PR gaffes are generally easy to recognize. The digital backlash, a mishandled crisis, or a bungled blogger event offers instant learnings.  Mistakes are often debated, but they’re pretty clear in hindsight.  A less obvious miss is the public relations “opportunity cost.”  That’s the failure to take iStock_000014421394XSmall.jpgadvantage of the chance to build in an easy marketing PR component or extend a program by generating earned media visibility.

We give lip service to integration, but in the heat of the day-to-day marketing struggle, it’s easy to overlook or miss PR opportunities that may not come around again. Here’s my list of the most common tactical ways clients fail to realize a chance for positive PR.

1.  Failure to involve the PR team early.  When media deadlines are involved, timing is critical, and victory often goes to those who get out weeks and months ahead of a partnership opportunity, service innovation, or other news.  It will always pay to involve your PR group from the outset and to meet early and often as things inevitably change.

2.  Conference and trade show messaging.  PR and sales often function as puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit into a coherent brand picture.  The messaging should be tightly aligned for maximum visibility and brand benefit, right down to the booth tours and executive Twitter streams.  Fuller message integration, like an agreed upon “story of the day” strategy for a multi-day conference, can result in a synergistic 1+1=3 outcome in the final press coverage.

3.  Ad campaign launches.  Perhaps due to the creative frenzy that often accompanies the debut of a new campaign, the PR team is often forced to scramble for lowest-common-denominator visibility.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Forge a relationship between your ad and PR teams, and see #1.

4.  Likewise, a relationship with a celebrity or industry boldfaced name can be huge for brand visibility and reputation.  Yet, often the personality is booked purely for customer schmoozing, a retail appearance, or a sales conference.  For the price of an additional day, a full-scale satellite media tour or national media appearance can sometimes be negotiated.  Even when it can’t, a social media outreach, if skillfully handled, can extend the story with minimal extra effort or investment.

5.  Sponsorships.  Many marketers take on expensive or splashy sports or social marketing commitments and don’t realize that for a comparatively tiny additional sum, they can fund a PR campaign that extends and amplifies the investment.  No one knows this better than P&G. When it shelled out millions as a corporate sponsor of the 2010 Olympic Games, it added a PR component to honor athletes’ mothers by helping to defray travel costs for U.S. team parents who might otherwise not be able to attend the games.  It added depth and credibility, not to mention local market news value, to the “Sponsor of Mom” campaign.

6.  Employee stories. There’s sometimes PR gold inside a corporation’s walls or among its field staff.  Employees who’ve been responsible for key innovations or who’ve shown extraordinary commitment to community or social good are priceless fodder for brand and corporate reputation PR programs.  As a bonus, the company shows concern for its workforce and boosts morale in the bargain.  My team recently placed a story about a woman’s dramatic weight loss, made possible in part by the workplace wellness program and on-site gym furnished by her employer.  Our client received prominent mention as a great place to work, boosting ongoing recruiting efforts.

7.  Customer success stories.  Case histories are a B2B marketing staple, but there are often roadblocks to gaining customer permission, and by the time the PR team hears of them, they’re sometimes stale.  Permission to include happy customers in a PR program should be a part of every customer agreement, and the PR team should get the news before it’s posted on a corporate website.  A trade or business story is a more powerful website addition anyway.

8.  Executive travel.  This is a no , but C-level travel is often overlooked as an opportunity for media or analyst exposure.  CEOs and other officers increasingly serve as brand or corporate spokespersons, and it’s often productive to shoehorn a media or analyst meeting into an executive’s schedule. The results can be worth far more than the cost, or even the business benefit, of the trip.