Public Relations: The Fifteen Most Common Publicity Mistakes

The Fifteen Most Common Publicity Mistakes Businesses Make
By Patricia Fripp's PR agent Pam Lontos

 As a business owner, you probably know that publicity is important to your success. But many businesses (and maybe you’re one of them) make crucial mistakes in their publicity campaigns. While some of the mistakes are more detrimental than others, the actual costs can be staggering.

 For example, saying the wrong thing to a reporter may only cost you a quote in a national magazine. But in advertising dollars, that quote could have been worth thousands. And you never really know who would have read the interview. Maybe a reporter for USA Today or maybe Oprah’s producer (or maybe even Oprah herself). Plus, what about all the time, money, and effort you spent in getting that reporter on the phone?

 It’s true; everyone makes mistakes. By being aware of the more common ones, at least you can take action to avoid them. If you want to make the most of every publicity opportunity that comes your way, consider the following mistakes that businesses commonly make in their publicity campaigns:

1. Thinking hundreds of customers will walk through their door from one hit.
Fame and name recognition take time and repetition to build. In fact, a person will need to see your name and logo around six or seven times before they actually remember it. So regardless of what you’ve heard, there’s no such thing as an overnight success.

2. Not being unique in their approach.
No one wants to hear the same old message over and over again. So develop a hook, or unique angle that sets your business apart from others. For example, if you own a restaurant, consider what’s unique about it. What’s unique about your menu? Has the restaurant been family-owned and operated for generations? Do you offer vegetarian cuisine? The more you can make your message unique or different from the “old way,” the more attention you’ll attract.

3. Thinking they can’t get into a large publication.
Many small business owners feel intimidated by the big name publications. They envision high-powered magazine editors schmoozing with big company CEOs and lining up interviews with well-known figureheads for the next six months. In reality, editors scramble daily to find people to interview who have knowledge on the latest trends and topics. Realize too that editors must find new and exciting people to interview either weekly or monthly, so the more knowledgeable people they can add to their database, the better. Make yourself stand out as a reliable information source and you will get the media’s attention.

4. Thinking small publications don’t matter.
Even big name businesses had to build their expertise and name recognition by starting in small publications and trade journals. Although they aren’t sold on newsstands, you never know who’s reading them. So don’t overlook small publications as a foundation for your publicity.

5. Thinking their ideas are wonderful.
Touting your experience and explaining all the reasons why your business is wonderful to an editor is not an effective way to pitch your ideas. In fact, this is an immediate turn-off. Realize that an editor or reporter only cares about one thing: their readers. So instead of telling them all about your ideas and your business, first learn about their readers and what they want.

6. Pitching themselves, instead of a story for the audience.
Always pitch a publication or program by highlighting the benefits your business can offer their particular audience. Consider what uniqueness you can offer and why their readers or viewers will be interested in what you have to say.

7. Pitching the wrong person.
Besides wasting your time, pitching your ideas to the wrong media person will likely frustrate them. If you have an article you’d like to publish, you need to talk to an editor. But if you want to score an interview, you need a reporter.

8. Not finding out what reporters really want.
As you present your idea to a reporter, ask questions about what they’re looking for and what their audience is looking for. Then make changes to your initial idea based on their responses. Don’t try to “sell” your idea if it isn’t a good fit; instead, promote alternate ideas and emphasize your ability to address a variety of issues.

9. Not answering the reporter’s questions.
Always let the reporter or interviewer lead the conversation, because they most likely have an agenda for the story’s development already in mind. Don’t attempt to take over the conversation or talk about points the reporter doesn’t want to cover. They simply won’t include you in the final story.

10. Not getting to the point.
Audiences and readers love to hear firsthand accounts of experiences relating to the topic because it helps them know you on a more personal level. But don’t overload the reporter with unnecessary information that isn’t directly related to the story, and don’t ramble. If you can’t convey your message in a short amount of time, then your answer won’t be used.

11. Not respecting the reporter’s time.
Reporters work on time sensitive deadlines, and nothing will irritate them more than you being inconsiderate. So before you start pitching your ideas, always ask if they are on deadline. If yes, ask for a more convenient call back time.

12. Not gearing their pitch to the specific publication.
If you get a “no” response from an editor, reporter, or producer, always ask, “What don’t you like?” Then adapt your presentation on the spot. The more you learn about their needs and customize your message for their specific audience, the more likely you’ll be featured in their publication or on their show.

13. Making it an advertisement for their product or service.
Authors spend a large portion of their time selling their books because the profession simply demands it. But interviews and articles are not the right place to go on and on about your expertise and knowledge. You must let your information speak for itself. By giving solid, useable information, audiences will automatically know how great your book is.

14. Not providing their publicist with material and information in a timely manner.
Business owners are busy—that’s a given. But so are publicists, editors, and reporters. In order for your information to get into the right people’s hands, you need to give your publicist the requested information in a timely manner. Your publicist can’t pitch you and your book unless he or she has the most relevant information about you that showcases all you have to offer in a positive way. And if you make your publicist wait for information to send an editor or reporter, you may miss your chance to get interviewed or featured in your desired media outlet.

15. Not understanding the importance of frequency of publicity.
While it takes a long time to build your name recognition in the marketplace, it takes no time at all for people to forget about you. So you have to maintain the frequency of your publicity throughout the life of your business, especially when your competition maintains the frequency of theirs. Otherwise, you become old news.

Better Publicity in the Future
 Just like everyone makes mistakes, everyone can avoid them by being aware of the common ones. When you make yourself aware of these fifteen most common mistakes that business owners make in their publicity campaigns, you can make the most of every opportunity and achieve a greater level of success in your business.

About the Author:
Pam Lontos is president of PR/PR, a public relations firm based in Orlando, Fla. She is author of "I See Your Name Everywhere" and is a former vice president of sales for Disney's Shamrock Broadcasting.  PR/PR has placed clients in publications such as USA Today, Entrepreneur, Time, Reader's Digest and Cosmopolitan.  PR/PR works with established businesses, as well as entrepreneurs who are just launching their company.  For a free publicity consultation, e-mail or call 407-299-6128.