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business mistake

By Jesse Wynants

U.S. data tells us there are six PR pros for every one journalist. This PR number has doubled in 10 years all the while newsrooms are shrinking. So what does this tell you? PR is becoming more and more tricky, which is bad news for all the businesses out there committing common PR mistakes over and over again.

The following are four PR mistakes that I have come across over the years and tips on how to avoid making them.

1. No research or understanding

Cold sales calls have a bad rap because people dislike getting calls that are a complete waste of their time. The seller has no understanding of you, your business, or your needs—it’s just sell, sell, sell.

And this is exactly what’s happening in the PR world. Journalists are being hammered with completely misguided pitches—stories not relevant to the journalists’ beat, resulting in poor results. And then people end up saying, “PR doesn’t work” or “I don’t understand why my IT sales brochure didn’t get coverage in the food industry publication.”

In order for your PR pitches to be more successful at hitting their targets, you need to first understand the journalists. Many people assume that journalists have no material to write about or have no quality pitches to use. That’s wrong. Journalists have plenty to write about—from day-to-day events to their content calendar which is preplanned months ahead of time. If you blast out your press release to anyone and everyone, you’ll end up giving yourself a bad name among a wide number of people. Not understanding a journalist can be the difference between pitching to a highly relevant industry outlet and pitching a children’s comic.

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Next you need to hit the right publications. When seeking out PR opportunities, we are all guilty of favoring the big media outlets that everyone is familiar with. They offer “bragging rights” and have more reach than small, industry-focused publications. However, responses will be few and far between, and to get coverage requires a lot of hard work without much guarantee that you will get coverage at all.

Instead, focus on key media outlets that will be more open to discussions and topic suggestions, and seek industry experts for commentary. Whilst the readership numbers may be nowhere near the size of the big outlets, you will build long-term relationships and brand awareness within your industry.

Tips to try: Research and more research. Stick to industry outlets; they provide good practice to getting bigger outlets interested. Working with them you’ll begin to understand what makes journalists tick, what materials they like, what types of pitches work best, and so on. If you pull up a spreadsheet of industry magazines and blogs, you are going to be looking at a handful of media outlets. Great. Check out the different posts, see who writes about what, and find connections. Even if you find a post with some questionable insight or metrics, you can reach out and provide your own expert advice.

2. Sharing no news

Unfortunately, your company milestones may not be exciting to others, your sales brochure is not PR-worthy, and the metrics you just stitched together are not of interest to anyone. This is often the case with PR pitches, especially with startups that believe what they are doing is revolutionary—which it may be—but are there reputable data and case studies to share and discuss? Probably not. And general industry data or prediction reports will not work either.

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