Planning a PR campaign? Watch out for these 7 common mistakes

22nd July 2021

So you’ve had a killer idea for the perfect PR campaign for your favourite client. You’re confident it’s going to go viral, winning you dozens of top-tier pieces of coverage and a round of applause from the entire office. 

Or is it? 

When you and your client really love a campaign idea, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of something you love, whilst forgetting who it’s really for. Before you launch into the planning and execution – putting your budget and reputation at stake – take a step back and double check that you haven’t fallen prey to one of these common PR mistakes.


  1. Ignoring the target audience

    When planning a campaign, one thing should always be at the front of your mind: who do I want to pay attention to this campaign? Which journalists, decision-makers, thought leaders and consumers do I want to catch the eye of? Ideally, your campaign idea should evolve out of this focus, rather than you having to retro-fit and tailor your idea to the appropriate audience.

    Ultimately, even if you have the best idea in the world, if the premise of the campaign is irrelevant to your client’s target audience then it’s not going to be a winner.

  2. Failing to align your messaging

    You know your client’s key messaging inside out, so this is what should be front and central of any campaign you create for them. The purpose of any PR campaign is to promote an awareness of your client and disseminate their message far and wide; so unless your campaign aligns with their messages, you’ll never hit your goal. You might get lots of coverage, but if it’s not saying the right thing it will be of little value to your client.Here’s an easy test: can you explain in just one sentence how the premise of the campaign is relevant to your client’s mission or goals? If you can’t, or if it’s a long-winded and tenuous explanation, you need to go back to the drawing board.
  3. Trying to appeal to every media outlet

    In an ideal world, your campaign will be picked up by every single media target on your outreach list. But to stand the best chance of any coverage at all, you need to accept early on that this is unlikely.Don’t dilute your messaging so that you can push it out to every outlet; instead, select your most valuable media targets and then tailor the campaign so it stands the best possible chance of being featured by them.You know what your team’s capacity is, so trim down your press lists so you can focus on those high value wins that your client cares most about. Sometimes depth rather than breadth is best.
  4. Missing that topical hook

    If you’ve flown through points 1-3 without tripping up, well done! But now for the killer question: what makes your campaign perfectly relevant and appropriate for this exact moment in time? What current trends or big themes does it speak to, and what is it adding to the conversation?If this is an idea you’ve been sitting on for months, or something that could have run last year, it’s unlikely to have that zeitgeisty flavour that the press go wild for. Yes, you’ll need to act fast to pull off a truly topical campaign, but if you can time it just right and leverage or set a trend, your efforts will pay dividends.

  5. Lacking a headline-worthy idea

    When you’re fighting to catch the eye of a busy journalist, it’s essential that your campaign concept leaps off their computer screen and grabs their attention.Try writing your own ideal ‘headline’ that you would want to see in print. Can you create something that sums up the key point but also sounds exciting, pithy and fresh? A paragraph of explanation won’t cut it – you need the message to be so crystal clear that one sentence tells a journalist exactly what they need to know and exactly why they should be covering the campaign.
  6. Forgetting the importance of visuals

    Every successful PR campaign must have a visual element – something to bring the concept or messaging alive that can be photographed, videoed and shared on social media. Don’t let this be an afterthought – it should be something that you build right into the heart of the campaign, and don’t be shy about spending money on making it work!Similarly, having a rich bank of high-quality photos and videos to accompany your campaign pitching will massively increase the likelihood of coverage. Make sure that you’ve allocated enough budget to pay a professional photographer and videographer to capture and edit this content for you.
  7. Missing the mark with the timing

    Timing really is everything when it comes to launching a PR campaign. No one can predict exactly when there’s going to be a lull in the news agenda, but you can make sure that you avoid clashes with busy news days or major events in your sector (for example, Budget Day, Black Friday, A Level Results Day or the BRITS).Are there any particular times of year that make it more likely that journalists will be thinking about issues relevant to your campaign? For example, if your campaign is themed around eco-friendly messaging, you might consider launching it in the same week as Earth Day. Or if you’re talking about disability, you might align a campaign with Disability Awareness Week.Ideally, you ought to keep the launch date of your campaign as flexible as possible, just in case a sudden major news event dominates the news agenda!

If you’re confident that you’ve avoided all of these mistakes, then congratulations! Your campaign looks set to be a roaring success. 

If you’re looking for expert support with planning and executing an impactful PR campaign, get in touch with the Crest team to discuss how we can work together.  


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