Home The 5 Most Common PR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The 5 Most Common PR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Many organizations see PR as free advertising. The assumption that PR is advertising is evident with the core PR success metric being Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). It’s no wonder that more and more organizations are focused on telling their brand story through PR.

US data even tells us that there are 6 PR Pros for every 1 Journalist. This statistic has been a 2x increase in 10 years all the while newsrooms are shrinking.

These known metrics from the AVE makes it super important that organizations start to take PR seriously. Creating a press release and blasting it out via a news wire no longer cuts it. You need to strategize and be meticulous with your PR approach to ensure your company’s success.

The discussion here points to the core PR mistakes that are made by companies regularly. I’ve also provided you with tips for improving your PR workflow.

#1 Mistake: No Research or Understanding

Getting PR for your organization can be a massive boost to business and awareness. You’ll need to focus your PR efforts where you can reap the fruits of your labor. Knowing where your focus must require a certain level of understanding and effort.

Your level of understanding these issues is where things get out of shape. Smaller businesses especially make the mistake of chasing the public eye but fail at the most basic of hurdles. Where does the problem start? Researching and understanding both the journalist and the publication that you are reaching out to mark your beginning.

Let’s role play. You wouldn’t reach out to a prospective buyer who you didn’t research first, would you? The same applies to get that media “buy-in,” which can be looked at in the same context as trying to arrange a sales meeting or converting someone. Let’s break these two core problems down and get some ideas going to help combat this.

Not Understanding the Journalist.

Journalists aren’t starving for stories; they are not waiting for the next big thing to appear in their inbox. These people have editorial calendars to maintain and accounts to research. Pitching a tech angle when a journalist covers health-care tech, for example, will not generate coverage. The added “health-care” detail ensures your latest productivity app won’t be a fit for the journalist.

Imagine the stress you feel when getting a cold call that doesn’t even make sense to you. Imagine the same for a journalist, but instead of the wrong product pitch from one company, you get 10’s of pitches throughout the day that have zero to do with anything the journalist is looking for.

Not Hitting the Right Publications.

More on this later in the article but this is an issue that repeats itself time and time again. Hitting the right publication generally happens when a media list is purchased, and the spray and pray method is applied. Because there was a lack of research done, the outreach will be reduced and filled with gaps. Wasting your time, the journalists’ time and only adding to the negative sentiment that is felt with media relations these days is the end result of the action.

Ideas to Consider.

Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google are tools that you use on a daily basis. These three tools provide plenty of information to you in seconds so that you can run a gut-check without wasting anyone’s time.

If you want that coverage, then allow yourself the time of day to do the research to help you better understand the journalist and the publication. If time is an issue and doing everything manually is off-putting, but you still want PR — then take a moment and spend it reviewing the PR software out there. PR software has already been designed that will help you improve in all areas of communications.

#2 Mistake: Spreading No-News

As much as you may be proud of your business or accomplishments, it doesn’t always need a PR push. Many PR failures start with the basics, and having a story to tell is about as basic (necessary) as you can get with PR.

Journalists want people to read their story. So they need something interesting that is going to drive conversation and eyeballs to their story. Is your news going to drive the conversation?


When you are a small or lesser-known brand, product updates generally get shunned for the more prominent names. Why? Because bigger names equal more people, who use the product or have heard of it which has a net result of more readers.

Generic and Common Angles.

Generic and common angles stories are not going to drive readers or shares. If you want coverage, then you need to have achieved or accomplished something that few others have.

For example, investment or funding generates news more or less every time. Why? Because people will have an opinion on the value of the company or funding. Pondering what they could achieve with the investment makes for good reading if you have garnered an angle worth reading about. A new idea or a fresh thought on an old story or issue will drive clicks and eyeballs to the story.

Ideas to Consider.

Writing a blog post for most small businesses is more than enough. Your blog can operate however you determine to run it. Get more readers by boosting posts on social media (again, the audience will tell you if the story is interesting or not via the number of click-throughs).

Editorial calendars: create one, collect publication and journalists calendars, and align the two together. This list will give journalists a go-to source for future stories, and you know what to expect and when.

#3 Mistake: No Media Relations

Focus on the word relation here. Having someone’s email address isn’t the same as having ties or relations. A relationship doesn’t appear by magic, out of nowhere; you’ll need to spend time and base the relationship on a mutually beneficial situation.

