As it becomes easier to outsource specialists’ services, the demand for PR agencies started growing year to year. With the global PR revenues projected to reach $20bn by 2020, the pressure to meet lofty profits targets is also growing. To facilitate that, major PR companies are looking out for new recruits and acquisitions. High demands to fill the gaps in staffing, in turn, attract fresh blood into the industry. And the rule of thumb is, once the experienced PR’s are promoted to senior roles or left to run their own businesses, the headhunt continues attracting ever more newbies and graduates.
“Clients can hardly get a glimpse of all the opportunities missed by the PR Company they hired to look after their media and public relations,”
The ambitious new employees, coming straight from college or other unrelated industries, are expected to hit the ground running and make a great input from day one. Put under pressure, it is not entirely their fault that they don’t know the intricacies of communication with the client, network contacts or press or lack the insight to the industry they have just entered.
It is not surprising then that Editors and Journalists of all kind find working with public relations companies more and more frustrating. New starters and, often, experienced marketing agents keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. But the skeletons in their closets are only for them to see. “Clients can hardly get a glimpse of all the opportunities missed by the PR Company they hired to look after their media and public relations,” commented one journalist to Business Coaching Journal. Below are the most common gravely media relations mistakes made by PR that clients will never know about, as told to us by journalists.
Press Releases are full of holes
Professional journalists are always working on the brink of missing their deadlines and towards ambitious delivery targets.
Professional journalists are always working on the brink of missing their deadlines and towards ambitious 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.” Huge changes in the staffing policies of media companies mean that 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 can include in your press release. Make it factual; include statistics, traceable expert quotes, and high-resolution images and videos. It’s the bare minimum so there are no excuses to fail to deliver that.
“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.”
But apart from the obvious basics, there are more mistakes that put journalists off your content:
Poor ‘Client Relations Management’
We hardly need to explain to anyone with business acumen that each company should look after its list of valuable contacts – the most important asset a PR company will ever have. A full list of contacts, duly filled, should be guarded and maintained with great dedication. Contacts that are divided into groups – press, loyal customers, buyers, and so on. We all know that, right? Well, we were told by the journalists themselves that some PR agencies are failing in that department too.
A full list of contacts, dully filled, should be guarded and maintained with great dedication.
We spoke to several recognised professionals who named cringe-worthy mistakes such as:
Press added to unrelated lists
‘Freelance stylist’ (!) was our favourite – that leads to the media being mishandled and opportunities missed, not only for one particular client but for all clients managed by the same agency.
Lack of records
Several journalists have expressed their frustration with the fact that newbies who are tasked with handling the lists are completely oblivious of who is who in the media. Instead of doing some simple online search and updating their lists, ‘green’ PR agents don’t hesitate to ask recognised reporters on their experience so that they can be added to the conference press list. The information might then get lost among the emails and the story repeats again.
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.
As several journalists told to Business Coaching Journal, they find it ever more frustrating that the bloggers are often given main priority as opposed to professional press. “PR’s often go after Instagram followers but what they don’t understand is that no blogger will guarantee greater exposure than coverage in national or international mainstream publication,” said another journalist, “at least not yet.” The pro continued: “What bloggers won’t often tell is that they, just the same as any brand, will do almost anything to land coverage in the national or international press. It will elevate their status, just like publicity in the reputable press will elevate the status of any other brand.”
Smart bloggers spend a lot of time building a good long-lasting relationship with the press and their advantage is that they have full control over it.
“what bloggers won’t often tell is that they, just the same as any brand, will do almost anything to land coverage in national or international press. It will elevate their status, just like publicity in reputable press will elevate status of any other brand.”
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 – promotions and job moves are not only common among PR but also among publishers.
Not following up the leads
“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,”
If there is one thing that doesn’t have to be explained to anyone dealing with potential prospects is that you absolutely must follow up all new potential leads generated 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 then and there; 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.”
While you can have complete faith in the integrity of the PR manager, unless they are a one man gang, there is no way to control or iron out human errors from the process.
The word of advice for the entrepreneurs is to be present on their own events and make personal contacts with press and influencers. Have plenty of business cards with you and maintain your own lists. If journalists know you in person and like you, they are more likely to be willing to give you coverage.
“After all, the client will never find out how many opportunities were missed, so there is no stress.”
Refusing to accept that your story isn’t news
Some stories are better untold.
PR pros are often pressured by the client insisting on landing the coverage. Not surprisingly, they are oblivious to how many opportunities were missed due to the PR mishaps.
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 feedback is the response or lack thereof from the journalists. If no one is willing to publish it, it isn’t a story in media terms.
Being too pushy
While you 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 you 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 the journalist or the publication, you have a better chance of having your email recognised, read and welcomed.
Some PR tend to be blatantly rude:
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.
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.