Whether you’ve been working with the media for decades or you’re just starting out, no public relations professional is immune to the challenges of the industry. As techniques and newsrooms change, there is a constant need to adjust practices to ensure businesses are getting their messages to their target audiences and consumers are getting information to make informed decisions. Here, we outline some of the most common mistakes professionals make when pursuing the media and how to correct them.
Mistake: Being overzealous in your approach.
The fix: Make sure you balance urgency with respect for an editor / reporter’s time availability.
As we’ve mentioned before, journalists are doing way more now than they were 10 or 15 years ago, and some of them may field a dozen requests from PR teams each day. They don’t have time for one person to call and / or email them multiple times in one day. Instead, develop a plan that includes how you will initiate your correspondence and what your follow up action will be. If after two attempts, you don’t get any response or feedback, adjust your strategy or do more research to learn more about the journalist / publication.
Mistake: Spamming a journalist or publication.
The Fix: Do your research.
Often organizations send a release to as many media members as possible without doing their research on which media might actually value the press release content. Once that happens, it is hard to get your story in front of them again, even when it is relevant. Spend time determining which media members might be interested in your message and develop a relationship with them.
Another way someone may make this mistake is by reaching out to a journalist who covers their desired topic, but they haven’t done enough research to know the intended audience of the media outlet doesn’t align with their story pitch.
Mistake: Focusing solely on the editorial hit.
The Fix: Invest in the relationship.
Remember, journalists are people too. Some of them won’t care about what you know until they know you care. Take an interest in what they’re working on or have recently completed. Check out their recent articles online and / or read their tweets to learn about their interests.
Mistake: Offering an exclusive before going public.
The Fix: Choose your exclusive content carefully.
Journalists are always looking for exclusive content, but when you give an exclusive to one outlet before you share the news via press release, two things are at risk of happening. One, you lessen your chances of securing more quality media hits. And two, you risk alienating journalists who you did not offer an exclusive story. Instead, choose whether to offer an exclusive or distribute the release more widely, not both. If you have a major announcement and you want the largest amount of people to see it, send out a release. If your news isn’t major, but it’s a big deal to your organization and your targeted audience, try pitching it exclusively to one publication. Of course, you will need to do research to determine which publication is the most fitting one to deliver your message. And if they turn you down, have another media member ready to pitch.
Mistake: Sending a press release at a bad time.
The fix: Find the best day and time to send a release.
According to AdWeek, many actions fall into this category, including sending a press release too early or too late, both of which can prevent a journalist from writing about your story. In addition, the day of the week and the time of day you send an email can impact if / when a journalist opens it and, in turn, writes about your story.
Mistake: Writing a poorly written press release.
The fix: Research what to write or get help in writing.
It’s a disservice to yourself and your organization if you send a press release that contains mistakes, doesn’t provide enough information, is hard to understand or doesn’t contain anything newsworthy. To avoid those things, always have a professional or an agency like TSN Communications draft the content or review and edit your work. You can also see our recent article on how to write an effective press release.
Mistake: Failing to call journalists.
The fix: Begin your outreach with a phone call.
Journalists get bombarded with dozens, maybe even hundreds, of emails a day. To make yourself stand out, call the journalist you’re contacting before you send an email. You can find out directly what they are looking for and if they are interested in your story.
Mistake: Pitching a non-story.
The fix: Turn a non-story into a story.
Part of your role as a public relations pro is to determine what the media will be interested in and how to sell them on it. Determine what your message is and craft it into a story that you know your targeted publication will want to cover. If you can’t determine how to sell a specific message, it’s probably not a story. Consider working it into an update you can post as a blog or on social media. In addition to creating your story and angle, figure out the best way to offer it to the media. Is it best as a press event, or an in-person invitation? Remember, a show-and-tell story is always a bigger draw to traditional media than a phone interview.
The more you work at it, the more your PR strategy will improve and yield results. We recommend you do your research, keep on top of the latest PR trends and if possible, work with a PR firm that can help you develop media results more quickly and strategically.