It is quite easy to commit them, and most certainly they will not have a positive effect on the dynamic development of your career, while—in some cases—these PR sins can do so much as seriously harm it or even destroy your image and the image of your brand. Check (if you have the courage) if you’re not guilty of committing any of these sins and find out how to avoid them in the future.
Here’s how the industry experts responded to our mini-survey:
- Phoebe Chongchua, Brand Journalist & Consultant, The Brand Journalism Advantage
- Łukasz Majewski, PR & Marketing Manager, VML Poland
- Farzana Baduel, CEO of Curzon PR
- Rafał Sałak, Communications Lead at Prowly.com
- Łukasz Głombicki, Head of communications at LifeTube
- Sabine Raabe, Principal & Founder at Biscuit PR
- Sarah Parker Ward, Principal, Communications Catalyst at Kathleen Palmer Media
- Mark Preston SEO Expert (15+ Years) at Mark Preston SEO
- Krystyna Kulisz, PR Manager at Pixers
- Anna Miotk, Communication Director at Polish Internet Research, Business Communication Expert
- Daniel Lynch, Press Office Manager at Clearbox
- Tim Harrison, Award-winning comms guy. Strategist, Mentor
- Margaret A. Szwed- PR Executive at All 4 Comms
- Jamie Madrid-Han, President of Jamie Madrid Consulting
- Anna Złoczewska, PR & Marketing Specialist at GetResponse
- Marta Smyrska, CEO & Founder at Smyrska PR
- Paul Wilke, Founder at Upright Position Communications
- Fabian Greiler, Marketing & PR Manager at the corporate finance and venture capital advisor Venionaire Capital
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1. Not for everyone
There are still some false truths about the work of PR pros who allegedly spend hours drinking coffee with media reps or sipping on champagne in the fine company of celebs. Add a vision of countless banquets, camera flashes and red carpet strolls, and you’ll get a very attractive career perspective that lures many young people. Sadly, this vision has little to do with the reality. Our profession has once again been listed among the 10 most stressful jobs (1); let’s hope a red flag will be raised early enough for the young professionals to understand that the responsibilities of a contemporary PR pro are like a bottomless pit. In order not to drown in it, it’s absolutely necessary to get proper education and training for this profession.
2. Not for spammers
As part of the study “PR-owcy i dziennikarze – co sądzą o sobie nawzajem”* („PR pros and journalists—what they think of each other”), which I co-authored, we asked media representatives about the shortcomings of materials drawn up by PR pros. Over 82% of surveyed journalists pointed to their overly advertising nature. Not being tailored to the medium which a particular journalist represents came second (61%), while 38% of respondents were disturbed by the incompleteness of information. Journalists read our stories, but in order for them to make use of any of our materials, we should find a good topic and make sure to present it in the best possible way. And always try to ask the journalists about their needs instead of just asking them when our story is going to get published.
3. Not for those afraid of technology or those who are slaves to it
On one hand, we have press releases that are being sent in bulk or content which is published on as many social media sites as possible, and on the other—fear of the new. Technology streamlines and speeds up communication, but it cannot replace the human factor. Despite the fact that global transformation affects our industry, its nature hasn’t changed for many years. New technologies broaden our capabilities and provide new working tools. But people are most important here, not technologies. They are the pillars of our profession. And it’s always worth to recount that public relations IS human relations.
1. Too much selling, not enough nurturing
Whether it comes to attracting prospective leads or advising on strategy for current client campaigns—selling without nurturing is a deadly sin for all PR professionals.
In the business of public relations, managing and cultivating relationships is key to our success. We must always think smarter, build connections and be more commercially minded without being aggressively salesy.
Value-led interaction is what drives growth.
So seek to inspire—not to sell.
2. Long, dry emails
You have 20 seconds to impress a journalist, a lead, and a client.
Despite what many believe, the art of communication is rare, and the mastery—even rarer.
In PR, you may believe content-filled, information-rich emails are a superb use of your expertise, however the truth is no one will read them if they lack personality and a strong focus.
