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Four Deadly Sins of PR (& How to Avoid Them)

There’s little doubt that a well-messaged and sustained public relations campaign can do wonders for a company’s brand awareness and reputation. It doesn’t matter if that campaign is for a smoothie shop with three locations or an established fitness club with three hundred. But, the exact same can be said for the other side of the coin – one minor slip-up can spell disaster for a brand’s public opinion. Even the most notable brands, who seem to have mastered the art of effective public relations, still struggle to hit the mark every time, often running into these four common mistakes and misunderstandings.

Underestimating the power of planning.

Far too often public relations campaigns are rolled out with minimal planning and research. The result ends in a “spray and pray” approach to outbound media relations which includes bombarding media with half-baked pitches about your brand, a terrible strategy for even the most sophisticated brands, not to mention those just emerging. By prioritizing planning during the early stage of campaign development, you’re able to clearly define brand messaging, intended audience and desired goals. This is crucial in identifying and targeting the right media outlets and reporters at the start, saving you time and money and giving you a better chance at landing the coverage you crave

Your brand’s PR goals can range anywhere from building local or national awareness to reinventing your brand persona to new product promotion. No matter your goal, the most important element of campaign development is determining who you’re trying to reach. For instance, if you’re a high-end yoga apparel boutique, you’ll want to consider shaping your message to reach middle to upper class women ages 30 to 55, who prioritize health and fitness. By dedicating adequate time and resources to planning in the early stages of campaign development, the execution in the later stages will come that much easier.

“News” without a purpose

Every day journalists deal with overflowing inboxes of irrelevant pitches that either don’t pertain to their subject area, don’t have a local tie or are just blatantly insignificant. If you’re sending pitches about your brand, the key is to put yourself in the reporter’s shoes or, more importantly, their audience’s shoes. Ask yourself: Would I want to read this story? Like the boy who cried wolf, if you continuously send insignificant, yawn-inducing pitch ideas to journalists, they’ll eventually stop listening and probably get into the habit of clicking “delete” the moment your name pops up in their inbox.

You can avoid falling into this hole by offering consistent, timely and, most importantly, newsworthy story ideas. Don’t pitch your brand just for the sake of pitching – create captivating stories that people want to read. It’s easy to get into the mindset that “all press is good press,” but it’s best to keep your eye on the prize and prioritize media opportunities that will help your business achieve its established goals.

Right message, wrong outlets.

You’ve heard it before – when opening a new business, location can make or break you. Where you place your brand’s messaging is just as crucial. Once you determine who your target audience is, you’ll also need to determine what they’re reading and construct a plan to get their attention. A common complaint among journalists is that they receive pitches that don’t fit within the focus of their outlet. If you’re a gourmet candy franchise opening a new location in Orlando, it doesn’t make sense to target a restaurant trade magazine in California. Instead, you’ll want to focus your efforts on business and trade reporters in the Orlando DMA.

But, don’t be afraid to reach beyond traditional media in print, television and radio. Also, consider bloggers, podcast hosts and online-only publications as well. Now more than ever, bloggers and other influencers play a huge role in building brand awareness, with consumers trusting third party recommendations much more than branded material.

Lacking patience.

Remember – public relations is a marathon, not a sprint. While there certainly are exceptions, landing a spot on the homepage of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal doesn’t typically happen after one press release distribution and a few voicemails. If you aren’t receiving the media attention you hoped for after your first round of pitching, don’t automatically presume that your campaign’s a bust.

Take a step back and analyze your efforts; everything from your email subject line, the content and verbiage used within the pitch, and your targeted outlets. Was your subject line eye catching? Did your target outlets align with your message? Did your pitch lack substance and clarity? All of these factors can play into whether or not a reporter decides to pursue your idea, let alone to return your call or email. Rolling out an effective, lasting public relations campaign takes time and patience, but the good news is that no brand is too small for big coverage when it’s done right.

Matthew Jonas is the president of TopFire Media, an award-winning integrated public relations and digital marketing agency specializing in franchise marketing and consumer branding. Together with the leaders of iFranchise Group, Jonas established TopFire Media to fill the void of an integrated digital marketing approach in the franchise industry. As a digital marketing strategist with more than a decade of in-depth experience in SEO and PPC, social media publishing, conversion based marketing, inbound marketing, sales management, and online lead generation, Jonas has built a career dedicated to delivering an integrated marketing approach that achieves client success and long-term relationships.

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