Trick or treat? The top PR horror stories to avoid

29th October 2021

The biggest mistakes to avoid as a PR professional

It’s well and truly spooky season; and while candy-seeking ghosts come a-knocking at our doors, and movie monsters have us hiding behind the sofa, some even scarier dangers lie ready and waiting to haunt us… We’re talking, of course, about the most petrifying PR pitfalls. So, buckle up and enjoy these cautionary tales about the horrifying PR nightmares you definitely want to avoid! 

Journalists: Friend vs Foe

We’ve all seen those terrifying journo tweets… no-one wants to be called out publicly for making a PR faux-pas. So, it’s important to understand the things that will rub a journalist up the wrong way and know how to stay in their good books. After all, our relationships with journalists are just as important as our relationships with our clients. 

Rule number one? Think like a journalist. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Jam-packed inboxes, demanding editors and looming deadlines are part and parcel of a journalist’s daily schedule. So you don’t want them to feel like you’re wasting their time or making their life any harder.

If you’re going to miss a deadline, let the journalist know. Most journalists can be flexible but it’s frustrating if they don’t know why you haven’t sent what they asked for. They’re also reporting to editors and have their own deadlines to meet!

Giving journalists time to respond is also vital. Yes it can be important, and even helpful, to chase a journalist if they’ve not answered your email, but make sure you’ve given them a chance to do so before you send that follow-up (unless it’s super timely or genuinely urgent). 

Moral of the story: Make journalists your friends, not foes.

Breaking your PR promises

It’s not uncommon for clients to want to have a thorough understanding of what, and whom, you intend to pitch. After all, it’s their reputation on the line! But beware the dangers of over-promising. Giving your client too rigid an idea of where a piece might land or who might want to speak to them will only land you in disaster.

There’s never any guarantee that a particular journalist will pick up your piece, or even that an interview with your client will make it through to publication. So it’s important to be transparent with your client about how and why you’re pitching certain pieces. You can give them an idea of the type of publications you might pitch, or the journalists you’re thinking of approaching, without being too definite about where it will end up. 

If a client is disappointed about where a piece is published – perhaps it’s not a publication that’s well known to them, or it’s not ended up where they’d hoped to see it – take the time to explain the benefit of being featured in a wide range of different publications, and building a bigger media presence over time, instead of aiming for a narrow group of specific targets.

Moral of the story: Be transparent and only make promises you can keep.

The perils of impersonal pitching

Another PR pitfall that will land you on the wrong side of journalists is impersonal pitching. Receiving a copy-and-pasted pitch or mass mail-out with no mention of either themselves or their publication – or, heaven forbid, one that’s addressed to another journalist or publication entirely – will not go down well.

Take the time to research the publication you’re pitching. Which section might your piece fit best in? Who’s the best journalist to pitch it to? Does it fit the style and subject matter the publication has been recently featuring? Taking all this into consideration will not only make your pitch stand out, but it will help to show the journalist that you’ve done your research and are bringing them something thoughtful that’s a genuinely good fit. 

Moral of the story: Get personal with your pitching.

Campaign catastrophe! 

You’ve come up with a genius campaign idea, and you’re sure it’s going to be a hit. Months of preparation have gone into organising it. You’ve lined up influencers, spoken to journalists and planned what you’re sure will be the event of the century. But then things start to go wrong…

Your most exciting influencer has dropped out, no-one turns up to the event, and you’re getting barely any coverage. Sound like your worst nightmare? Us too.

Contingency plans are your best friend when planning a PR campaign. It’s not enough to come up with Plan B, however. Make sure there’s also a Plan X, Y and Z you can turn to as well! You want to guarantee that your campaign can still be successful even if your Plan A doesn’t land. Prepare for the worst case scenario and you’ll ward off any chances of a campaign catastrophe.

Moral of the story: Plan for every eventuality.

We hope that by heeding the warnings of these terrifying tales, you’ll ward off any nasty tricks, and celebrate some PR treats, this Halloween. 

by Emma Line, Account Executive at Crest

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