Getting great PR coverage is as much about knowing what not to do than it is about knowing what to do. You can learn to master the media yourself — from social media to digital channels, print media, radio and TV — it doesn’t take a big PR firm. But it does take tact.
First, stop thinking PR is all about you. PR is about the audience: the reader, listener, and viewer — via the journalist. Even Twitter is about getting on journalist’s radar. To do that, you have to offer quality content, and work on building good relationships.
As with any courtship — and that’s what this is — you want to be on your best behavior. So here are 8 PR mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t Think of Yourself as Hard News
Ask yourself: Who wants this story covered — me, or the paper? If it’s you, it’s soft news. Hard news doesn’t require a PR push to get into the paper. Volkswagen forging emissions reports is hard news, while a great company doing something great is not. But soft news can get bumped for the harder stuff. So for a better chance at coverage, focus your story on a genuine business topic — a launch, partnership, sell-out, event, profit or loss, research or expansion.
- Don’t Mistreat Journalists
Never ignore a journalist’s email or phone call, or promise a comment and then wait until the deadline has passed. If a journalist asks you for something, give it to them promptly. Journalists are intensely busy, so don’t pester them. Don’t keep emailing same press release, then call repeatedly to ask if they got it. Call once, and if they’re not interested, accept it. Then, consider emailing a personal introduction to find out exactly what kind of stories they are looking for. You’re trying to build a relationship, not have a one-night stand.
- Don’t Tweet Just Anything
Twitter is a powerful business tool. It’s is a great way to get on the radar of journalists and key influencers. But most people don’t use it properly. Keep it in your swim lane: tweet about what you know. You make socks, tweet about socks. No one cares for your opinion on The Bachelor — unless he wore amazing socks.
- Don’t Abuse Hashtags
If you’re not sure if you should use a hashtag, don’t. If you do, use sparingly. Using too many hashtags looks desperate, and stringing hashtags together makes you look like a spammer. Random hashtags that click to dead ends can be irritating, and hashtags you “borrow” from another product or campaign won’t help you at all. But do use the hashtag attached to an event you’re tweeting about, or create a hashtag for an event you’re hosting so people can follow it on twitter. Just make sure to include it in the invitation.
- Never Say These Two Words in a Crisis
Crisis management is a PR challenge for anyone. But if you say ‘no comment’ to a journalist, that’s what they’ll print. To most journalists, “no comment” means either “yes,” you’re hiding something, or you’re arrogant. If you don’t yet have all the facts, provide a holding reply — that you’re very concerned by the situation but don’t have all the information; or that you’re going to make a statement later; or that you can’t speak now, but will get in touch later today.
- Don’t Blog from Your Ego
If you find yourself writing about how marvelous you are, or writing a post to wow your colleagues, scrap the post and start again. You’re not writing for your admirers or your business buds. Write as though you’re talking to someone over dinner or down at the bar, and ask yourself: is it interesting? Do discuss hot topics, and don’t be afraid to let off a little steam. Journalists want people who can argue their points convincingly.
- Don’t Wait For Retirement to Write a Book
Writing a book takes you to the next level as a thought leader: people can say you are an industry blogger, podcast presenter and the author of (your book title here). It’s a great hook for publicity, with a book launch and press releases. Just don’t do it for the money. You may earn some money, but the better reason to write a book is because it’s a great business card, and it opens doors.
- Don’t Give Up
PR is not a sprint. You can’t spend three crazy days at it and then disappear. PR is a marathon in which persistence and tact pay off. So keep thinking like a journalist, and work to make it happen every day. There will be bad times and rejections, but journalists want stories, and they want to hear from people like you. If you need to regroup for some reason, use the pause to refocus and learn. Then, jump back in the game.