Just like with anything DIY, when you handle your public relations efforts yourself, without the guidance of a seasoned professional, you’ll make mistakes along the way. And that’s okay – it’s all part of the learning process.
But, the sooner you can learn what mistakes to avoid, the sooner you’ll see your PR efforts start to pay off.
Following is a list of five of the most common PR mistakes, along with tips for how to avoid making them.
Mistake #1: Thinking from your own perspective.
You know why you think your company is the next big thing, but what would a reporter think?
To pitch effectively, you must step outside of yourself and your own interests and start thinking like a reporter. Remember: it’s not a reporter’s job to promote your company. It’s a reporter’s job to cover stories that are important, interesting, or relevant to his or her audience.
Instead of focusing your pitches on your company’s products or services (too promotional), for example, craft a pitch focused around your industry expertise (helpful, relevant to a reporter’s audience). In other words, instead of “write a story about how great my company’s products are!”, think: “I’ve grown a successful product company and can share valuable tips to help your readers do the same.”
If you’re struggling to think from a perspective other than your own, ask your friends, family, clients, and customers about what they value most in whatever it is that you offer. The feedback of trusted company outsiders can be invaluable in helping you to identify truly compelling media pitches.
Mistake #2: Blasting generic email pitches to long lists of media contacts.
When you develop a list of media targets, research each target before pitching them to make sure they really are a good fit for your story idea.
Then, craft a specialized pitch for each contact. You can certainly use some of the same language across emails, but find a way to customize each email to the individual reporter you’re pitching.
It’s worth the time and effort this takes. You’ll hear back from more journalists than you would otherwise – and, more importantly, journalists will have more respect for you and your outreach effort.
Mistake #3: Including too much information in your email pitches.
The goal of a media pitch is to interest a reporter in your story; it’s not to provide them with all the information they could ever need about your story.
Reporters are busy, and they receive dozens (if not hundreds) of unsolicited email pitches a week. Help them out – and improve your own chances of success – by keeping your pitches concise.
As a general rule of thumb, two to three paragraphs is a reasonable length for a media pitch. Include the most important information about the story you’re pitching, and include the most compelling information. Anything else, leave out. You can share more details or background once you’ve secured a reporter’s interest.
Mistake #4: Following up incessantly.
One, sometimes two, follow-ups are appropriate in most cases, but any more than that and you run the risk of annoying the reporter you’re trying to befriend.
We all (including reporters) overlook an important email from time to time. One friendly follow-up to an unanswered email pitch is completely acceptable. If, however, your follow-up is met with silence, it likely means the reporter isn’t interested in your story at this time. Move on to your next media contact.
Use your best judgement when it comes to following up a second time. If you have new information to share, for example, it could make sense to send a second follow-up email that includes this new information.
Mistake #5: Not following through on a media request.
A surefire way to burn media bridges is to drop the ball on a media request.
If a reporter asks for more information or an interview, or anything else, get back to them promptly. If you need time to pull together whatever they’ve asked for, acknowledge their email and get to work compiling the requested materials.
If you can’t follow through on media requests, reporters will move on to the next person – the one who can follow through in a timely manner. You’ll lose your opportunity.
Learning to avoid these common mistakes will quickly improve your PR efforts and help you see greater media success, faster.