4 Common Mistakes of DIY Public Relations
As a public relations expert, I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can do your own PR.
But. And there’s a big but. I can also give you a whole bunch of reasons why you shouldn’t. The main one being that you’re not an expert. And like anything else you pay for – from a plumber to a lawyer – you’re better off paying a pro if you want a job done properly.
Whether through bravado or lack of funds, I’ve seen plenty of entrepreneurs attempt to go it alone, and the DIYers tend to make some pretty basic mistakes. These are the four most common:
1. Making it all about you
The best lesson you can learn about PR is nobody cares about your business as much as you do. It’s harsh, but true. Reframe the perspective of thinking from ‘I just launched this widget’ to ‘this is how our widget will solve your audience’s problems.’ A solution-oriented PR focus is far more likely to result in media success than focusing the pitch on yourself or your business.
2. Not understanding news value
It’s important to understand, that as far as the media is concerned, it’s almost a given that what you have to say and what you’re doing is simply not newsworthy. You may think it is. But, trust me when I tell you it’s probably not. Unless you’re literally curing cancer or your company is on a path to hit Uber-type revenue numbers, your story simply isn’t news. The Guardian isn’t going to do a profile on you unless your story is ground-breaking. Asking for an interview is only going to disappoint you and unmask you as an amateur who does not understand what news is.
To even be considered as news, your story has to be of broad interest, not just interesting to your industry or to your customers. If that’s the case, find and pitch a trade publication in your market, not a general news outlet. Even then, expect that what you have to say may not be as newsworthy as you think.
3. Not being ready
If the media does pounce on your story, are you ready? Do you have a media kit ready? Are high res, press-ready? images readily available? Are your key messages clear? Having your ducks in a row is key when you reach out to media. If they love your pitch and are ready to hit ‘publish’ on your story tomorrow, you need to be ready.
Ensure media samples of your product are available and your spokespeople are trained and ready to act. The fastest way to get on the media’s bad side is to not be prepared and give a poor interview or ask them to wait while you get organised.
4. Asking for help from the media
Asking for help is a good thing. But asking the wrong people for help will make you look amateurish. If you pitch a story or send a press release and it’s not covered, don’t follow up and ask the reporter why they didn’t cover it, or ask them for tips for getting covered next time. That’s not their job. Making a good, newsworthy, interesting story is your job, or the job of your PR team or publicist.
Also, don’t ask PR people for free help. Sure, they can help you write a better press release or email their personal media contacts for you. But that’s what they get paid to do. So asking them to do it for free disrespects the value of the service.
Call in the pros
If you’re determined to do PR on your own, you can. But keep your expectations low. For optimum results, take the advice of a PR pro, who does the job day in, day out and has the media contacts you need.