In George Orwell’s famous six rules for writing, taken from “Politics and the English Language”, he wrote: never use a long word where a short one will do—the same applies toyour emails—keep it precise and punchy.
If you do need to write a longer email or pitch, make sure to use sub-headings for clarity and bullet points for ease. Despite this sounding like comms 101 for dummies, we see this deadly sin daily.
Storytelling is a PR professional’s forte, so use your expertise to drive success.
3. Being Vague
Perhaps the deadliest of PR sins. PR as an industry is often seen as the “fluff of the fluff”—so don’t be a cliché.
As a PR professional, seek to be a thought-leader in your field, sector and specialism—this is what will attract and retain clients and audiences in a world where brand loyalty is key.
Curzon focuses on results-driven campaigns which seek to promote and protect reputations whilst driving growth through our experienced leadership and cutting edge expertise.
Our clients appreciate our focus on the tangibles; the granular, the detail. We fulfil this requirement through providing bespoke plans structured around KPIs and deliverables. Not only do these targets keep our strategy and delivery teams motivated—they also keep our clients satisfied.
Being specific is a skill which takes time to foster and one which never goes unnoticed, particularly in PR.
Though my field of specialization has always been closely related to communication, I just changed fronts—from editorial to communication precisely. The more easy will it be for me to list the biggest sins of PR pros—though at the same time I have a deeper understanding of some of them
1. Sending releases about beauty products to motoring journalists (DJA* 4/5)
Obviously this is just an example, but many studies show that most PR pros claim they’re great at matching content to audience, and, what’s interesting, just as many journalists are of the opinion that precisely the opposite is true. When I worked for Gazeta.pl I used to get 300 emails per day. A large part of these emails were press releases. There were also days when NONE of these releases were interesting for me. And NONE were in any way related to what was I doing back then.
I get that contact databases in media are massive. Right now I, myself, am going through an entire database and—using Prowly—I’m trying to arrange them in a way so I won’t bother those journalists who are not going to be interested in covering a particular story. I’m trying to categorize contacts and each time select the right people—after all, we’re communicating different things. One person is going to be interested in a press release about an investment in a company, while someone else will be drawn by a piece on the most viewed YT videos in a given month.
2. Calling the journalists every 5 minutes after sending your press release (DJA* 5/5)
I know that despite there are no clear indications of that fact, journalists—especially the ones dealing with the Internet and news—are extremely busy. And frequently—speaking from my experience—they can drop a specific topic when they’re pestered, nagged and pressed every 15 minutes. And there is nothing worse than calling the journalist 5 minutes after you’ve sent him an email.
3. I became the spokesperson like 15 minutes ago, but you’re going to wait a week for my approval (DJA 3/5, the closer to the deadline, the faster it increases to 1256756000/5)
During the first three weeks of working at LifeTube I received a surprisingly large number of emails thanking me for my swift response. I was curious why, so I started to ask around. I was told that it’s rarely the case that PR pros deal with anything or put something together quickly. It’s a well-known fact that where there are giant corporations, there will be problems with getting approvals. But there are issues that can simply be handled efficiently. Journalists usually need such “go aheads”/statements right away, in this instant, ASAP, so I’m trying—to the extent possible—to help them. Besides, I’m lazy—the quicker I deal with something, the sooner I get it out of my way :D
4. Mediocre titles, poorly written press releases
You know, from my perspective, the best press release is one which the journalist may without any problems (or humiliation) publish on his medium. We’re trying to follow the same rules on choosing titles and writing pieces as apply in media—the title must be sexy, the lead cannot be dull, and the most interesting parts should be placed at the beginning. And all this must be well and neatly written.
* Degree of Journalists’ Annoyance
A good PR campaign is easy to spot. It effectively builds a relationship between the company (or person) and its target demographic. It is memorable and leaves a lasting impression. It doesn’t have to be provocative or evocative; some of the best PR campaigns are simple in focus and scope.
