I’ve written a lot about what people should do when it comes to taking on a publicity campaign. The tips and strategies I lay out are — for the most part — simple and could be considered common sense, but I frequently come across a lot of people who still have problems when it comes to their PR initiatives. Look, it’s not easy. The reason I’ve been in the game for over 20 years is because I love the challenge. And I love the rewards! Nothing feels better than landing a client a feature in a glossy magazine, but if it were simple to do, I would’ve left the PR game a long time ago.

See, I’m a thrill seeker! I love to kayak raging rivers and I have this unending desire to ride my motorbike along rugged mountain trails — both challenging, both risky, but both providers of a wonderful payoff. What a feeling you get after making it across a rocky pass, or making it through the rapids… body and kayak intact! But the slightest misstep can pull that thrill right out from under you. You have to be on point, do everything you know is right, and make sure you don’t do anything you don’t know wrong. It’s the same with publicity. And I frequently see four things that, even if you do everything right, will keep you behind the pack, struggling for exposure and will be a major hurdle — or rocky pass — for you to get over.

1. Not doing your homework — What happens in school when you don’t do your assignments? Maybe you make up an excuse and get away with it, but most likely you have to face some consequence like a bad grade on a test, detention or being reprimanded by your teacher. When it comes to PR and you don’t do your homework, you’ll have to face this consequence: No media placements!

With the Internet you have such a valuable tool at your disposal to research the media venues (your homework) that are the best fit for you and your expertise. When you do this research you’ll be able to craft a pitch that’s relevant to the media contact you’re sending it to, which will increase your odds of receiving a response and scoring a placement. And a word of advice: Saying your dog ate through your Internet connection isn’t going to do any good.

2. Thinking the media serves you — I hate to break it to you, but when you enter the PR world don’t liken it to dining at a fine restaurant. There’s no host to seat you, no world-class chef to cook for you and no wait staff to serve you. Why? Because you’re those things! The media isn’t at your beckoned call. You have to serve them. You have to create the gourmet experience — your content is the filet mignon; your pitch is the waiter who can explain in layman’s terms the aromatic differences between Bordeaux and Cabernet; and your interview is the tuxedoed man who comes to your table to play Bonporti’s Invenzioni a violino solo — or a Macarena-playing Mexican.

3. Not being clear about your message
— I’ll just get to the point on this one: Keep it simple; keep it clear; keep it concise. Once you’ve created your message, deliver it to an eight-year old. If they understand it, you’re golden.

4. Doing things you’re not good at — Sometimes you just have to be honest with yourself and seek help where you need it the most. It just might save you a lot of time and frustration.

Author: Twenty-year PR veteran Michelle Tennant Nicholson is Chief Creative Officer of Wasabi Publicity and co-founder of http://www.pitchrate.com/, a free media tool that connects journalists, publicists, and experts.  Called a five-star publicist by Good Morning America’s Mable Chan, Michelle specializes in international PR, working regularly with the likes of Oprah, Larry King, BBC, The Today Show and other major media. Contact her at PR blog where she teaches tips from the trade.