By Doreen Clark

This is exciting. Your company has given the green light to start a public relations (PR) program. You have your eye on the prize; you're ready to enhance your visibility, build credibility, and promote your thought leadership. Ready, set…. hold on a minute. Before you start media outreach, be sure that you don’t sabotage your efforts. These are five no-nos —the things to avoid if you want to increase your chances of success:


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No-No #1: Put the Cart Before the Horse

You have seen your competitors in the news, which is where you want to be. That’s perfect. Desire and buy-in from everyone on your team is a great start, but don’t pick up the phone, send an email, or reach out to your target reporters on social media until you have a clearly defined strategy. That means your team must fully understand the messages you want to share, while double-checking its consistency with the messages throughout the rest of the organization. There are some additional questions to ask for clarification:

  • What is the end goal?
  • Have you developed an internal editorial calendar to help stay on track?
  • Do you know what media you want to use and how to reach the audience?
  • Do you have a robust blog, some videos, and maybe an infographic to share?

Content is important, as it gives your PR program a launch pad. My point is this: make sure your nest is in order before laying your eggs.

 

No-No #2: Run Before You Walk

You have determined your goals and they’re lofty. Why not reach for the stars? There is no reason to not to include the big, high-visibility outlets as part of your outreach—after all, your target market probably reads them. However, one result of public relations is increased credibility. Therefore, you need to get your feet wet, secure some wins, and others will follow. The reality is that news begets news. Don’t be afraid to start smaller. Take the time to build a true relationship network, not just names typed into a spreadsheet. If you want to do CNBC live, start local. That will give the networks proof of your style, your speaking ability, and your expertise. Build a portfolio, and showcase it via the news page on your website. Once your place has been proven within the industry, you will be ready to run with the bulls.

 

No-No #3: Become Blinded by Shiny Objects

You have created your target media list. It is comprised of the usual suspects along with trade publications. You want it so badly you can taste it. However, has the holy grail blinded you to the contributions of bloggers, freelancers, and podcasters? Believe me when I say that editors and reporters read smaller outlets; therefore, you should be in them too. The point is this: don’t get so stuck on the big boys that you miss opportunities ripe for the picking, the low-hanging fruit. Sometimes shiny objects can be a distraction to your focus. Spread your wings, diversify your outreach, and keep your eyes on everything in your path; it may be the best win of the quarter.

 

No-No #4: Forget Where You Came From

You have gotten some great wins into your first few months of public relations. You want to pull together a media report to show the traction, the engagement, and the article clicks made thus far. However, you have run into a problem—you forgot to take note of where you started. It is close to impossible to measure success, over time, if you don’t have a comparison point, or know where you were before the PR program began. How many articles did you have? How many views, how many social shares, how many contacts became sales, how many links were in the articles, and how do your efforts compare with your competitors and their media relations? With PR you should show the starting place in order to measure effectively over time. Therefore, take stock of where you are before you begin. Without this step, PR may be short-lived since the executive team will have a difficult time understanding the value of the program.

 

No-No #5: Run in Different Directions

You have just started the PR program. You would like to reach out to the reporter of an article you just saw, to add extra value and insert a company thought leader into the conversation, except, you aren’t sure who should be the thought leader; neither the areas of expertise nor the persons responsible were determined ahead of time. In PR, time is of the essence and your missed opportunity will be a benefit for your competitor. Before kicking off your program, double-check that everyone is on the same page. Determine each area of interest and the individuals from the organization who will be media-facing. Know who is doing what and when. If expectations are not clear, another bird will eat your worm.

Public relations is a necessary component to a comprehensive marketing strategy, but don’t go at it half-baked. Take time to understand your strategy. Start out small and expand your wings as interest builds. Reach out to freelancers, as a relationship with one can mean a win at numerous outlets. Take notice of where you are before you begin and make sure everyone is on the same page. When all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, public relations will take your brand to the next level.

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Doreen Clark

About the author

Doreen Clark is the Director of Public Relations for SmartBug Media. She has over a decade of public relations and communications experience helping both B2B and consumer clients gain media exposure. Read more articles by Doreen Clark.