Sometimes though, a PR campaign fails to deliver results and it may be difficult to understand why. PR campaigns can fall short for many reasons. Sometimes there are blunders made in the planning phase, while other times human error in execution may be to blame. Yet, there may be more fundamental reasons that good companies may launch PR campaigns with the best of intentions that fail to deliver on their promise.
Sometimes when all is said and done, the biggest mistake companies (or people) can make in PR is in how they approach it.
In my years in PR I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in PR campaigns. Ideas I thought would pan out have sometimes not, and approaches I thought were completely misguided unexpectedly hit home. Along the way, I have observed some common mistakes people and companies make in how they think about their PR efforts.
Think Local … Act Global
We all want to strike gold with our PR efforts, and to many, that means getting big time national exposure. However, while its ideal to get placement on the national news, getting a local reporter to cover the opening of your business or the launch of your product can be just as effective.
Why? Because local market press has the pulse on your local community, and your local community is your direct consumer base. It is a mistake to ignore the power of local media, and for that matter, online outlets, trade media, and blogs. A lot of people watch the local news; they wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a built-in audience. So why not take advantage of the PR channels that may exist in your own backyard?
I have heard a lot of people dismiss the power of trade outlets, but the same sentiment holds for these outlets: they exist because there is a market. At their core, trade publications exist because people have an innate desire to learn about and improve at their chosen profession. Placing an educational piece in a trade publication may be just the ticket to growing name recognition and trust with your end user.
The Wisdom of Knowing Nothing
There is a quote that has been attributed to Socrates that says “I only know one thing: that I know nothing.” There is wisdom in admitting the limits of one’s own knowledge. And when it comes to PR, one of the fatal mistakes is to assume the role of company expert. Simply put, companies hire PR experts to advise on Public Relations strategy and execution. The PR team must build trust and demonstrate competence. Once that is established there needs to be a continuous open channel of communication with the C-Suite and various company spokespersons. Journalists want accurate and not necessarily immediate answers to their media requests and enquiries should always be channeled to the correct expert under the supervision of the PR.
PR professionals are valuable for the objectivity they bring and this must never be jeopardized by getting too involved with a client’s cause or journey.
Thinking In a Silo
I think the biggest mistake PR pros make every day is operating in a silo. This mentality rears its ugly head in many forms. We don’t collaborate across disciplines enough. We complain that the Marketing department only sees us as press release writers, but we don’t do anything to proactively demonstrate the broader value PR brings to brands. We think “earned media” is so much more valuable than “paid media” that we band together and scoff at our colleagues in advertising. In the meantime, we miss out on amazing opportunities to create more successful integrated campaigns.
Stop thinking that the world begins and ends in the PR department and start thinking about all the ways your brand can connect with its consumers. Then do whatever it takes to get the right people involved to go achieve that vision, whether it means PR leads the charge or simply plays a supporting role.
Summing It All Up
There is no formula to a good PR campaign. It is equal parts art and science. Although there are certain PR principles that help foster success, there is often a need to shape and build a campaign in the context of the company (or individual) who is the focus, and to adapt the focus to the target audience. Success or failure often hinges on whether the concept is good or whether the execution was carried out. More often than not, the reason good companies put out bad PR is that they have unreasonable, outsized, or misguided notions about what PR can do for them.
I think the greatest PR sin is to discount it altogether in favor of digital media. In working with clients on content strategy, I’ve discovered that many of them narrow in on email and social for distribution, but actively engaging the press is still a critical method for reaching broader audiences and adding legitimacy to your claims. TV news stations, traditional newspapers, and digitized media outlets are all looking for interesting stories and shouldn’t be overlooked as potential collaborators. At minimum, organizations should proactively network with the press once a quarter. This also acts as a buffer for future unforeseen organizational crises. In times of mayhem, you’ll be glad to have a track record and history of dialogue with at least a few journalists and outlets.
This leads me to the second biggest PR sin which is to ignore a crisis communication plan. At minimum, your organization should have a communication hierarchy in times of disaster that dictates who becomes responsible for making communication decisions, as well as a timetable and distribution process for sharing said communications both internally and with the public. Something as seemingly simple as ensuring there’s a party responsible for stopping pre-scheduled social posts can actually play a significant role in managing a crisis communication plan. So while you can’t predict every possible disaster, you can and should put guardrails on your response approach to minimize potential confusion and harm.
