OK, so you’ve signed up with a PR agency. You’ve had discussions about the plan and you’ve worked on press kit details.
So, you’re wondering, “How can I screw this up?”
Well, you’d be surprised. Hiring a PR agency is a big step. Don’t ruin it by being your own banana peel.
Amazingly, many people who hire a PR agency end up doing themselves a disservice by not actually letting the PR people do their job. Or worse, they put caveats and restrictions that prevent the person from doing the best job.
Here are some common mistakes that people make when working with a PR agency.
1. Keeping the PR agency out of the loop.
OK, so you run a manufacturing plant that has just created a machine that creates perpetual motion AND brings Elvis Presley back to life, BUT you forget to tell your PR agency about the product.
As a result, you get no press and you have no clue why.
This sounds silly, right? Believe me, it’s more common than you think. Folks are so busy working on a new project that they forget to tell the PR people about it. As a result, this press-worthy product gets no press. Or worse, it gets bad press because the PR folks have no chance to prepare a complete plan that deals with possible negative responses.
It is important to keep your PR person in the loop about important projects so they can do the job you hired them for.
2. Insisting the agency devote as much resources to irrelevant projects as those that actually will get press.
So you have the perpetual motion machine that also brings Elvis Presley to life and your PR person is chomping at the bit to pitch it to Oprah, but you are more interested in getting the word out your new sub-level assistant to the assistant vice president who you just hired.
Yes, that stunning announcement will surely please the ego of the parties involved (and even the Web site that prints any announcement no matter how pointless), it needs to take a back seat to the big picture.
However, that doesn’t always happen. Many people are too close to the subject and don’t understand that just because YOU are interested in something doesn’t mean media people will be.
Another problem that sometimes happens: People have something personal in their lives, such as a big PTA event and insist the PR person write a press release or pitch the event to their valued media contacts. This may make you a big star at the PTA meeting, but it takes away the time that could be used to increase brand awareness of your product – the reason you hired the agency in the first place.
3. Being cheap and parsimonious when it comes to the media
So you’ve manufactured a million pocket-sized versions of your perpetual motion, Elvis-reviving machine and your PR guy is ready to send them to the media. How can you screw things up?
Many different ways, but most of all being excessively cheap. For instance, insisting the media people send them to the next PR person on your list or give the product back is a sure way to irritate them.
There is sort of a pay it forward quality to press materials. The cost may be high now, but, done right, it will pay back big dividends. Since many promotional things can be considered write-offs, being cheap with the media doesn’t work.
4. Not being available to the media.
Capturing media attention is like trying to trap a butterfly. When they want to do a story, they want it now. Yes, you’re busy. Yes, it’s ALWAYS inconvenient, but when there’s media interest, you have to run with it.
Yet, there are some people who hire a PR agency and then don’t bother to return phone calls or, worse, show up for appointments.
Maybe you can reschedule things in real life, but not with the media. Your first chance is your best chance. Don’t screw it up.
With our PR industry under the microscope this week surrounding Burson-Marsteller’s handling of PR for Facebook, (Read more: “Facebook acknowledges anti-Google campaign” by Hayley Tsukayama, the Washington Post) we believe this contributed article from an esteemed colleague on the east coast may be of interest for our fellow PR friends in the west.
Isn’t it ironic that social media often is antisocial? In our ever-evolving and fast-moving social-media world, perhaps it’s good to pause and look back at history. In the 1920s, Edward L. Bernays, the first public relations counselor, called for a code of ethics to govern the emerging profession similar to codes in law and medicine. Bernays believed public relations practitioners, like lawyers, have a right to represent clients. He also felt, however, that PR practitioners should refuse dishonest, fraudulent or antisocial clients.
Given the current social media Burson-Marsteller/Facebook flap, isn’t it ironic—or prescient—that he used “antisocial” back then? How far has the profession “emerged”? In fact, it’s emerged a great deal through PRSA’s and IABC’s codes of ethics and the Arthur W. Page Society’s Page Principles, among others—all voluntary standards for evaluating an individual’s, group’s or company’s behavior that, alas, don’t carry substantive penalties.
The current Burson-Marsteller and Facebook issue clearly violated normative standards. To me, normative standards in public relations amount to self-regulation in U.S. financial markets. We know what happened there. The recent successful prosecution of the Wall Street insider-trading case (pending appeal) will perhaps encourage Wall Street’s return to normative behavior. Likewise, we can hope and expect that the Burson-Marsteller and Facebook flare-up will make public relations codes of ethics enforceable through real penalties as other professions have: disbarment or practicing prohibitions. In other recent social media gaffs, those involved have been fired. Those are choices societies and professions must make to control antisocial behavior in a social-media world.
Okay so let me start out by saying that I am by no means an expert on pitching! I’ve landed a few awesome hits in my day (ahem, The New York Times, The View, Good Morning America, etc., etc.) but it definitely takes more than a few good hits to call yourself an expert. However, since I have now crossed over to the other side of the e-mail chain and am the one actually receiving the pitches, I thought it would be in my best interest and yours to pass on a few tips. In some cases, they might just be friendly reminders but believe me when I say that I have received some HORRENDUS pitches.
I could be “that person” that calls out your name via Twitter or on my blog…but I won’t…just take my few words of advice next time you send out a pitch and I’m sure you and your client will be rewarded with some nice coverage in the end!
1) It’s okay to follow-up but don’t harass me – this may seem like a no-brainer to some but I assure you, I’ve definitely been harassed for either not answering an e-mail (it was probably a bad pitch to start!) or for saying I was going to use something on a certain date and then pushing it back a few days. A friendly follow-up is great, it’s actually welcome in my book as I know you’re just doing your due diligence but don’t scream at me over e-mail. I get tons of inquiries a day asking me to use this product or interview this person and I read every single one of those e-mails. In fact, I file away the ones I like and plan on using. BUT it’s nearly impossible to respond to each e-mail at that very moment. Just know that I will and when I do, be nice and pretend you remember who I am!
2) Be respectful of the media outlet – okay, I know I’m not with USA Today or People but remember YOU pitched ME! If I do take the time to respond to you and say I would like to use your client and I request photos or a sample, please follow through on your end. My little Web site is something that I take pride in and I too want to offer the best to my readers. Just because the readership isn’t over a million, doesn’t mean it deserves any less respect from you. At least take the time to send me one little picture… otherwise, you shouldn’t have offered and pitched me in the first place!
3) Pitch with links and ONE or TWO photos MAX – I love receiving a photo with my pitches so I don’t have to go back and request one and also so I can see what it is without having to search for it. It makes my job a whole lot easier and I’m much more likely to choose your client versus one that doesn’t include a photo. If you don’t include a photo, at least include a link that I can click and see the product. I’ve received pitches with 32 photos included and that just makes me hit the delete button!! On the other hand, I’ve gotten pitches with no photos and not even a Web site mention – how does that help me?!
4) At least pretend you read my Web site – you don’t have to become a loyal follower but take a look once and awhile and see what I’m writing about. Any journalist likes to know that you read their articles and if you reference something they wrote recently, it scores you major points! If you have to ask me what media outlet I’m with or what I write about, I’m definitely not interested in working with you.
Just a few words of pitching wisdom from me to you… I hope to get some great pitches from you soon!