4 PR Mistakes to Avoid

Author: Rieva Lesonsky | June 22, 2015

Marketing is key to business growth. I’d argue it’s one of the most critical factors since whether you’re selling the coolest products or offering killer services, if consumers don’t know you exist, you’re not going to be in business for very long. There are many ways to create buzz, including one, public relations (PR), that is often overlooked or ignored by entrepreneurs.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your business is so cool word will spread organically via your network of friends or on social media. Over the years of working with entrepreneurs, I’ve seen a lot of PR mistakes. We once got pitched by a self-proclaimed “green” startup that boasted about its environmental consciousness, yet sent five identical copies of their press kit, filled with non-recyclable package “popcorn,” and so much paper we were certain a small forest had been sacrificed. Needless to say, they didn’t get any press coverage.

If you can afford to hire an agency or professional to handle your PR, do it. If they have solid media contacts, that alone might be worth their fee. However, if you opt to do your own public relations, make sure you avoid these all-too-common PR mistakes:

Not having a plan. PR doesn’t just happen; you need to create a plan to ensure you get your messaging just right. That plan needs to include an “informal crisis plan,” says Gini Dietrich, the CEO, and founder of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She says, if something goes wrong, you need to be prepared with an immediate response in our always-on/always-connected world.

Ignoring social media. Many business owners claim they don’t have time to invest in social media, but the truth is you can’t afford to ignore it either. Check your social accounts regularly to establish relationships with consumers and the media. Connecting with bloggers, journalists and editors using social media may help you get some press coverage.

Using too much industry jargon. Whether you’re crafting a press release or communicating with the press, stay away from using too much insider jargon. Your message should be simple and clear. Don’t exaggerate or be hyperbolic. (Meaning don’t dub yourself the next Mark Zuckerberg—no one will believe you.)

Ignoring the media. If you hear from a reporter or blogger, talk to them immediately. These folks are always on deadline, and if they can’t get a quote from you, they’ll get one from someone else, possibly a competitor. Ask when the blog post or article will appear and make sure you amplify the media outlet’s and reporters’ social posts on your own accounts.

Even if you do hire a PR professional, doesn’t mean you’re free and clear of potential problems. Dietrich says you need to beware of thinking you know best. Yes, your business is your baby. And everything about it is glorious to you. But a PR professional will know how to tell your story in a way that gains traction, explains the brand, and scales your business. If you aren’t willing to adjust the story in your head, you may fail at telling the story your customers or the press want to hear.

And you can’t, Dietrich adds, “abdicate all responsibility to the PR team.” PR is a joint effort—and it can be a waiting game. “You have to put in time building relationships,” Dietrich says, “and not expect that just because a PR firm already has connections with those you need to reach, they can sprinkle some fairy dust and get you in front of the right influencers in a matter of days.”

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