For me, the biggest sin of all time and the one I see time after time is that people and businesses not understanding what PR is. They totally mix public relations with sales and start writing and reaching out with self-promotional material. Public relations is all about reaching out and making a difference or talking about something amazing that people would do anything for to publish. Businesses need to start thinking outside the box and stop thinking public relations is just about press releases.
Because I am interested mostly in PR measurement, I decided to describe the major mistakes done by PR professionals in this field. I call these problems the seven deadly sins of PR professionals. Here they are:
1. Lack of business thinking—PR professionals tend to forget about the main goals of their organization when planning PR activities. PR cannot be realized without thinking how communication should help the organization in realizing its main strategy. PR is not a set of creative activities only—it should be linked to other organizational actions.
2. Lack of thorough analysis before planning—PR professionals do not prepare initial analyses before planning PR activities or do it, but in a very superficial way. That causes further problems with PR strategy planning. As researches say, “garbage in, garbage out”. This works also with planning PR activities.
3. Insufficient planning—PR professionals make general plans with general objectives. It happens that they do not plan their activities at all. They realize their routine activities without rethinking how these activities may help the organization in realizing its goals.
4. Lack of consistency—realized plans are inconsistent. PR professionals state “increasing brand awareness” as a goal, but instead of brand awareness, they measure the number of mentions. PR professionals choose communications channels that are inappropriate to target groups or cannot justify enough why they have chosen particular channels.
5. Lack of measurement—PR people do not think how they are going to measure success when planning their activities. Sometimes they evaluate activities after finishing them, they gather as many measures as possible—but none of these measures is consistent with assumed goals.
6. Lack of methodological knowledge—PR professionals do not have sufficient knowledge about social research, methodology and research methods. That is why they have problems with using research in their work, especially when evaluating PR strategy. They also have problems with evaluating offers of companies specialized in any type or PR measurement—for example PR people were fascinated by automated content analysis some time ago. Had they known the methodology, they would have been aware that automated content analysis generates lots of errors.
7. Use of AVE—this is the consequence of all formerly stated sins. PR people compare their activity to buying advertising space, which is a completely different process. These comparisons are also inaccurate, basing on advertisement price lists and not the real prices paid by their organization.
As a former journalist who has made the move in to public relations, I have seen both sides of when it goes well and when it doesn’t. There’s little more annoying to be neck deep in the day’s news and then have to negotiate bad PR. These, in no particular order, are some of the worst sins you can commit in PR when dealing with the media.
• Lack of detail
Journalists always want more detail. They will read a press release and no matter how comprehensive it is they will think of something to ask. Be prepared for follow up questions. When you send out a press release know even more about what you are pitching and be prepared for the phone calls.
• Not knowing the audience
Working in Leeds for an outlet covering news in Yorkshire I would receive calls on a weekly basis from PRs in London (usually) pitching stories in Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham or even further afield. Do your research before you lift the phone or hit send on the email. Make sure the journalist you are contacting covers the relevant subject or geographical area and that your pitch suits the style of their publication.
• Ringing close to publishing/broadcast deadlines
Be aware of when the outlet you are contacting goes to print or goes on air. You will get short change from a journalist about to go into an hourly radio bulletin if you call at ten to the hour or just after the hour. Similarly regional TV usually goes on air around 6pm or 6.30pm and will often have lunchtime bulletins. Know those times and try to avoid calling too close to them.
• Changing or recalling releases
Sometimes it is unavoidable and journalists will generally understand that. When a client updates factual details that have already been released an apologetic phone call will usually be enough. Last minute changes to invitations or events and requests for minor changes to a story which has already been published will be looked upon less kindly though. Get it right the first time, check and double check the facts. Then check again.
