The popularity of PR services is growing year on year. As the pressure mounts on agencies to meet the revenue targets, major public relations companies were seen recruiting and acquiring new assets with great appetite. The high demand for media relations services and personnel – in turn – attracts fresh brains into the industry. And, as it often goes, once the experienced PR’s are promoted to senior roles or chose the path of running their own business, the headhunt continues, sweeping from the job market newbies and graduates who will ignorantly indulge in the worst PR errors.
The new employees, although demonstrate great ambitions, often don’t know the intricacies of communication with the client, network contacts or press and more likely than not lack the insight of the industry they are entering.
It is not surprising then that Editors and Journalists of all kind find working with public relations companies more and more frustrating. The publishers often feel that their job is getting harder, especially if the first point of contact is constantly changing. Quickly spinning revolving doors in PR companies is the reality of life rather than the exception. New-comers and, worryingly, experienced PR’s tend to step on the same rake over and over again.
“Often, it is the journalist or editor who ends up educating so-called ‘public relations professionals’,” commented one editor who wants to remain anonymous. “We spend our time explaining what type of information we need and in what format; we often build up a relationship with the PR just to start all over again a few months later.”
Below are the most common deadly media relations mistakes told to us by journalists.
Often, it is the journalist or editor who ends up educating so-called ‘public relations professionals’
Not providing enough information
Journalists are up against deadlines and delivery targets.
“Full-time journalists – not bloggers – have daily targets that they need to deliver before they can go home,” commented Joe Alvarez, journalist, publisher and Editor in Chief of Ikon London Magazine, “hence the frequent typos in online publications.”
Reductions in editorial teams often mean that the freelance journalists have to supply stories to several publications, not just one.
“It is crucial for a press release to be impeccable, detailed and factually accurate if you want it to make the papers. It should also never be an excruciating advert. They sound ridiculous and often need to be re-edited for publication.” continued the publisher.
Don’t be making journalists’ job harder by making them research for information that you are paid by the client to provide. Include statistics, traceable expert quotes, and high-resolution images and videos. It’s the basics of marketing so there are no excuses to fail to deliver that.
Alas, apart from the obvious basics, there are more mistakes that put journalists off your content:
Poor management of CRM systems
Being under pressure to submit copy, journalists tend to be savvy with their time and attention. If every obstacle is put in front of them to do their job effectively, don’t expect your story to appear in the media.
We take it as a given that any company should have a centralised list of contacts, perhaps divided into sublists – press, celebrity, buyers, and so on. We discovered that some PR agencies are failing in that department too.
We spoke to several recognised journalists who named mishaps such as:
- Press being added to unrelated lists
‘Freelance stylist’ (!) was our favourite – that leads to the journalists being mishandled and opportunities missed, not only for one particular client but for all clients managed by the same agency.
- Lack of records
Journalists have expressed their frustration with the fact that newbies who are tasked with handling the lists are completely oblivious to who is who in the media.
Instead of doing online research, they don’t hesitate to ask recognised reporters about their experience just to be added to the conference press list. The information might then get lost among the emails and the story repeats again.
While it might appear logical for public relations agencies to strive to establish a long-lasting relationship with media and journalists, it doesn’t always happen. Being under pressure to submit copy, journalists tend to be savvy with their time and attention. If every obstacle is put in front of them to do their job effectively, don’t expect your story to appear in the media. Review your lists on regular basis and encourage staff to use Google Search – promotions and job moves are not only common among PR but also among publishers.
- Not following up the initial contact
If there is one thing that should be a must for every PR, it is to follow up all new connections made during the event or press day.
“I think if clients knew how many PR’s are giving up on following up with the information after the event, there would be a revolution,” laughs another source. “We are often invited to press days and despite showing the interest to cover the event or line up the interview, it ends there and then; the PR just doesn’t follow up the lead.
“In such saturated market, you would expect public relations people to do anything and everything to deliver. Sadly, some public relations professionals are employed for only one event and don’t care what happens to the client after that point. In other instances, they simply lack the motivation to do the job. After all, the client will never find out how many opportunities were missed, so there is no stress.”
The word of advice for the entrepreneurs is to be present on their own events and make personal contacts with press and influencers. No one is interested in your success more than you are.
After all, the client has no chance finding out how many opportunities were missed, so there is no stress.
Refusing to accept that your story isn’t news
If no one is willing to publish it, it isn’t a story in media terms. Some stories are better untold.
PR pros are often pressured by the client – who is unaware of how many opportunities have been missed by the previously described mistakes – insisting on landing the coverage. If in between costly events, they have nothing of value to share, explore the opportunity of providing expert commentary on a trending topic or producing an evergreen press article.
The most accurate barometers are the response or lack thereof from the journalists. If no one is willing to publish it, it isn’t a story in media terms.
Chasing too hard
While you absolutely must contact all interested media and press, remember to be always polite and not too pushy. If the press release was perfect but the editor went quiet, it likely means that they are not interested or don’t run the story related to your topic in nearest future.
Instead, focus on building a relationship with the publication and try to make their life easier by supplying relevant stories. If you establish a great relationship with a journalist or the publication, you have a better chance of having your email recognised, read and welcomed.
While this list is by far not exhaustive, it covers the most common and potentially most detrimental mistakes made by PR professionals. The question is how, as a client, you can make sure that every employee in the agency you employed has your best interests in mind. The involvement in the process is one of the solutions. While it is convenient to outsource marketing services, you must never get too comfortable. Remember, no one has more interest in your success than you.