When giving PR tips we often talk about best practice ways to get you or your brand into the press. As with any skill, there are definite do's when working with the media. There are also definite "don'ts". As we always say here at Tin Shingle, the foundation of public relations is the relations portion. It's all about creating great relationships. In the same way you know to respect our personal and professional relationships we must respect your PR relationships because as in any other situation, a media relationship that took you months or years to create, can just as easily be damaged in minutes by a mistake you may not have realized was a "no no".
Never fear, we're here to guide you away from these mistakes that are surprisingly more common than you may realize with some honest and straight forward advice.
We've compiled a list of easily avoidable PR Don'ts that you should commit to memory and share with everyone involved in your company's DIY PR team to ensure great media relationships and great press, in the future!
WHEN DOING YOUR OWN PR BE SURE YOU DON'T EVER:
Make it time consuming to reach you. We're actually NOT a fan of the fill in the blank "Contact Us" forms on websites. That is not only an extra step for press who are often working on deadlines, but it leaves them wondering when you will actually get the message. Always have an email address at the very least, and if possible a phone number for "press" listed.
Fail to track your outreach. Every single pitch you make should be tracked in a spreadsheet. If you don't do this you will never remember who you pitched what to and when. This will lead to both overpitching and underpitching, both of which will prevent you from getting the press you're working so hard to get. Spreadsheets are also great ways for you to keep track of pending press you have on the horizon, what you were supposed to send to an editor/producer, job titles of the media, contact information and so much more. An organized PR program is the only type that will work.
Think someone in the press is beneath you or too little to give your time to for an interview/soundbite/etc. Yesterday's little guy is today's Editor in Chief or Executive Producer. Just as I can assume you would never mistreat a waiter, receptionist, janitorial staff member, etc....But I digress....When I began my career as a publicist, I was always polite, prompt and gave of my time to editors big and small. I tried to be as available as possible to them and treat everyone with respect. The same people who were editorial assistants at the magazines I was working with them are now the directors, executive editors and in some cases, have started popular blogs that carry nearly as much power as magazines. The production assistants at some shows have become EP's (executive producers) at others. And ya know what? I still work with them. I can promise you that you would be hard pressed to find someone in the media who I have ever burned a bridge with, because I haven't. It's made outreach that much easier and made a huge difference in all the press work I do.
Think the reporter "owes you" a placement. Ever. So you sent in segment tips and ideas and they didn't use them. So you sent over cookies. So you have pitched them 15 times and they have told you they'd love to do something with you in the future. It doesn't matter, the nature of media is such that it is ever-changing and the producers and editors selecting the content have tons of reasons why things will and won't work at any given time. Conveying to them that they "owe you" is a fast way to kiss a great media relationship goodbye. Sound crazy? We've actually heard reporters tell us of people who have said this to them. Those people will never be called back again. Ouch.
Be unavailable or difficult to work with. No matter how fabulous you and your brand are, you are at the mercy of the media and their schedules. Just accept that (we as publicists did years ago). This means that unless you are a major star, no one is working around your schedule as much as you need to work around theirs. They want you to meet them at their office? You say yes. They want to meet next week at noon? You make it work. You do not say you cannot because you are on carpool duty. You just don't. They also often have the final say in TV segments if you're an expert, so unless it's honestly compromising your integrity as an expert, you must be flexible. Your reputation gets around and the media world is small, if you are known as a difficult brand/product/expert it will be very hard to get work in the future.
"Steal" email addresses from queries and hit them back with a completely different pitch. This is an old trick that admittedly, can work in your favor at times, but only if done correctly. Basically, if you see a PR query on our Tin Shingle PR Leads, HARO or any other lead source and then you say to yourself "oh hey this person from XXX media outlet would be great to pitch my story to, even though they are asking for something totally different now" and you proceed to pitch yourself to them by taking their contact from the query, you are making a mistake. Let's think about it - they aren't asking you for your story, they are clearly working on another story. They are not fools, they will know you lifted their email from a PR lead list (I can bet you this is why HARO emails are now anonymous). This is "contact abuse" and another fast way to ruin a media relationship. If you cannot physically stop yourself from lifting a useful email address, store it in your contact database and research the contact. If you still think they are a good fit, wait a bit before you pitch them.
Take ages to follow up. When someone contacts you, there should be some system in place in your business to be sure they are replied to within an hour if it's on a weekday. If not, believe me, there will be 10 other people ready to take your place in the story.
Fail to introduce yourself. Do you walk up to someone you don't know at a party and immediately start talking to them about yourself before an introduction? Of course not! Then don't do it with the press. If it's via email, a simple "Hello, this is XXX from XXX" will suffice. If it's via phone you should not only introduce yourself (briefly) you should also ask if they have a few seconds before you launch into your elevator pitch.
Be unprepared in terms of press materials: You should never have to scramble to get the media what they want. What does this mean? You should have the following items ready to go so that when a media contact asks for them after pitching, you can email it to them immediately:
- Product Shots (high and low res)
- Headshot (high and low res)
- Media Kit (with an About the Company, About the Founders, Tip Sheets if you're an expert, and any other relevant information)
- Product linesheets if you're a product based brand (with retail pricing only)
- A website you can direct them to (even if it's a classy looking WordPress site)
Pitch an outlet without doing your research. It's not enough to say "Oh I'd love to be on XXXX (insert dream outlet here). You need to know if they cover experts/products similar to you, how they deliver the information, if they've ever worked with anyone like you in the past, who covers the section/segment you want to be in (if you can find this out...) etc. The more you know the better your chances are. ****BONUS TIP**** If you can site a segment/story they did in the past that you enjoyed you're sure to win brownie points!
Say to yourself "I'm not a publicist, so a lot of what Sabina mentioned above isn't really my job". Oh really? Let me break it down for you "tough love style" : It is your job. Unless you hire a PR agency to make relationships for you and do your research and carry out your campaign as professionally as possible, you are the one in charge of your DIY campaign. Even if you're getting help or taking classes or getting contacts from somewhere/someone, having them isn't enough. If it was that easy, everyone would be in the press. Whether by Twitter, by phone, by email, by deskside, by boat, by plane.....however you need to make it happen, it's your job to make this DIY campaign work. The buck stops with you. If you don't take it seriously, you will not get serious press.