• Not responding to media requests
If a journalist makes a media request relating to one of your clients, respond to acknowledge receipt of the request and find out what the journalist’s deadline is. Then get back to them as long before that deadline as you can. Journalists wanting a response from a company often struggle to get in contact with the correct person or PR agency and when they do it is likely to be a generic email address or website contact form. A swift response will go a long way to improving their perception of your client.
• Wrong tone in contact
If you do not know a journalist, do not act like you do. Over-friendly communication through emails or phone calls will only annoy the journalist you are dealing with. When a relationship has been built up over time it can become more casual, but jumping the gun will only put a journalist off you and the stories you pitch. Keep it formal and professional to start.
The greatest PR sin that I see companies make today is sending a one-size-fits-all Press Release to the media. The Press Release isn’t tailored to the news media publication and it’s usually focused solely on the company with little awareness of what readers or TV viewers might actually consider interesting. Sadly, many companies still send these types of Press Releases out and then wonder why they don’t get media coverage. The reason: that’s not a story!
Instead, companies should investigate what’s already trending in the media and then do “piggyback journalism”. Literally, jump on the back of that trending news story that the media is already covering and insert your company’s opinions and ideas to offer a different angle and possibly a sidebar story.
Another major sin is submitting a Press Release that is well written and offers a good story but to the wrong publication. Many times companies will randomly send out Press Releases instead of targeting the best publications and reporters. The latter takes more work but offers a much greater chance of media coverage because you’re sending your Press Release to a media outlet that covers the type of story you’re pitching.
Finally, in today’s high-tech world, the third biggest PR sin is for your company to rely solely on the media. Today EC=MC or Every Company Equals a Media Company. However, many people aren’t capitalizing on this. Companies aren’t publishing regularly like the media. They’re not telling their own stories. They’re not doing Facebook Lives to connect and build engagement with consumers. This is a PR SIN. It’s easier than ever to turn a company into a publisher and release the stories that are important to the target audience and the brand. It’s time “Think Like A Journalist” and reap the rewards and profits of “being the media”.
Top mistakes of a PR specialist:
First things first—publishing content which clearly sells. Focusing on delivering valuable information is the first and most important task for a PR specialist. We are not sales force; we are content creators who aim to attract the brand’s target audience. It is worth to distinguish the differences. Salesy content is one of the biggest sins of PR.
Focusing on keywords instead of the value of the content is equally wrong. Many of us were taught that we should aim for squeezing as many keywords in the communication strategy as possible. Search engines, however, work in a completely different way these days. They take into account a combination of factors. If we use the same keywords as our competitors, there is no guarantee that the content we have created will be indexed as valuable and worth displaying high in the rank. Only 20% of traffic comes from the top 10,000 keywords, 70% comes from highly specific 4-6 word phrases.
Here comes the discussable bit—not paying attention to trends. Most of the social platforms display trending content or even deliver the most searchable topics to our inbox. It is not a mystery anymore. The most interesting topics are always highlighted. Preparing real-time marketing content is a great way to get some attention, as long the content itself is unique and Google sees the piece of information that way. Not the greatest strategy for every industry, but useful for some.
Not updating knowledge and not being open for industry changes is an absolute “NO-NO” for every PR specialist. Marketing has changed rapidly over the years. From sales orientation it developed to product orientation, then to marketing orientation. Brands are no longer manufacturing for the sake of selling the products but to meet the customer’s desires, needs and wants. Today we would rather say that we develop integrated marketing communication programs with the customer in the center of attention, aiming to establish a long-term relationship and achieve profitability. 10 years ago we didn’t have wide access to all sort of social media websites, blogging wasn’t as popular as it is today and certainly bloggers weren’t influencing the customer’s taste. Currently, we are observing that traditionally the most influential media websites which are very often perceived as too commercial are in the decline stage, and the attention goes to individual influencers who attract their niche with their set of values.
This is such an obvious sin, but still very important and worth reminding—poor writing skills and choice of language. Lengthy copy, grammar and spelling errors, press releases without a clear purpose—these are the biggest sins of communication strategists. To add a few more—using industry jargon, hashtags, shortcuts, buzzwords which are perceived as boring, unprofessional and might result in lack of attention from media.
