5 pitfalls to sidestep at the outset of a PR program

Before launching any campaigns, crystallize your goals, strategies and objectives. Don’t neglect smaller publications, and be sure to track your progress from the get-go.


When you get the green light to start a PR program, it can be tempting to floor the gas pedal.

You’re raring to enhance your visibility, build credibility and promote your expertise, but you should hold on a minute before accelerating your media outreach vehicle.

Here are five bits of advice to heed if you want to increase your chances of success:

1. Don’t put the cart before the horse.

Don’t pick up the phone, send an email or tweet at your target reporters until you have a clearly defined strategy. That means your team must fully understand the messages you want to share. It’s also important to confirm that your messaging and goals complement your company’s communications and overall objectives.

Here are four additional questions to clarify before proceeding:

  • What is the end goal of your PR initiative?
  • Have you developed an internal editorial calendar to stay on track?
  • Do you know how to reach the audience?
  • Do you have a compelling content to share?

Helpful, interesting, visually appealing content gives your PR program a launch pad. Make sure you have something worth clicking on before you get in touch with anyone.

2. Don’t run before you walk.

Reach for the stars, but don’t neglect smaller checkpoints along the way.

Go ahead and include high-visibility outlets as part of your outreach, but get your feet wet by securing coverage on smaller platforms. News begets news.

If you want to snag airtime on CNBC, start local. Aside from polishing your presentation skills, use whatever stage you can to give the networks proof of your style, your speaking ability and expertise. Build a portfolio, and showcase it via the news page on your website. It takes quite a bit of batting practice before you’re ready to hit 95-mph fastballs.

3. Don’t get distracted by shiny objects.

You have created your target reporter list with all the usual suspects. You’ve got trade publications on your radar, too. What about bloggers, freelancers and podcasters?

Editors and reporters read smaller outlets, which means you should be targeting those niche publications as well. Don’t get so stuck on the big boys that you miss opportunities ripe for the picking.

Diversify your outreach, and look for opportunities off the beaten media path. That podcast interview might end up being your best win of the quarter.

4. Don’t forget where you came from.

Neglect measurement at your own peril.

It’s impossible to measure success, over time, if you lack a comparison point of where you were before the PR program began. Fastidiously track all relevant metrics that demonstrate the impact your efforts are making. Make sure your goals align with whatever it is your executives care most about, and keep tabs on how your work compares against your competitors’ media relations initiatives.

If you fail to show leadership sufficient progress, your PR program might be short-lived.

5. Don’t run in different directions.

Perhaps you’d like to contact a writer who just published an article about your industry. You’d love to insert one of your company leaders into the conversation, though you’re not quite sure which one—or what he or she might talk about.

Before launching your program, make sure everyone is on the same page. Determine each potential spokesperson’s area of interest or expertise, and select who might be a good interview subject. Establish who is doing what—and when. If expectations are unclear, and you’re forced to scramble at the last minute, another bird will eat your worm.

If you want to succeed, take time to formulate and understand your strategy. Start out small and build momentum. Reach out to freelancers, as those relationships can turn into wins at numerous outlets. Also, of course, measure your progress along the way so you can justify your slice of the budget. That’s the best way to ensure your PR program survives long enough to bear fruit.

A version of this post first appeared on the SmartBug Media blog.

Topics: PR

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