PR pros share the worst PR advice they’ve ever heard

Guidelines on publicity, media relations and other industry fundamentals abound. Here are a few clunkers.

Everyone loves to give advice.

If you tell someone you work in PR, they can’t wait to tell you their secret tactic for PR success, which is almost always “create a viral video.”

I asked fellow pros about the worst PR advice they’ve ever received. Here’s what they said:

There’s no such thing as bad publicity

Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Many organizations have taken this to heart, but that viewpoint makes some PR pros crazy:

Every time someone says “any publicity is good publicity,” I want to stab my eyeballs out of my head. There’s lots of bad advice floating around, but THAT myth/advice is (insert best John Oliver voice) THE WORST. — Matt LaCasse

Perhaps there was a kernel of truth in it—before the advent of the internet.

Now, though, a brand’s missteps are easily collected through a Google search. Bad customer experiences live forever on ratings and review sites. Even deleted social media posts can have live on if they are captured in screen shots and published online.

Send at least one news release per month

That’s not a strategic objective; it’s busy work. You must have legitimate news for anyone to care about your “news release.”

Your latest revision to your product or rebranding of a model does not merit a news release:

When developing a product launch plan, the sales team always said, ‘Just write a press release.’ Um, kind sir, no one cares about your new widget.. It’s about developing content that resonates with buyers. — Maggie Fitzgerald

There are so many other things you can do to amplify your product launch. Post release notes on your blog, create a related series of contributed content, or collaborate with influencers on a virtual launch event. Don’t, however, send out a release and expect to see it get picked up if it offers no substantive value.

To increase sales, send a news release

PR isn’t an immediate boost to your company’s bottom line. It’s not direct marketing, and you shouldn’t measure it by a goal of immediate sales. Here’s one take on that flawed approach:

“This isn’t PR advice, but a PR funny. We once had a client ask the EXACT time his press release would be distributed online so that he could “man the phones.” Bless his heart. Years later, we still text each other “Man the phones.” when a PR is about to go out. LOL” — Tara Geissinger

If you are asked to send a news release to boost your company’s sales, push back. Explain that if they are looking for a direct sales tactic, you can help them with a drip email campaign, but putting out a news release isn’t going to accomplish that goal.

Similarly, a news release isn’t going to bolster your stock price.

It is your job, as a communications professional, to push back when you are given unrealistic goals for your PR tactics.

Just say ‘no comment’

It can be tempting to dodge a complex media request or a question about a looming crisis, but that “no comment” could do lasting damage.

Here’s how one pro handles the situation:

I didn’t receive this advice, but was copied on it. “Just tell them no.” I must admit, that I then sent a message privately to the recipient giving them suggestions on how to build a relationship with the media outlet so that they could understand the regulatory environment rather than shutting the door. — Julia Carcamo

By taking the time to talk with reporters and help them understand a complex industry issue, you can both build a relationship that has an ongoing benefit and help improve the accuracy of the reporting on your industry.

On the flip side, how many times have you read a particularly biting story about a brand, gotten to the brand’s “no comment” at the end and deemed that to be validation of the negative portrayal?

Unless your office is on fire, find a way to make time to talk to journalists who reach out to you.

A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

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Topics: PR

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