10 reasons why the future of the PR industry is doomed!

I don’t usually read industry magazines or websites, but today I made an exception.  I should know better. Two articles on Ragan’s PR Daily caught my attention.  The first, by Nicole Rose Dion is called 10 mistakes and the lessons learned from the PR world.  If you work in PR and this is how you run your client accounts then you need to go do something else.

Some of Ms. Dion’s “mistakes”, (in addition to writing this article), include:

  • “… admitting [to a client] to a mistake in an email”.  Nicole suggests talking to the client about it on the telephone because, “You never want to give your client or contact hard (written) evidence to use against you.”.  If your client relationship is so fragile that you can’t own up to a mistake, and worry that by admitting it you give them ammunition to fire you down the line then you really shouldn’t be working with them.

Lesson learned: Honesty counts for everything in a client/agency relationship – on both sides.  Owning up to a mistake and explaining how you’re going to fix it is, in my book, always preferable to having a ‘quiet chat’ that can be denied if necessary.

  • You tried to help.  Nicole’s lesson learned is “No matter what your intentions, don’t try to help in a situation when you don’t have to.”  She advocates you “let it go” if a journalist or client is “having a meltdown or is complaining to your coworker about something and you think you can help”.  Either that, or letting your boss deal with the problem.

Lesson learned: Understanding the cause of the “meltdown” is critical. It’s the only way it can be resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of the client.  It’s worth noting that my advice is actually to take steps to avoid the problem in the first place, but simply passing the buck to a colleague or boss won’t do anything for your long-term credibility with the client or journalist.  I know my approach is old-fashioned, but it’s also effective.

  • You didn’t BCC people in a mass email.

Lesson learned: If you can’t work Outlook then you really shouldn’t be allowed near a computer let alone working in PR.  HR failed if you can’t, and they let you!

  •  You sent your client your media list. Nicole suggests this is a bad idea for two reasons.  They might start contacting journalists, or you both might end up looking stupid if you contact the same person.
Lesson Learned: It’s about account management.  If a client is contacting journalists rather than having you do it [after all, they’re probably paying you to do it] then it suggests you’re not doing it right.  If you are both calling journalists and can’t agree who calls who… you shouldn’t be managing PR accounts for clients.  As for sharing media lists with clients, the list should be compiled and agreed with the client and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that it remains relevant. More on clients and media lists in a future post…  

The second article that caught my eye today is called 7 Signs your PR efforts need a reboot by Dorothy Crenshaw, one of PR Week’s 100 Most Powerful Women.  But, more about that later!!

A Template for Writing a Better News Release

I came across this article from Ragan’s PR daily a couple of weeks ago, and have been meaning to share it ever since.  A few days after I was asked by a marketing colleague what she should include in a press area of a website for a new client, and how to create interesting content for it.  One of the things I impressed on her was the importance of writing a good press release.

So, rather than calling this post ‘101 ways to write a bad press release’, which was my initial title for it, I’m going to focus on providing a template for writing better news releases.

  • Keep it short: if you can keep it to a single page, journalists will thank you for it –  they will likely only read the first couple of sentences and the quotes anyway. They get tens, and in some cases, hundreds, of releases every day, so three page releases are a waste of time and effort.
  • Make it interesting/relevant: that means spending time on the headline and the lead line of the release. If it looks interesting and relevant you’ll increase the chances of it being read.
  • Give the journalists a story – quickly: it’s the whole purpose of the document and if you don’t do it in the first couple of sentences the release will likely fail to do its job.
  • Avoid a lead line that reads, ‘Company X, a leader in the…’: That’s not a story and a journalist is not interested in what you claim to be. If your company is a leader in what it does, they’ll know.
  • Keep it simple: ask yourself, ‘would my mother understand?’ If not, it’s probably too complicated [there are exceptions to this]. Even journalists that specialize in one particular area can’t be experts in every area of their beat, so make it easy for them to understand.
  • Make the quote quotable:  say something interesting, don’t just talk about how pleased you are about a deal, or how good you think your new product is. Journalists assume you think that… say something that will make them and their readers think.
  • Include a mobile number or twitter handle that will get them in touch with somebody from your company quickly.  Journalists work to extremely tight deadlines and the quicker they can contact you the more likely they are to do so.

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas. If you’ve got any other tools that work for you then please feel free to add them in the comments. I’ll be writing about how to optimize releases for online publication and SEO at some point soon.