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5 of the most common PR mistakes and how to avoid them

Simon Rayner-Langmead, founder of Essence communications , shares his most common mistakes brands make with their PR – and how to avoid them.

I think to understand what mistakes to avoid in PR, the best place to start is to recognise what it is you want to achieve. Why are you contacting the press?

For instance, are you looking to launch a product or brand, increase sales in your business, would you like to position yourself as an authority on a subject or are you lobbying for change?

Whatever the goal may be, treat your press campaign like writing a murder mystery. Start at the end and work backwards. Provide an interesting story first and foremost. Your brand is a set of associations that a makes with a company, product, or service, so make sure it is worth talking about! So here goes:

Don't be boring

Media are inundated by brands that think that a new swivel chair for their CEO is worthy of a press release. Wrong! My advice is generally, if it's not something you'd talk to a friend about at a dinner party then it's probably not worth telling the press about. We’ve all been there; you’re passionate about what you’re working on and tell someone else about it and they don’t seem to share your enthusiasm. Be really honest with yourself when deciding what to release. If needs be, ask a few people if they think it sounds like a winning story. Be creative and think about what you would like to read in an article. Think like a journalist, start your press release with a headline that will grab their attention, we all know the types of articles that make us want to read more....

here.

Don't mail blast

Many companies feel that a pebbledash approach is the best way to secure coverage. Sadly, PR is not a numbers game. Gone are the days when you can fire out loads of emails or sit on the phone for an afternoon and generate coverage. Carefully select the journalists who are interested in your subject matter. Read previous articles they have written to ensure they are the right person. If you expect someone to take the time to write about your business, take the time to know about him or her. A beauty journalist recently told me that someone had sent her a press release about a festival pushchair asking if she could include it in her column –why???

Try not to go on and on...

When you're emailing a journalist, keep it short and sweet. A paragraph or 2 is probably enough. If they are interested they will let you know. If you can't grab someone’s interest in a paragraph, then it probably won't make a good story. This goes for press releases too. Keep your release to one page if possible and add detailed information in the editor’s notes. The less work a journalist has to do to turn your info into a story, the more likely they are to feature it. Give facts and figures, links and short bios. Images should be small to not clog up their inbox – you can always send high-resolution versions upon request. Good images are so important these days as many articles are heavily image led. A picture taken with your smartphone is not good enough. Get a professional to do it for you – you’ll be amazed what a difference this makes.

Don't copy and paste

Every email you send should be written specifically for that particular journalist. Nobody wants to think they are being told about something that has been released to 500 other people. Even if you are talking to a few people, make it specific for each person. Is there an angle you could offer to one publication exclusively, whilst another to a different one?

Time of year

Journalists are not going to write about a new Christmas decoration in March or a Valentines package in May. Different publications have different lead times. For instance, some publications write 4 or 5 months (monthly publications) in advance, whilst online press can post something the following day. When you are releasing your story think about when you put it out to each publication so that it will be most relevant to what they are working on at that particular time. Keep an eye out for things that are in the press on a particular day. For instance, when the latest James Bond film came out, a bar was serving a special Bond cocktail for 007.

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