And here is the most common PR mistake: thinking inside the box. These days we are overloaded with information, it’s are coming from all different devices, at different times and angles. To stay ahead of what information your audience craves, you have to step out with your ideas. In fact some of the PR specialists are not creating press releases any more, they pitch the stories to the publishers, and they also create viral content which gets media and public attention alike. They constantly search for new media channels, build relationships with all sorts of influencers, not sticking to the usual set of media plugs.
Last but not least comes the lack of follow up and relationship building. Some PR specialists still seem to think that sending the information to selected media channels is enough. No matter how interesting the information is, how beautifully crafted story had been prepared, if you don’t contact the media channels after some time, they are not very likely to publish the story. First of all, the correspondence might disappear in the crowd, might be forgotten, deprioritized. Reminding about the story you have submitted creates an open space for building a relationship. The more we stay in touch with media, constantly supplying valuable content with a positive attitude and good word, the more inclined they are going to be to cooperate with us.
What are the greatest PR sins to avoid like the plague?
Not knowing who you’re pitching to. By this I don’t mean personally knowing the editor (though that always helps!), but not having any context around what the writer covers. There are so many ways to get to know the writers you’re pitching to and their areas of coverage/interests. Read their recent bylines and when you do pitch, explain to them why your story is a good fit for them/their audience.
Demanding and/or begging for coverage. This not only reflects poorly on you and eventually your client, it will hurt your relationship with the writer in the long run. Favors should be approached cautiously and infrequently. At the end of the day, everyone has a job to do and part of yours as a PR professional is telling clients when and why their story isn’t a fit for a particular outlet.
PR Deadly Sins
Everyone has something to confess—including PR professionals. So when it comes to the worst of PR deadly sins, the answer seems quite obvious to me: it’s keeping a one-sided relationship with your audience, partners and business environment. To be honest, I should rather say keeping NO relationship at all. It is the oldest, but unfortunately, still the most common failure among the bunch.
Though professionals admit they know what a great role social media play in building engagement with partners, some PR specialists try really, really hard not to notice it PR is mostly about the response, commitment and building strong relationships, not only about providing positive answers, even if no questions are asked. And such habits cause many communication misunderstandings.
Compare it to friendship—no one would like to get closer to you if you rarely talked to your colleagues and smiled only when in need of a favor.
The same goes for PR. Give your brand a chance to get familiar with the environment and of course, the other way around: introduce yourself, answer all the questions, ask what’s new (well, small talks are always a good idea) and don’t avoid difficult answers in critical situations. But please, don’t answer: “It’s not our decision, CEO/CMO/Everybody but me told us to do so”—I don’t know why, but such leading-to-nowhere answers still happen (it’s another great PR failure, too!)
Build engagement, but don’t lie and pretend (speaking of which, it is another common PR sin! No one trusts 100% in perfectly photoshopped images anymore). Show your audience that your brand has a human touch too, not only the ideal fake smile from the magazine cover. It will pay you back with trust, which is the greatest reward.
Working in PR is not a piece of cake. Results of our job often depend on others, thus we can’t always predict if our goals will be achieved or not. Unfortunately, some PR pros look for help in using shortcuts or overstating quality of clippings they would never report to a client in more “positive” circumstances. In spite of the fact that vast part of PR activity happens in digital, many PR people still use AVE as their major reporting metric. That’s one of the biggest sins ever—don’t tell your client how much money they saved. Start measuring. Tell them how many people read their stories, how many customers downloaded their apps or visited their online stores instead. This is the kind of knowledge PR should provide to show how it impacts the client’s business.
Generally, everything we do should be based on knowledge—industry insights driven from analysis and observation. This should always precede a strategy construction process, otherwise we’ll build plans and ideas not knowing if they answer any consumer needs. The risk is that your client will lose a lot of money, and you may lose a client.
There are also various issues often pointed out by journalists. I think the most popular one is when PR pros—junior staff mostly—call and ask something like “Did you receive our press release?” They certainly did if you emailed them. “When can we expect it to be published?” Probably never. We often forget that there’s “Relations” in PR for a reason. Show them you’re here to make their job easier.
