Public relations firms across the universe are gasping in horror and disdain at the idea that you might exercise a little Do-It-Yourself muscle on your next PR plan. And while I’m as eager as the next to help you launch your project and tell your story, budget constraints and unbridled enthusiasm often fuel DIY PR. If you’re headed down that path now, put on the brakes to read this.
And take a few notes.
Here are a few of the most common, but avoidable, mistakes made by the novice PR folks among us.
Reporters on different beats at different publications may quarrel about the exact definition of newsworthiness, but there is little disagreement that it will contain the following elements:
- significant impact to readers
- geographical proximity or prominence
Timely stories, much like the office refrigerator’s real dairy creamer, have expiration dates. If your company merged six months ago, that date has passed, and no one wants your real dairy creamer – or your merger story - anymore.
The impact of your news pitch should be broad, and unless you’re one of the largest employers in town, it should include more than just your employees. Think broadly on this question - what is the impact on your industry, your community, jobs or wages? Multiple angles can be highlighted.
Geographical proximity is important when pitching to local or regional publications. Where geography matters less is when you are a prominent figure or company within your industry. It will always be easier to find interested reporters when you’re The Big Dog.
When considering a media pitch, use this checklist to determine whether this is the right time or story opportunity to make your case.
Missing the Target
Your goal is to have a story placed, right? One of the fastest ways to miss your target is to aim your pitch at the wrong reporter. Local news folks don’t always have defined “beats” or areas of focus like they used to, but you should do some research to ensure you’re targeting the correct reporter. Most local papers still have a business editor and health reporter; depending on your business, be sure you’re pitching the right person.
Forgetting the Little Guy
Everybody wants their business’s story in the Wall Street Journal, right? The truth is that those placements will be few and far between, because the WSJ’s newsworthy bar is higher and more global. Your business may reach a bar of significant impact to a local paper because you’re hiring 25 new people. That won’t meet the newsworthy criteria for a global publication.
That being said, if you work in a specialized industry with your own world of trade publications, growth and jobs and new innovations would be more appropriate. They won’t have the distribution numbers of the WSJ, but it will be much more targeted to your audience and more impactful for your business.
Being Weird and Pushy
This common mistake category covers a multitude of small errors that add up to missed opportunities. These include calling a reporter more than three times trying to convince them to run your story. Asking to read a reporter’s article before it’s published. Telling a reporter you’ll buy an ad if they write nice things about you (this may work with trade magazines, but never with serious journalists). And using over-the-top language or punctuation in your press release. Because seriously, if you use more than one exclamation point, they’re done.
Be thoughtful in the construction of your media release and your pitch to reporters. If you aren’t already, become a regular consumer of the news outlets you’re pitching and understand the language and cadence of their writers. Your media release should reflect a news style of reporting, not a marketing brochure.
Related: Is it Time to Hire PR Firm?
Pitching your own story can be daunting, but knowledge is power. So suit up, learn the basic do’s and don’ts, and make your next pitch your best pitch ever!
Topics: Public Relations