The easiest way to think about media relations is to view it as strategic account management. Connections are created through building rapport, connecting with individuals, and understanding what it is they need and want for them to be successful.

But there is a real lack of focus on relations when it comes to PR and organizations. Most forget about the basics and bombard journalists with all kinds of non-sense and expect instant replies and coverage.

Too Many Follow-Ups.

Follow-ups are an essential part of PR. People are busy, and sometimes a nudge can help to refresh their memory. That being said, there is no need to follow-up with journalists every day or wait a week and then try again. Most news is old by then and would have either been covered elsewhere or was not of interest.

Keep follow-ups to about two to three times before calling it a day.

Cold Calling.

This is a tricky one. Many of my PR successes have come from cold calling and speaking to the journalist and building relations. That said, cold calling becomes a real issue when the caller has made no effort in understanding the publication/journalist.

If you want to cold call, make sure you have done substantial research beforehand.

Mass Email Blast.

Mass email blasts of PR Releases such as these generally mean journalists are added to a media contacts list which is purchased online. Minor personal touches such as — %f_name% — are included, and that’s a wrap. This type of media is not good enough, and a journalist will see right through it — and be aggravated with you.  Volume does not drive results; it does the opposite in fact, which is why serious consideration needs to be taken when looking into media lists.

Ideas to Consider.

Start over with your approach and take time out to start to research the journalists and publications. Take the time to build relations by sending intro emails out, mention a journalists article on social media or link to it.

Trying various account management ideas can provide some great tips on media relations too. Ultimately, take the time to review competitor coverage, industry coverage, and build a list of key contacts will be your best strategy moving forward.

#4 Mistake: Lack of a Pitch

Researching your journalists and taking the time out to understand them is one part of the public relations puzzle. Next comes the pitch. The almighty pitch, as you already guessed it, is another issue for small businesses.

Pitching is both an art and science. Both of these talents can be learned, but they require time, practice, and wisdom to be successful. The wisdom part comes through building and sustaining the relationship.

Small business PR can at times seem like it is nothing more than a promotional sales document that has been added into the pitch and attached as a PDF. There can be too much or too little information given in a pitch, which for a journalist requires more time on fact-finding and checking.

Ideas to Consider.

When pitching, focus on delivering a short intro to the story, the main content with the critical information included, and a closing statement.

Adding critical information that is key to the story being interesting, leave out the smaller details and link to files and documents rather than attaching to the email.

Practice pitching by not pitching your business or product. Focus on pitching a piece of content you found that should be considered for inclusion in a journalists article or future pieces. Frequent conversations tend to make pitching far more effective as relations improve.

#5 Mistake: Targeting Only Top Media

Big media outlets provide significant metrics that we all want to see — high traffic, high referrals, more business, increased brand awareness. It’s only right that all PR activities should be focused on top media. But, top media won’t matter if your audience isn’t there and your piece doesn’t apply to the nature of the publication.

For example, a B2B organization will struggle to gain coverage from gossip newspapers. A B2B organization may be a great company and have large reader numbers. However, the customers and clients won’t pick up your information if you’re not where they get their information in the first place. You won’t see any benefit from getting coverage if your prospects are not there. Plenty of organizations are wasting resources trying to get coverage from publications which are not suitable for their intended targets.

Ideas to Consider.

Quality over quantity is vital here. You should only reach out to relevant publications that are suitable for your audience. If your clients and customer only happen to read three smaller publications — then you’ll need to focus all efforts on media relations.

Start small with smaller blogs that are relevant to you and start building from there. If you can get coverage from multiple smaller outlets, and you have success, then pitching top media will become easier, and so will the angle that you can use.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Dmitry Dragilev is the founder of JustReachOut.io - a SaaS which has helped 5000+ startups and businesses get featured in press on an ongoing basis. He is also the founder of PRThatConverts.com course teaching entrepreneurs "how to do PR right" and occasionally takes on fun client projects through his consultancy, Criminally Prolific. Dmitry has spent over a decade in the world of marketing and PR and was previously a software engineer. He has published 1,500+ articles in the last decade and currently writes for Entrepreneur, Forbes, TheNextWeb, SmallBizTrends and Business.com as well as Moz Blog, Ahrefs Blog and many others.…

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