However, the toughest sin I can think of is as old as the world. Lying takes you nowhere. There’s nothing wrong if you don’t have all the answers. Excuse them, consult with your team or client, and then come back with what they needed. Don’t lie, because eventually they’ll find out. Good journalists always do a fact-check before publishing anything. And if your lie gets published somehow, it’s even worse. Your client will see it. Other journalists will know. Regaining their trust will take months.
As modern comms professionals, we have quite a legacy to live with. Whether it’s the dark arts of spin or just the slothful liquid lunch, the sins of previous generations persist in the public imagination. Like the old joke, I tell my mother I am a tax inspector to spare her the shame of having a PR guy for a son.
These days, we are a profession more sinned against than sinning. It’s hard work. It is stressful. We are creative, ethical, committed. But sins cast a long shadow and we need lights to guide our way. And among those comms commandments, if you like, there is one I’d say is right near the top. “Don’t be boring.”
Not being boring means putting your audience first. It means thinking rigorously about their motivations, their concerns, their fears and their joys. It’s about delivering them relevance and resonance. It means floating their boat, not floating something down the River Thames*.
It means scrapping jargon or buzzwords. It means rooting your communications in truth. But it means coming at that truth from a fresh angle or perspective, not from somewhere worthy or predictable. Not being boring is about favoring the evocative image over the long paragraph. It requires a belief in the supremacy of ideas over explanations.
This is all easier said than done. We can get too wrapped up in our own worlds. We can be short of time or budget. We can listen a bit too much to our client/boss. We can be unclear about our objectives, which will play out in a message which pleases no one by trying to appeal to anyone.
So whenever you are planning a communication, ask yourself “Does this press release really add to the stock of human wisdom?” (Clue: probably not) or “Will the world really benefit from yet another hashtag campaign?”. And answer honestly. If all else fails, try this. Plan the safe, predictable, obvious thing that everyone else would do. Then try the exact opposite.
HT @alpinejoejoe :-)
In my opinion, it’s all about the basics. With our taking on more and more responsibilities it may become difficult to keep what’s most important in sight. And here’s my take on the subject, even though it might be considered naive:
1. Remember the “public” and the “relations”—when selling is becoming our job more often than just communicating, transparency, understanding and clearly-stated intentions should remain key.
2. Forethought rather than afterthought—empathize, predict, plan and prepare accordingly. It takes a skill and a lot of work, but in the end always pays off.
3. Remain human-centric even when using most sophisticated technology—human interaction dwindles as the daily world becomes more and more complex. Keeping the human in focus can help with the wave of loneliness and exclusion many feel.
4. Keep your communication data-informed but not data-driven—data is key to establishing proper target groups and the means to reach them. It’s up to you to find the right way to use it to make informed decisions without becoming its slave.
7 Deadly Sins PR Pros Commit
I used to work on the client’s side and I remember very well what was it that I found so annoying about PR consultants back then. Now, in my work as a consultant I’m trying to avoid the mistakes listed below.
PR consultants should be fearless, that’s pretty obvious. Otherwise, they won’t be able to make their clients trust them and follow a designated direction. However, having a dismissive attitude towards your client’s business and trying to force through your opinions against his will and experience is—as I felt on my own skin—really annoying.
Not being able to admit your mistakes
PR pros are people like any other, and “to err is human”. But out of an ungraspable need to keep a stiff upper lip, some consultants are hiding behind an impenetrable defense shield. At one point, I cooperated with an agency which must have made it its point of honor not to admit any mistake, not even the tiniest one. Their explanations for why a given problem was absolutely not their fault took up a lot of time that could’ve been spent on taking corrective action.
Not having a sense of tact and staying half a step behind the client
To our clients we are not only partners, but also service providers. It is us who should ensure our client’s comfort or stay on his side, and we must never go against him. It seems obvious. One of my clients once told me about how a PR consultant who, when accompanying her at a conference panel, attacked a thesis stated by her during her presentation. It is also appropriate not to put oneself in a position above our client. I remember how impressed I was when at the groundbreaking ceremony for IKEA, representatives of the agency providing services for the client came to the construction site wearing smart casual outfits. The guests wore elegant clothes, the agency reps’ attire emphasized that they came to work.
