PR isn’t for everyone. But even businesses who stand to benefit from an investment in public relations can hesitate, often due to uncertainty about outcomes. As an industry, PR hasn’t always done a great job defining or managing client expectations, particularly when it comes to the earned media piece of a PR program. But when PR doesn’t work, it usually boils down to a handful of reasons. Below are the most common reasons your PR is not working.

The goals are too vague. Here the PR investment is tied to outcomes like “increased visibility” or “leadership positioning.” But one company’s visibility is another’s table stakes. It’s critical to agree upon specific deliverables and granular messaging for the program, as well as target media sectors, social platforms, and content distribution strategies, among other elements. Here, the devil is truly in the details. The PR Council offers some very useful guidelines, including this PR relationship “owner’s manual.”

You have no news. That’s right, working media need something new, timely, or relevant to their beat. While a PR team’s expertise can help identify and develop the pitch, they need the raw material (hint: a new website isn’t news.). It’s important that you or your PR agency put yourself in the reporter’s shoes and approach them accordingly.

You’re trying to do too much, too soon. Even with news, the earned media outcomes generated by a PR campaign can take time, and the window varies widely from one story or client to another. A news announcement like a funding round is typically offered to a key media outlet, published, then quickly disseminated more broadly, but a feature story can need months to take shape.

You’re aiming too high. Not every story is worthy of a Wall Street Journal op-ed or a national morning show segment. Media tends to follow media, so sometimes it’s best to start with the long tail and build up to a top-tier trend story or feature.

The media pitch isn’t personalized. Top tier media want something on an exclusive basis, and they know when they’re being spammed. An email pitch sent to hundreds of reporters isn’t as likely to land as a handcrafted pitch created specifically for a NYT, Mashable, or Fox Business.

Your pitch is all about you. There’s definitely a place for service content, particularly in B2B sectors, but the key word here is service. Whether it’s earned or owned, the resulting article or post must focus on a customer problem or solution, trend, or offer useful information of interest to your end user. If it’s all about selling, it’s likely to be overlooked.

Your spokesperson isn’t right. I’m a big believer in a natural interview style (over coached spokespersons can be flat and unexciting), but it’s important that the CEO or senior executive speaking for the company be in command of the facts, offer examples or proof points, and focus on the most relevant aspects of the interview or story. An overly cautious or commercial spokesperson is a publicity killer.

Someone else is telling your story (better). Occasionally clients point out a story featuring a competitor and press the PR team to pitch that particular journalist. Of course, that’s a counterproductive strategy. Journalists don’t write the same story twice, so the best approach is to find a fresh angle and focus on other media outlets for your pitch.