR mistakes

Bill Gates once famously said, “If I were down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR.”

In many ways, that quote validates how important very successful businesses view public relations. Yet it is not always at the top of the list when business strategies are put together. PR is one of the most valuable tools a company can utilize, yet at the same time it is often one of the most misunderstood and misused forms of marketing and communications. While there are several posts on what good PR is, it is even more important to understand what PR is not and the common mistakes that people make when looking to harness the power of PR.

“PR – even though it is underutilized – is extremely effective when properly leveraged.” – Harvard Business School.

PR Mistakes #1: Unwillingness to Invest in an Effective PR Strategy

Topping the list of PR mistakes is the lack of investment. PR can be done in-house or through an agency. However, most attempts to garner good PR fail because of a lack of knowledge on how to do it properly or an unwillingness to invest enough time and resources for it to succeed. This comes in as the top PR mistake.

If the entirety of your PR strategy consists of writing short press releases and distributing them through distribution service like PR W*b, PR N*wsw*re, etc., then you are likely doomed to fail before you ever begin.

Marketing departments that dedicate a chunk of the budget to PR are much more likely to have a return on their investment (ROI) than businesses that just “dabble” in PR.

PR Mistakes #2: Poor Strategy/No Strategy

If you are willing to avoid the most common PR mistake and commit to the your investment, then the next step is to develop a roadmap to success. Any PR strategy will need to take into account who the target audience is and what their needs are likely to be. Remember, you are not selling or pushing a product with PR but instead providing a solution.

In this phase it is also crucial to understand your own brand. What is your value proposition, your key differentiators, your unique selling proposition and how do they align with how your competitors are positioned in the market?

To reap the greatest success out of a PR campaign, it is critical that you design a story for the brand that travels on a unique path, therefore standing out from the crowd. More tips on putting together good PR strategy can be found here.

PR Mistakes #3: Going too Broad with Media Outreach

Of all the things in PR, this one is probably the most common of PR mistakes; a desire to only target the largest media outlets like Forbes, Entrepreneur or The Wall Street Journal.

While these are all great publications, they are often not the most ideal way to reach your target audience. This is because going too broad is a mistake when it comes to marketing, 99% of the readers of those publications are probably not ideal customers for your business. Yet, there are a number of other publications where 80-90% of the readers are. This is where you should be positioned.

Determining the right media outlets to pitch is where PR professionals are often worth their weight in gold.  PR agencies typically already have established connections with decisions makers at those outlets. According to reports, this can increase the likelihood of a placement by more than 80%.

If you are going to tackle PR inhouse, then dedicate one or two people to media outreach. Take the time to actually connect with the key players. It may take 10 phone calls to reach an editor once and up to 200 phone calls a month to generate enough PR placements to reach critical mass.

PR Mistake #4: Poor Content

PR content is not advertising copy. It is most impactful when there is a direct benefit to the target audience. A press release that announces a new hire or a company award may not be the most ideal way to approach these subjects. Instead, develop content that mentions these things but within a broader article that ultimately helps your target audience.

It is vital to your success that you supply the media with useful information, not just fluff. This may be in the form of a pitch, offering up some expertise for use in a future article, or by writing the content yourself based on their editorial calendar- which is becoming increasingly important.

Additionally, PR content is even most credible when you get your customers to do the talking for you. This can be in the form of reviews or more commonly word-of-mouth testimonials. These testimonials are the single greatest tool for anyone developing PR content.

PR Mistake #5: Unrealistic Expectations

Finally, having unrealistic expectations is a sure way to jeopardize your public relations strategy before it has time to develop. Some people hire a PR agency with the idea that they will grow overnight. However, PR – like any form of marketing – takes time. You have to shape stories, build a presence in the market, and establish credibility.  It is important to be patient with any PR activity and give it time to deliver.

If you have already invested your time and resources into public relations – you have developed a strategy, wrote great content and made connections with media members – give it time to deliver an ROI. If you are patient and don’t give up on it too early, your business will grow a reputation that cannot be easily undone.  

“The only real asset one has is one’s reputation.” – Eric Betzig

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