The No. 1 PR mistake you should avoid

When planning for your earned media success, it’s important that you stay focused on your objectives—and ignore your own spin.

Many companies are no strangers to public relations disasters.

Mistakes happen, and when you’re representing a successful organization, those mistakes are very public, fueled by the voracious appetite of social media.

Yet, there are quiet mistakes happening behind the scenes that don’t get a lot of coverage. These mistakes aren’t massive, public customer service blunders or poorly-timed PR stunts, they’re the decisions your colleagues make behind the curtain that ensure that your organization stays hidden.

The biggest PR mistake: believing your own hype. It’s a misstept that leads to almost every other PR stumble.

If you have a great product and you’re really excited about it—that’s great. After all, if you don’t like it, why would anyone else? However, assuming that your idea is so unique and useful that it stands on its own is the first step to snowballing into subsequent mistakes that will ruin your PR strategy before you even implement it.

Whether it’s a product release or simply an interesting story about your company, don’t let your excitement derail your hard work. Celebrate your idea, then approach your PR strategy from the lens of someone with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Here are three things to ground yourself and properly deliver your message:

1. Think about your audience.

You already know that what you have to say is important to you, but you must step back, distance yourself from how passionate you feel about your message and pinpoint who you’re speaking to, why you’re speaking to them, and how to deliver a message that resonates with them. You might not be a member of your primary audience, and if you’re blinded by the hype you’ve created, it will be hard to distance yourself from your product and see this announcement from their perspective.

Companies who buy too strongly into their own messaging tend to lose focus on the people who really matter—the people who will use their product on a daily basis. Instead, they invest their energy in marketing to big shots and “influencers” who they believe will spread their story. Dependability and being true to yourself will always beat a flash-in-the-pan spike in popularity, so make sure you’re talking to the reliable, everyday consumers who will make your product a lasting success.

Ground yourself and think about:

  • Who are the people I want to share this with?
  • What types of stories are interesting to them?
  • What is my product solving for them?
  • How will this announcement affect my current and potential users?

2. Think about the bigger story.

Context is key, especially when courting media coverage. Reporters are looking at stories from a much wider lens and want the information they cover to be part of a larger trend or story. Chances are, your announcement itself is not very interesting.

It’s important to take a step back and look at what you’re trying to announce from a reporter and general audience standpoint—why is this interesting and how is it different from what’s already out there? Relate it to the current marketplace and trends, and make sure it’s backed by a larger message or story.

3. Make it useful and interesting.

This is your chance to be thoughtful and creative. Your announcement, product update or story is interesting from your point of view, but it might not be for reporters—many of whom are inundated by pitches. On top of that, your competitors are also releasing new products and updates. Assume that there are no truly original ideas and think about why your announcement matters.

Here are some ways to make a pitch interesting to a reporter (and to your audience as a whole):

  • Research the writer. Read their articles and find out their specialties and interests. Use this to inform your pitch.
  • Be succinct. Tell your story and get to the point as quickly as possible. Don’t waste space on long introductions and background information.
  • Show, don’t tell. Photos and videos of your product in action (if applicable) are a great way to do this.
  • Avoid buzzwords. This is universally hated by journalists. They’re uninspired, overused, meaningless and a quick way to show a reporter your story is not original.

So, the next time you’re looking to make an announcement, launch a product update or post a seemingly compelling opinion piece, make sure to take a slight step backwards and ask yourself whether what you’ve drafted should get the media green light. It’s important to believe in your company, but even more important to believe in the power of appropriate timing and positioning of a major announcement.

Carly Martinetti is the managing director and principal for Press Friendly.

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Topics: PR

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