12 common mistakes PR pros make & ways to avoid them
From ignoring the local media to not building a strong rapport with the media, here are 12 answers to the question, “What are some common mistakes PR professionals make? and how can they avoid making this mistake?”
- Not Updating their Audience Persona
- Ignoring the Local Media
- Neglecting Rejections
- Not Learning How Embargoes Work
- Poor Research and Understanding of the Target Audience
- Sending Bland Generic Pitches to Media
- Not Staying Up to Date With Industry Developments
- Thinking Everything is News
- Style Over Substance
- Failing to Understand Cultural Contexts in Messaging
- They Don’t Know the Journalists that They Are Pitching
- Not Building a Strong Rapport With the Media
Not Updating their Audience Persona
The first step of strategizing a PR campaign is to identify your audience and develop an audience persona. While most PR professionals know and practice this step, most often they use the same persona for every campaign, which most of the time results in poorer engagement and audience reception. This happens because, as the business is going through even minimal changes, whether in its brand or services/products offered, the target audience changes to some degree as well. Therefore, it is not recommended to apply the same strategies that worked for past audiences, as it will likely not perform as well for new audiences.
Ignoring the Local Media
PR pros often make the mistake of ignoring the local media when building a reputation. The reason is that most journalists who cover national or international issues are based in the area where they report, so they are most influenced by local issues and can be easily influenced by local PR pros. The best way to avoid this mistake is to identify the local journalists who cover the issues that your company is concerned with. A good way to do this is to identify the local journalists who have won awards for their work. Then, create and maintain a relationship with them by supplying them with information and giving them access to your company’s spokespeople. By doing this, you will be able to ensure that your company’s message is communicated to the local community.
Even “no” can be a conversation starter. Once you get an answer from a journalist, it’s a perfect starting point to build relationships and get future publications on another topic. But most PR specialists neglect this fact. PR professionals often see rejections as failures and do not act upon this. Change the perspective – a “no” response can be a chance to start a conversation and become recognizable to a journalist, which can result in a positive response to your future pitches.
Not Learning How Embargoes Work
Not understanding embargoes. You can’t just send reporters confidential information, say it’s embargoed, and call it a day. Embargoes are an agreement that a journalist needs to make with the PR person before receiving the information. If they didn’t agree to one, and you just send them confidential information, technically they’re free to publish it. You can avoid this by spending the additional lead time on outreach to the reporter to secure an embargo before sending the information.
Poor Research and Understanding of the Target Audience
Failure to thoroughly investigate and comprehend their target audience is a standard mistake PR professionals make. To communicate and engage with their target audience effectively, PR professionals must conduct in-depth research into the demographics, interests, and requirements of that group. A more profound grasp of their target audience’s wants and preferences can be obtained by conducting market research and routinely soliciting feedback from that audience. This will help PR professionals avoid making this error. They can also look for chances to engage with their target market at events, on social media, and in other media to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what matters to them. Thus, to develop successful and effective campaigns, PR professionals must undertake in-depth research and understand their target audience.
Sending Bland Generic Pitches to Media
As PR professionals, one of the most common mistakes that we make is sending bland generic pitches, especially when we are trying to reach out to as many media outlets as possible. It is important to be able to customize our pitches and send them to the right media outlets. Quality over quantity. Sending a generic pitch to a media outlet that does not specialize in the pitch’s interest is not going to help successfully publish the pitch. The other thing is, the customization of the pitches should align and be suitable to the style of each media. For example, certain media prefer to get pitches about something that is following the trend and use the language and phrases that follow it as well.
Not Staying Up to Date With Industry Developments
One common mistake PR professionals make is not staying up to date with industry trends and developments. PR is constantly changing and evolving, and if professionals don’t stay current, they can miss out on important opportunities and miss key messages that they need to communicate. To avoid this mistake, PR professionals should regularly review news sources, research industry developments, and stay in touch with their professional contacts. Additionally, they should make time to attend industry conferences and workshops to stay on top of changes, as well as participate in professional networking events to stay connected with their peers. Finally, PR professionals should take the time to review their work and evaluate its success to ensure that their strategies remain relevant to their target audiences.
Thinking Everything is News
Not understanding what actual news is can lead to disappointment. Things like new company hire or mild accomplishments are not likely to appeal to a journalist who’s looking for a good story to tell. If you pitch things that are objectively uninteresting outside of the company itself, then you shouldn’t be surprised when they fail to land. Avoid this by curating your pitches more carefully. It’s better to send fewer pitches of higher quality than to spam reporters with stories they’ll never run.
Style Over Substance
Many PR professionals focus too much on the active elements of PR. Things like social media presence, creating high activity, and colorful content like images and videos or podcasts, are very important, but so is your more passive content. To that end, PR professionals shouldn’t lose sight of their abilities to write engaging copy. While it doesn’t turn heads the same way more interactive content can, this sort of content acts as a staple for the client you’re representing. Ideally, the copy should be interesting, grammatically pristine, and topic relevant. After all, it is going to be the kind of content that works for a brand, even when they’re focusing on those more immediately engaging forms of content. Don’t become so dependent on interactive media that you forget the basics of writing.
Failing to Understand Cultural Contexts in Messaging
One of the most important tasks for a PR expert is messaging. Getting the right message out is the building block of a successful PR campaign. While a lot of work goes into tailoring the perfect message, more often than not, PR managers tend to ignore the cultural context of these messages and how they may affect their delivery to the target audience. To address this, PR professionals must conduct in-depth qualitative research on the target audience to identify any cultural, religious, and even ethnic contexts that may affect how a message is interpreted. Understanding privilege and how it applies to the target audience is also important. This will allow them to tailor their messaging in a manner that doesn’t come off as insensitive and out of touch.
They Don’t Know the Journalists that They Are Pitching
As PR pros or subject-matter experts, we often focus on getting coverage, so we are always pitching our clients, projects, etc. Usually, most of those pitches do not receive a response. One of the main reasons is that most do not know who they are pitching. What does that mean? It means that most are not familiar with what that journalist writes about, nor do they know their interests and what stories they are passionate about, so often the pitches are entirely wrong. The best way to write a successful media pitch is to approach the journalist with the intent of being a source they can rely on to meet their editorial deadlines. Therefore, writing based on serving that journalist and incorporating their genuine interest is a successful pitch.
Not Building a Strong Rapport With the Media
Public relations is about building and maintaining strong relationships with the media-a key ingredient for successful PR campaigns. However, many PR professionals focus solely on pitching their story ideas to journalists. As a result, they often fail to engage or connect with the media on a deeper level, which can negatively impact the success of their campaigns. To avoid this, PR professionals should invest time in getting to know their media contacts personally. This can involve talking with them at press events and conferences, collaborating on joint projects, or reaching out via email or social media to build rapport. By doing so, they can gain a deeper understanding of each journalist’s interests and goals, helping them craft more effective pitches that resonate with the media. Also, by building strong relationships with the media, PR professionals are more likely to get favorable campaign coverage and valuable insider tips and advice on improving their work.
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