7 deadly PR sins series: Ignorance

Can you be ignorant without knowing it? Are you sometimes rude? Is it possible that your press releases earn you nothing more than an irritated eye-roll when read? I would put money on it. Want to know why?

You’re so caught up in your brand and getting your message out there you’ve forgotten about the most important people in the equation. I’ll give you a clue… It’s called PUBLIC relations.

PR is about communicating with the public. More specifically, with your target audience. Interacting with the right people is one of the things that turns good PR into great PR. So, do your research and work out what titles your customers are most likely to read. Make a hit list of the top online, print and social outlets in which you would like coverage.

Now you know where you would like to be featured, here are three ways to help make it happen and avoid being labelled as ignorant or lazy:

  1. Be a customer – buy, subscribe to and/or just get your hands on the publications you want to be in. Then… Shock! Horror! Actually read them. How can you possibly expect an editor to take you seriously if what you send to them is so far from their usual content that they would have to completely rewrite to make it work? Or if it’s totally off-piste and would alienate or worse, offend their readership? Seems ignorant of you doesn’t it?
  2. Write pitches and articles to suit the publication – pay attention to the tone and the language used. Watch out for the styles of the articles and any regular themes or features. Tailor your pitches and press releases to show that you understand their content and can provide value for readers. For example, avoid sending in lengthy opinion pieces when they clearly prefer to use Q&A style articles. It makes you look… yes, you guessed it.
  3. Get in touch – with just a little bit of effort you can have a lot of impact. Try actually speaking to a reporter or editor to find out exactly they kind of content they are looking for. Yes, they are busy people so won’t want a lengthy discussion but a quick chat to ask a few pre-prepared questions will serve you well for months to come.

The more you practice this the better at it you will become. What you build by repeating the process is a more efficient, more successful and, ultimately, more rewarding system for your PR efforts.

If you take anything away from this blog let it be this: being great at PR isn’t about sending out a blanket email to 200 contacts and hoping that one or more of them will pick up and run your piece. Go be an informed PR professional instead!

7 deadly PR sins series: Indulgence

Sin 2: Indulging yourself

It’s a hard one for me to write this one. Mainly because I’m guilty of it myself and, on so many occasions, have to slap my own wrists. What do I mean by indulging yourself?  Allow me to explain…

As a creative writer, I’m prone to long, descriptive sentences reminiscent of the novellas I so loved as a child which are designed to bring to life an idea so vividly that my reader cannot help but be immersed in the beautifully constructed imagery I create though my words. See?

All well and good if you’re writing a romantic novel. The trouble is that when it comes to PR, your message gets lost in the (albeit quite lovely) flowery verbiage.

Here are three tips to help keep you on the straight and narrow:

  • Keep it simple – great PR isn’t about using the biggest, most complex words you can think of. It’s about communicating a story or idea in the clearest way possible. In order to make your writing more accessible, you need to keep it simple. As soon as you overcomplicate things you’re going to lose your readers’ attention.
  • Avoid jargon – unless you’ve been asked to write something very specific for an audience in the know – leave jargon at the door. People these days lead busy lives. They don’t want to read something that looks like a page from a text book. You know yourself that when you read something what matters most is that you can read it easily, quickly and don’t need a degree in a particular field of study to find it useful.
  • Break the rules – sometimes you have to unlearn the basics. Strictly speaking, I know I was always taught not to start a sentence with ‘but’ or ‘and’. But it can give your writing some punch. Short, snappy sentences beat long drawn-out ones every time. You’re competing for attention. Grab it. Start at the end; tell your story out of sync. It can be surprisingly engaging. And that’s just what you want.

I love writing, I can’t help myself. But if, like me, you have a tendency to get carried away, don’t despair. There’s hope!  Before I start writing I remind myself of three things:

  • Who am I writing for (audience)
  • Why am I writing it (goal)
  • What am I trying to say (storyline).

Then I tend to write my sentences regardless. It’s how I work and it’s how the words come spilling out of my head. I swear they almost have a tune as they come out. Once they are down on paper (or rather screen) I can then go back and unpick any waffle.

The skill here is to recognise that you do it and be able to put it right before you release it. It takes a bit of practice but it’s one of the most valuable writing tools you can master. Happy writing!



7 deadly PR sins

Over the next few weeks we’re going to share with you seven of the biggest PR sins. They are often easy to commit, will undoubtedly hinder your PR efforts and, in some cases, can be damaging to your personal image and brand profile. Read on (if you dare) to find out if you’re guilty and what to do if you’ve fallen foul…

Sin 1: Slagging off the competition
Yes, really… that. No matter what industry or sector you operate in, you’re going to have competition. It’s a fact. Even charities have to compete for people’s time and generosity with other, similar organisations. But regardless of your personal feelings, don’t ever do it. Here’s why:
1) It’s just plain tacky. And it makes you look wildly unprofessional. Brand profile is everything in this day and age. Professionalism, ethics, quality and trustworthiness are the cornerstones of any successful brand’s image. If you resort to insults, however subtle you think they may be, they will be recognised in an instant for exactly what they are. Not cool.

2) If you’re willing to publicly pull-down or belittle your competition, what are you saying about your suppliers, affiliates and, heaven forbid, customers, behind closed doors? Nothing? That’s as well may be but you can guarantee it will cross their minds. Do you want that to be the reason that people talk about your brand?

3) It actually makes it look like you’ve got something to worry about. If the only way you can find to promote your business is by making negative or patronising comments about your competitors (or anyone else for that matter) in your own marketing, it can seem like you feel threatened and are attempting to combat another’s success with negativity.
So, if you’ve ever made this faux pas, here’s what to do: don’t ever do it again.

Then, instead of pulling the competition to pieces, do you want to know the most powerful thing you can do? Act like they don’t exist. Focus on your strengths, not their weaknesses. Win by being the best. Get ahead by offering the best products and services. Focus on what you do well and shout it from the rooftops. Build your cornerstones: Professionalism, Ethics, Quality and Trustworthiness.

So the next time you’re writing your PR, your newsletter, your e-shot – whatever it might be. Be careful that you don’t drift into a negative headspace. We’re all better than that.