PR pros, are your bosses making these 3 awful mistakes?

Agency chiefs and upper-tier managers can fall back on terrible tactics in trying to serve the client. Those behaviors annoy employees, though, and ultimately undermine your efforts.

Ever had a really bad boss? We’ve probably all had at least one at some point.

We all want to work as a team and help each other out so we can perform at our best for our clients, but some behaviors by higher-ups are simply counterproductive.

Before I get into the things that PR bosses have to stop doing, let me say that the boss is dealing with issues that employees don’t even know about. The boss is having conversations and negotiations above staffers’ security clearance.

Don’t think the boss is an idiot and that you can do his/her job. Don’t think, “This place would go out of business without me!” It won’t. It was around before you got there, and it will be around when you leave. Always try to be sympathetic if you can’t truly be empathetic.

That said, here are three things that PR bosses do far too often:

1. “We need to get something! Anything! We’re going to lose the client!”

This doesn’t make sense on several levels.

First, if I’m the boss and I’m the one with the experience and the knowhow, I’m stepping in. If an account coordinator or executive isn’t getting media placements and it’s getting to the point where the client is going to drop you, then you’d better start dialing up your own contacts pronto. If you can’t do this, then there is another problem: You’re pressuring your employee to do something even you can’t do. That’s not fair.

The only time this would actually be useful direction is if the person doing the pitching was sitting around doing absolutely nothing all day. Then, this would make sense (and you would have fired them long ago with cause, so this probably isn’t the case). Sometimes, though, journalists just aren’t interested, so upbraiding your employee as the reason you’re losing a client is not conducive to a healthy workplace.

Instead, why not try to figure out what the problem is? Are journalists not getting back to you? Are you getting media outlets saying they won’t touch that new product because it’s on Kickstarter? Are cable TV shows simply not interested in the client because they are discussing the elections 24/7? PR bosses should find out what the problem is and then work to find a new strategy or angle. Simply saying “we need to get something!” isn’t productive at all.

2. “This press release needs work.”

If you want your employees to write good press releases, you have to teach them.

PR classes in college don’t mean much, because every agency has its own way of writing them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bosses send back press releases with broad feedback such as, “This press release needs to be fixed.”

Maybe it does. What do you mean exactly? Where could I improve it? Is the headline bad? Did I miss the mark with the angle and direction? Could my sentences be tightened and more potent? Give me a little help here!

When an employee sends you a press release for your comments and approval, ask yourself whether your response is constructive. It’s basic advice, but don’t be dismissive and expect the person to figure it out. They’re here to learn from you; that’s why you’re the boss.

3. “Let’s get something locked down today.”

This one burns me up big time, and I’ve heard it from agency people at all levels.

You’ve been pitching a story for a couple of weeks. You’ve gotten some decent feedback from journalists:

  • They like your story but are jammed up until the following month.
  • It’s interesting, but it would need another aspect that’s missing right now.
  • They like the story, but don’t have time to do anything on it because of the elections (notice a theme?).

You’re close. You’ve gotten nibbles. It’s a solid story, but no journalist has bitten just yet.

Then you hear this from your boss: “Good job on this; let’s get something locked down today, OK?”

Oh, really? Is that all I have to do? I’ll just decide to make media outlets do something—today. Why didn’t I think of that? The answer was staring me in the face the entire time. I’ll just tell that CNN producer: “We really need to get this interview locked down. Let’s put this in stone today; my boss is tired of waiting.”

That will go over brilliantly.

If we all take a deep breath and think about how we’re communicating with our employees, this all makes perfect sense. It’s not about being a bad PR boss at all; it’s about subconsciously slipping into lazy habits and taking shortcuts to reach our ultimate goal, which is to make clients happy.

What else would you add to this list, PR pros?

Micah Warren is co-founder of Large Media, Inc. and has been a public relations strategist for more than 15 years. A published writer with an incredible track record of media placements, Warren has gotten his clients in USA Today, Fox Business Network, Bloomberg TV, and many other newspapers, television shows, radio networks, websites and trade publications. A version of this article first appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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Topics: PR

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