How to avoid those typical PR blunders
PR, like many parts of digital marketing, can be a numbers game. You try different pitches to different publications and hope that something works. Along the way, you make mistakes and you learn from them.
Below, we’ve spelled-out five of the most standard mistakes of PR outreach so you can avoid making them.
- Mistake #1: Thinking news will come to you
It can be exhausting, but in order to get coverage, you need to seek it out. And today, there are more tools available than ever for low-budget, reduced-effort PR outreach campaigns.
'Info' and 'tip' lines are freely available online and more effective than you probably think, too and social platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn or software-as-service like MuckRack provide an opportunity to get in touch directly with people you might otherwise never have had access to.
Following a reporter’s social media feeds will give you a sense of their personality and what topics interest them. Re-tweets and shares may even help open some initial doors.
If you’re planning to reach out via social media, reach out through your most established account or the one most suited to the pitch.
- Mistake #2: Reaching out with nothing to offer
The news media is a fast-paced business. In the digital age especially, the pressure on publications is to get the latest news, first, and get it out as quickly as possible.
Don’t expect that a publication will be interested in covering 'your company,' because your company, in and of itself, is not news. And definitely don’t reach out before you have some to deliver on the news end.
Wait until you have a newsworthy announcement to make before seeking coverage. Otherwise, you’ll just damage your credibility and hurt your chances the next time you actually do have something to work with.
What qualifies as news? Well, that varies depending on the publication and writer and what exactly your business consists of. But these are a few standard announcements every business should be looking to use as launch platforms for outreach:
- Launches (you’re starting your business or releasing a new product)
- Fundraising (you’ve just raised $10,000 on kickstarter)
- Milestones (your company turns 5!, surpasses 10,000 users, gains 50,000 followers on Twitter, etc.)
- Acquisitions (your company acquires, or is acquired by, another company)
- Joining a cool club or receiving an award
- Mistake #3: Not minding your manners
A little politeness can go along way for you when your goal is to convince other people to shine a light on your business.
Again, PR is a numbers game, which means that strategy has to look forward, beyond this piece of news or this particular campaign.
Don’t become so committed to getting coverage for that one story that you squander what could be a lengthy and productive relationship down the road. Remember to always be courteous, even when the response you’ve been handed is less than ideal, or possibly rude itself.
Keep in mind that journalists are busy people, reading through more solicitations, emails, and press releases than you would ever want to. Empathize with that. Tell them, for example, 'I understand that you might not have time to respond.'
Be persistent, but know that no amount of badgering is going to get someone to publish a story if they don’t want to on its merits, and that a good interaction will pay dividends, if not now, then in the future.
- Mistake #4: Rushing your pitches
As much as you may feel like a machine sending out pitches all day, the reporters going over them are people.
And before those people get around to giving your press release the time of day, they’re going to read your email. It seems simple, but the best outreach email really is like the best marketing emails: personalized, cordial, brief, and professional. Professional means free of mistakes and well-mannered. Brief means no more than around five one- or two-line paragraphs.
- Give them a succinct idea of who you are and why they should be interested.
- Show that you took time to learn about the person and publication you’re writing to and that you’ve given some thought to how your news can fit the types of stories they aim to cover.
- And, of course, be polite.
Here’s a quick sample of how you might go about it.
My name is Joe Shmo and I’m contacting you because I enjoyed your article on improving digital marketing ROI and thought you might be interested in a new announcement from my company, SmartInsights.
SmartInsights is a prominent digital marketing strategy blog that specializes in providing actionable, analytics-based insights to our readers.
Next week, we’ll be publishing our latest e-book, “Planning Template,” which compiles professional digital marketing templates created by our team of global experts, and will be available free on our website.
Below I’ve attached an official press release, along with pictures of the book cover and some of the chapter pages.
If you’re interested, we would be happy to offer you exclusive access to the launch story, including interviews with any of our staff and/or the authors of the e-book.
I understand that you’re busy and might not have time to respond. If not, I hope you don’t mind that I send other announcements in the future.
Please, let me know if there’s ever anything I can do to help in the course of your writing. And thanks for your attention.
Editor-in-Chief, Smart Insights
- Mistake #5: Don’t ask for too much
It’s important to show that you know a journalist’s time is valuable:
- Don’t ask open-ended questions or approach journalists with frivolous 'just wanted to introduce myself' emails. Come when you have something, or not at all. The internet provides plenty of forums for casual interaction, but if you’re sending an email, there should be a purpose behind it.
- Don’t ask to meet for coffee, unless you’re already on casual speaking terms with that person. Anything you have to say or propose can be spelled out in a quick email, or it doesn’t need to be spelled out at all.
- Don’t offer anything you’re not prepared to deliver. Don’t, for example, reach out to dozens of journalists at once with an exclusive. If they say yes, and you have to turn them down, you may never have their ear again.
Much of PR is common sense. But it’s good to hear these things over and over, because you’d be amazed at how many savvy marketers and business people make the same basic mistakes. Making sure you’re not one of them is as good a way to stand out as anything unique you might bring to the table.