Scariest Public Relations Mistakes to Avoid



With Halloween right around the corner, I thought it fitting to take look at the “scariest” public relations mistakes made by businesses and organizations on a regular basis. While some of these mistakes might only result in a raised eyebrow or two, others can have a devastating blow to a business’s brand, with a long-lasting impact.

Let’s take a look at nine PR mistakes every professional should want to avoid – just like those spiders, bats, creepy clowns and all the other Halloween characters that are around us right now.

Lacking a purpose for your content

When you create a press release, media advisory, blog post, email campaign, or anything else used to promote your business, it must foremost have a defined purpose. If you’re sharing something and you can’t pinpoint what makes it newsworthy, how will you target audience ever find its value? This is what makes content newsworthy. It must be at least one of these things: timely, relevant, important, interesting. Be honest with yourself. Does your content meet any of these criteria?

Slacking on follow-up

Even if you successfully grab the attention of the media with your news, if you fail to follow-up to provide them with whatever information they need to publish your news, it’s not going to result in great media exposure. Reporters often need fast responses. If they request a photo or additional information, they likely need it before a hard deadline, sometimes within the hour. If you prove to be a reliable and responsive source to them, you can expect more earned coverage in the future.

Sending information too late – or too early

Identifying the right time to disseminate a message is both an art and a science. People’s opinions may differ, but for the most part we can all agree that it is most certainly possible to send out something too early, and too late. A press release sent out months in advance of the actual news or event taking place is far too early. The media stays focused on the immediate present, for the most part. Conversely, sending out a media advisory to request media coverage for an event one hour before the event begins will not yield the best results. Some media may be able to accommodate this, but you will surely miss out on others who don’t get the message in time or can’t adjust their schedule.

Ignoring social media

Social media complements all other forms of media. Don’t overlook its value. When disseminating news, include all communication channels available to you. Sure, these may overlap to a degree and there may be people who receive your message in multiple ways. But isn’t that the goal? If that news story someone just saw on TV is now also in their news feed, they are far more likely to remember the story, and your business as a result.

Staying silent on negative press

Crisis PR is a whole beast of its own, but one very important point about handling negative press is that you need to issue a statement that represents your side of the story. I always advise clients to don’t go poking the bear. If the story hasn’t broken, don’t draw attention to it. But once that negative piece of press hits the public, you need to spring into action. Issuing a response makes you look professional, responsible, and can mitigate the negative impact that news had on your business.

Having too many cooks in the kitchen

Yes, even the most well-meaning team of people can cause chaos if they are slowing down progress. If you’re trying to send out something time sensitive, like a press release, having a large group of people all who need to review and sign-off on the final version can easily cause deadlines to be missed. Really narrow down your team of decision makers to one or two people who have the final say. So long as you have their approval on content, you should have the green light to quickly move forward.

Making yourself the (sole) focus

Another “horrifying” PR mistake is forgetting you’re not the real focus of your content. It’s your audience, of course. Who are you trying to reach? Think like they think and craft your message in a way that’s meaningful to them. Answer your audience’s question of “What’s in it for me?” In doing so you will create content that not only grabs their attention, but calls them to action.

Assuming everyone is your target audience

You know what they say about assumptions. When you assume everyone is your target audience, you will almost certainly be wrong each and every time. Define your true target audience by their demographics and psychographics. Be realistic about who the decision makers are and the communication channels you need to use to reach them.

Missing a call to action

We saved the most “grave” PR mistake for last. And that’s missing the opportunity to include a call to action (gasp!) in your writing. Everything, yes everything you put out there to call attention to your business should also include a call to action. In some instances this will be more obvious, in other instances it will be a subtle call to action. Consider the context and your audience, and select your call to action accordingly.

Sure, these blunders may not be worthy of a horror film, but when they are made they do create some cringe-worthy moments. What else would you add to this list? Share a common and detrimental mistake you’ve seen made in public relations, marketing, or advertising. The list could go on and on!