media update’s Taylor Goodman takes a look at the three common pitfalls that PR pros face and how to avoid them. 

PR professionals are constantly up to their ears with deadlines, pitches and meetings with clients. Amidst all this craziness, there are many things that could potentially go wrong. Some errors pop up more frequently than others and these will need even more attention. 

To grow, it is important for those working in PR to be able to identify the mistakes that they are making over and over again. 

Without further ado, let’s look at three common PR mishaps and how you can avoid them:

1. You stay silent in times of crisis 

The problem

In the digital age, bad press spreads fast, leaving any brand vulnerable to the possible wrath of the Internet in the event of a PR crisis. 

When a brand does make a public misstep of sorts, the public demands answers. This makes staying silent during a PR mishap one of the worst things a brand can do. 

This is proven by a report Crip conducted on how customers react to a brand crisis. 28% of respondents claimed not taking responsibility for it’s wrongdoings is the worst mistake that a brand can make in the midst of a PR disaster. This was closely followed by 20% of respondents stating that not acknowledging the crisis is the worst mistake a brand can make. 

This is because the public wants brands to repent for their sins and take accountability to show that they feel remorse, and to prove that they won’t make the same error again. 

The solution

Responding to a crisis can be a bit of a ‘catch 22’ because you mustn't rush to make a statement but you shouldn't respond too late either. 

If you find yourself faced with this dilemma, ensure that you respond promptly — but only once you have all the information needed to prepare a suitable apology. Speaking out before the crisis gains traction allows you to control the narrative and this will help you to get ahead of any bad press. 

The safest practise to follow is this: 
  • Take accountability: This is the most important step in crisis communication. Don’t make excuses and apologise unequivocally. This will make your apology more sincere. 
  • Show what you’re doing to fix it: The next step is reparations. This will show your consumer base that you care about regaining their trust and mending your brand’s reputation. How you can fix things depends on the situation. For example, if there was a scandal relating to the quality of your products, you can offer refunds.

2. You use too much ‘fluff’ 

The problem

Hands up if you’re a PR pro that is guilty of adding unnecessary ‘fluff’ to your pitches. What is ‘fluff’, you ask? It can be anything from pretentious vocabulary, overusing superlatives or exaggerating information

For example, a press release that claims that Brand X has released ‘the best ever’, ‘life-changing’ product is sensationalism and doesn't make your pitch any more persuasive. 

Although there is nothing wrong with trying to show what you're pitching in a positive light, the problem arises when this jargon is overused. According to AgilityPR, hyperbolizing your pitches leads to it being ‘glossed over and not absorbed’ by both journalists and the public. 

This is because the public views this content as dishonest and that the PR professional conveying this information is, therefore, untrustworthy. 

The solution 

The only solution to this mishap is to ensure that you highlight the facts and back it up with proof and statistics, nothing more.

By highlighting compelling facts and writing solid copy, you produce high-quality content. Over time, this will improve your credibility as a PR pro because you will be known for sticking to the facts and avoiding the ‘fluff.’ 

3. You don't tailor your pitches

The problem

When it comes to pitching your content to journalists, one size does not fit all. With journalists receiving anywhere from five to 500 pitches in a week, the ‘spray and pray’ approach won't get you noticed. 

For example, if you are pitching content about a brand that has made a technological breakthrough in AI, it will not be picked up if you send it through to an editor of a lifestyle publication. 

The solution

To maximise the number of your pitches that are picked up by media outlets, you need to ensure that you tailor your pitches

You can do this by editing your mailing list according to your content. As stated previously, if you are casting out your pitching net with identical content and waiting to see who’ll bite, you will likely be unsuccessful. Rather, if you know a journalist who specialises in a certain field, send them a press release that is relevant to them. 

Once you refine your mailing list to the relevant media outlets, you should customise your content to suit the ‘style and expectations of each media outlet.’ 

This will help you to stand out to the journalist in question. Additionally, it will indicate that you respect their time enough to put that extra effort in so that your content is picked up — something they don't see often in their inboxes. 

Are you guilty of committing these PR sins? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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So now that you know what not to do, be sure to check out these Top six characteristics of a successful PR practitioner to maintain your title of ‘excellent PR pro’.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy