The goal of public relations is to portray your business in the best possible manner. This can range from establishing yourself in the market to damage control. Unlike advertising, your goal is not to pay for space in the media but to persuade the media to take an interest in your business and to write or report on your business activities.
Below are some of the common pitfalls to watch out for when handling public relations.
- Poor timing. Timing is crucial and too often the individuals who handle public relations do not get a head start on their tasks. You need to consider lead time for magazines, newspapers, and other media.
- Poor choice of language. Jargon and buzzwords do not impress editors who have little time to read all of the press releases that flow across their desks. Get to the point in plain and simple language.
- Poorly written press releases. Errors, omissions, poorly worded sentences, lengthy copy, and poor structure are all pitfalls that land press releases in the trash. You need to grab the reader's attention, get quickly to the point, and follow up with information about the event or activity. Keep it concise and include all pertinent details.
- Poor follow-up. If you want to be heard, be prepared when someone calls with follow-up questions. Many businesses lose stories because they are not prepared to close the deal.
- Too much hype. You want to be positive, but superlatives get tedious and can arouse suspicion in readers. Remember: You're appealing to the news media, so supply them with supported facts, and avoid generalizations and exaggerations.
- Press releases without purpose. Like the boy who cried wolf, if you send out press releases every time there is a minor development in your business, people will stop listening. And when something really important occurs, editors will already be in the habit of hitting delete when they see a press release from your business. Do not try to make stories where they do not exist. Some publicists actually do this to look busy and justify their billing.
- No newspaper knowledge. Too many people attempt a public relations campaign in a vacuum. Reading the papers keeps you abreast of what is going on in the world. This benefits you in two ways. First, you can use local and even world events as tie-ins to your news. Secondly, you can avoid poorly timed media releases.
- Lack of plan. You cannot do public relations by winging it. It is hard to know what to do next if you have no plan of action. You need to determine where, when, and how you are going to proceed. You also need to be flexible and have backup plans should all else fail.
- No help. Many businesses spend too much money on high priced PR agencies that they do not need. Conversely, other companies try to do everything themselves. It's important to find a happy medium.
- Staying inside the box. A lot of businesses stick with the same newspaper and radio plugs. There are many other means to reach out and generate attention. In fact, some publicists now use pitch letters to suggest stories, rather than sending the overused press and media releases.
For further information, check out the Public Relations articles in the AllBusiness.com Sales & Marketing Center. For a Press Release Kit containing seven samples, check out the AllBusiness.com Forms & Agreements Center.