PR is a fantastic way to build awareness for you and your brand and connect with your customer base. Unfortunately, many people botch up this free and incredibly valuable avenue of business development.
The media are a well-educated bunch with good memories. If you don’t want to rub them the wrong way, avoid these 12 common mistakes.
1. Not researching the outlet
It’s important that you pitch the right news story to the right outlet. Media companies have to meet their customers’ needs just like anybody else, so they run only those stories that relate to their audience and to the heart of their publication or broadcast show.
You’ve got to research news outlets and make sure that your story is in line with the character of their content and needs of their audience.
2. Not reaching out to the appropriate contact
Within a media outlet, there are a variety of reporters, hosts, producers, editors, writers, and managers. Each one manages and is passionate about a different topic or “beat.”
Don’t pitch a finance topic to a fashion editor, unless it’s about “how to avoid department store credit card debt” or something else relevant to that person’s specific beat.
3. Not pitching an angle
Journalists are busy people, and when they’re sifting through dozens (and sometimes) hundreds of pitches they need to quickly sort through the piles of emails, faxes, and voicemails to find the gems that are going to break that day.
Make it easy for them (and improve your chances) by giving them an angle for the piece. Don’t make them search for it in an email that does nothing more than sing the praises of your company. Tell them how what you’re doing now would matter to their outlet.
Sometimes there are four or five different angles that might make sense for an outlet, but it’s key to pick an angle, commit to it, and pitch it. You can always pitch the rest later.
4. Long-winded pitches
People in the media are driven by deadlines. They don’t have time to read two-page emails. Boil down your pitch to the key angle and core facts, and don’t forget to include contact information so they can follow up if they need more.
5. Attacking the competition
No one likes a Jealous Jill. Companies who attack their competition within their PR (or who try to create fake bad PR—no names, no names *cough* Facebook) don’t make the competition look bad, they make themselves look bad.
Focus on what you do well, and ignore the competition. If you really are better, your reputation and the quality of your work will speak for themselves.
6. Falsifying facts
Integrity is essential in reporting. If a media outlet is caught lying to its readers, it’s very hard to earn their trust again, regardless of whether it was done on purpose.
If you falsify facts and a media outlet finds out about it—or worse—they’re called out on it, good luck getting any media coverage from them or any of their sister companies ever again.
7. Not building relationships
Business in general is about relationships. Journalists are just like any other people and any other business. They pay back the people who are interested in them as people, so be sure to build relationships with the key reporters and outlets in your industry.
Social media has made it easier than ever to make those connections. Go connect.
8. Ignoring local media
We all want to be on Oprah, on CNN, or in The New York Times, but don’t forget about your local media. For one thing, local media love to support local businesses.
They’re also the people in the trenches networking in the community day in and day out. You want them on your side. You also want to benefit from their success as they move through the ranks.
Every big shot you see today had to start somewhere. Just like anyone else, they reward the people who worked with them before they became Oprah, Robin Roberts, or Bob Woodruff.
9. Ignoring one kind of media
A sound media campaign goes after both traditional and digital media across all media. Going after just print, pursuing just television, or ignoring new media all minimize your chances of getting valuable coverage.
10. Trying to use it to promote non-newsworthy things
Media are interested in what’s happening now, what’s timely and relevant. It’s called “news” for a reason. Awards you got two years ago don’t count, nor do sales or the fact that you’re still open. Think about what you like to read about or what piques your interest when you’re watching the news.
11. Not going for the scoop
Media deal with some pretty stiff competition. They want to get the story no one else gets, so if you have an item that you really want to get into a specific outlet give them the scoop first. Then if they don’t bite, you can start mass-pitching every one else on your list.
12. Not looking beyond profile pieces
Media is a content game, just like anything else in the digital age. We all want to get a nice interview or profile piece, but sometimes journalists are just not interested, especially if you’re a small fish just starting out. They need to inform and entertain their readers, so help them out by pitching helpful articles or tips based on your expertise.
The more they can view you as an expert source, the more likely you are to get articles, quotes, and even profile pieces done in the future.
Above all, do your due diligence. Find out what makes relevant media outlets tick. Build out those relationships, look for opportunities, and never ever fall for the lie that bad PR is still PR.
Every fallen starlet and corporate scandal target would agree that it’s your reputation on the line. Take care to ensure it’s a good reputation.
Shennandoah Diaz is the CEO and Master of Mayhem of Brass Knuckles Media.