There are many pitfalls to avoid when promoting a service, idea or product to the media.
Don’t lie. It might have worked at times before the internet and its vast immediate resources appeared, but today telling a lie is almost a sure guarantee of failure. If you don’t tell the truth, you are certain to be found out by a reporter. On the reverse of the coin, you must let a reporter know if he or she made a mistake in their reporting.
Don’t expect a purely self-serving news release to be run. Buy an ad instead. Reporters are not in business to sell your products for you. You will not be on the Six O’ Clock News by touting something as being new, radical or different, if it really isn’t.
Trying to “cover up” bad news. Here’s that darn internet and social media trying to ruin your life and destroy your company’s business health again. There is just no way today to hide a flawed product or company problems.
Take a proactive stance. Beat them to the punch if there is something wrong and announce it before it is announced for you. That way, too, you are more in control of coverage. And you will build trust with the media.
Ignoring the internet and social media. There are few secrets now. The
internet and blogs relating to your company must be monitored frequently. Mistakes or misstatements must be corrected immediately.
Scrimping on your company’s website. Your website is your face to your customers, the media and the world. Spend as much as your budget allows to get an attractive website that properly reflects your products and services
Squandering a reporter’s time. With staff cuts, reporters and writers are busier than ever. You must have a compelling message if you call them.
Also make sure your news releases are not too long and get to the point quickly. Remember “who, what, when, where, why” and get them in your first paragraph.
Holding a press conference. Unless you have some earth shattering news, think twice before holding a press conference. There’s nothing more embarrassing if no one shows.
Not being properly prepared for an interview. If you are fortunate enough to have a story the media is interested in, make sure your spokesperson is properly trained. This is particularly important if the person will appear on TV where every mistake, bad mannerism, halting speech or annoying habit is amplified. Use a media training professional who asks tough questions.
Doing your PR and marketing yourself. Unless you have years of experience in media relations, don’t try to do it all yourself. Experts out there know your local market intimately. They have established contacts with the media over the years and can give expert advice on whether a story is headline material … or isn’t.
Who you should hire can be tricky, of course. You will naturally want a local company if you are only doing local publicity or marketing. If you, however, want to introduce a product statewide or perhaps nationally, then you will want to hire a national firm or one (and, full disclosure, here comes my brief sales pitch) like PRConsultants Group, which is a consortium of local PR/Marketing firms in every major U.S. city.