Poor-quality written materials
This is something that journalists who receive messages that are sloppily drawn up and devoid of essential content often complain about. They claim that frequently PR pros pay more attention to the form in which they wrap their information than to the message itself. Being able to avoid this commonly committed sin is what makes my agency special!
No transparency in contacts with the world around us and hiding your true intentions is a policy that is as commonly used as it is extremely short-sighted. With such behaviour, PR pros are not only defeating their chances for maintaining good relations, but also adversely affect the reputation of the communication industry.
Promising the end of the rainbow/pie in the sky
Yes, showing the positive side of the world may become a second nature of PR pros. However, especially at an early stage of the project, it is worth to bring a good deal of scepticism into the relations with your client. “Don’t paint seagulls in the prospect’s picture,” as Sandler advices PR consultants. There are many things that can go differently than we expect in life. In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.
Inaccuracy and lack of diligence
The problem with quality control concerns us to an increasing extent. In a stressful environment, with constantly increasing demands and the need for juggling between so many different channels, tools and project, making a bigger or smaller mistake is just a matter of time. A client representing the IT industry brought me a solution to this pressing matter: I implemented Scrum in my team. One of the fundamental assumptions of Scrum is the constant cooperation of everyone involved in a particular project, including the client, which also implies joint quality control at each stage of the project.
At a time when automation and artificial intelligence are increasingly affecting our lives, the answer to the question “Does a perfect PR pro exist?” is: “Not yet!”
I think one of the biggest sins we’re surprisingly seeing more and more of, particularly in tech, is what I call “Navel-gazing PR”, which is the tendency to put too much self-serving information out in press releases and story pitching that’s only interesting or compelling to themselves. This includes winning awards, product updates that aren’t really product updates or data that only reflects “how great we are” or “how important we think we are”. It’s an epidemic that PR professionals are fighting more and more about with their clients. It’s likely stemming from the fake news trend and trickling down to the strategy that if you put anything out, someone will cover it, which isn’t the case at all. Our advice is to avoid this at all costs and take a purist approach: If you provide good, accurate, interesting information to reporters, they’ll be more inclined to cover you in a way that’s more valuable and rewarding.
Fabian Greiler, Marketing & PR Manager at the corporate finance and venture capital advisor Venionaire Capital, @
The biggest PR sin is to have the same working routine as ten years ago. Many PR pros will tell you that the inevitable “Did you get my press release?”- call is a no-go today, but in truth, the sinning starts much earlier.
Excel and Outlook
Many PR agencies still use Excel sheets as their primary contact database. If they send out a press release, they simply copy and paste all email addresses in BCC.
This procedure opens the door for many potential fuckups. First, hosting providers limit the number of recipients within one email. Agencies tend to split their mailing list into several parts, but this gets messy very fast. You always bear the risk, that one journalist gets the same press release multiple times. Second, it could happen that a sender mistakenly pastes the email addresses in CC instead of BCC – showing the journalists who else received the info. Third, this method almost never offers an unsubscribe button, which can be a reason for being identified as a spammer and causing reputational damage to your domain name.
Sending out press releases through your email client is also not giving you any insights on how often a recipient opened your email or how he interacted with the information provided. You also cannot compare statistics of press releases, which is important to evaluate when and what topic gets the most attention.
SEO in PR
PR pros know the importance of positioning an expert in the media. However, only a few consultants put a focus on SEO. This surprises me, as studies clearly show that the vast majority of journalist start their research with a simple google search.
A deadly sin
When digitalization hit the media houses, they often condemned or ignored it until they had no other option. PR should learn from this example. Keep doing it the old-fashioned way will become a deadly sin for every PR expert.
Any man is liable to err, only a fool persists in error. Which mistakes to avoid when sending press release? Find out HERE