When you want to achieve a measured, effective, and consistent public relations campaign, the best option is to hire a PR professional. But, the fact of the matter is, some people either don’t think they have the budget for that, or they feel they can go it alone.
More often than not, whether they get to a point they can afford an outside PR pro, or they create a crisis and can’t afford not to hire a pro, eventually people see the need. However, if you have not yet reached that point, I want to offer you some tips on how to avoid serious PR mistakes that could damage your brand or media relationships.
Whether you are initiating a narrative, responding to a crisis, or anything in between, delay is costly. While, yes, you want to get the message right, you also want to get the timing right. And, in most cases, the right timing is now, not, when you feel comfortable with it.
Reacting Versus Responding
One of the biggest PR mistakes you can make when trying to manage your brand narrative on your own is to react to media, rather than responding to it. This may seem like semantics, but the nuance between these words is vital to your PR position. A reaction allows the one who initiated or proliferated the message to maintain control of the narrative. You are communicating on their terms, not on your own. Responding, on the other hand, implies a careful, considered message.
Misunderstanding the Purpose of Media
While advertising is a key component of nearly every media’s business model, the media does not exist to promote your brand. The media exists to make a profit giving its customers — the viewers, listeners, or readers — the content they want. If people are not consuming their media, the value of that media plummets, so you can bet every media source you approach decides what they publish or broadcast based on that consideration.
That means there will be stories that are important to you and your brand that most media will not care about. Or, they may appreciate the story, but have something else that’s more in line with what their customers actually want. If you want your story out there, you need to find the sweet spot between what you want to promote and what the media wants to sell.
Overthinking or Overwriting
Nearly everything you send to a media source is going to be re-written, edited, or otherwise changed to fit the space they have and the interests of their readers. So, don’t overthink it. Research what that media outlet likes to publish and craft your release accordingly. Start with a salient, gripping headline, add an attention-getting, newsworthy lede, and then provide the facts and your contact information. Give the media representative what they need for the story and a way to contact you if they want to learn more.
Missing the Message
In a related point, before you even fire off that press release, research where to send it. You might want the city paper, a local news station, or a web ‘zine… or you may want an industry publication or a niche podcast. The idea here is to match the topic or content of your release with the media outlet best suited to publish it. A mass media outlet, may not be interested, but a local or niche media outlet may think it’s just what they’re looking for.
When crafting a release, follow the guidelines and instructions for the specific media outlet you are submitting to. They publish these guidelines for a reason. They are not trivial, and they definitely do matter.