PR Sins and What to Do About Them

A series of recent experiences showed me that sometimes a PR representative is paradoxically the biggest barrier in promoting an organization. When you have journalists leaving your building by slamming the door and you don’t understand why, you may want to take a look inside your PR department.

Let’s examine the Top 10 most common sins that PR reps indulge in and which ones drive journalists crazy.

1. Blatant lies.

This information has never been published before; it’s all yours.” Sure, until Google shows you that something which you thought would be your scoop was already published.

2. Cheap manipulation.

I invite you for an exclusive interview with our manager.” Yet when you arrive, you find five more colleagues waiting for the same “exclusive” interview. Outraged, you ask how that is possible. “Well, they are from other media: radio, TV, a daily, a weekly. They are not your competitors,” the PR rep says. After you swallow your list of curses, you want to ask: who are you to define my competition? Secondly, since when do you have the right to define exclusivity? As my good friend and excellent Czech journalist Ondřej Malý once said, exclusivity has only one meaning. If you don’t know it, go check the dictionary before applying for a job in PR.

3. Overwhelming ego.

Recently I dealt with a PR person who insisted that his name appear in a press release together with a company quote. I asked him if we couldn’t get the CEO’s name for the quote. He said: “Why, am I not good enough?” Well, since when are journalists eager to quote a spokesperson and not a company leader?

4. The Cerberus complex.

In another case I dealt with a spokeswoman who told me: “We pay you to do media training. This is what I want you to tell them because this is what they need to know and nothing more.” It was hard not to tell her: lady, you work in an environment with people who can think for themselves. If you don’t like that, go work at the zoo.

5. The emotion killer.

Sometimes I feel all my ideas get killed in the PR department,” a client told me. What is going on? This clever, enthusiastic and results-driven manager has dozen of juicy, meaningful stories to tell. However, when he clashes with a fear-driven PR rep that removes all anecdotes, parallels, life and enthusiasm from a story, for the sake of a lame but safe press release, stories get killed. Bye bye visibility.

6. Disrespect.

Journalists write stories, have deadlines and respond to editors. However, this simple equation is not always common sense among PR reps. A PR person’s lack of understanding for the journalist’s constraints can come from the fact that she never spent an hour in a newsroom, or that she simply doesn’t care, which is even worse. In any case, showing disrespect for a reporter’s deadlines, work regime, hierarchy and so on can make a journalist your enemy forever.

7. Insistence.

There is a special place in hell for PR people who call reporters to check whether they have received a press release, and if they will publish anything from it. All journalists know that press releases feature very little new information for publication. On top of getting spammed day by day, there is no bigger pain than to keep track of that spam AND answer a PR rep’s phone calls on it. Even better: call around 4 pm when reporters are on deadlines. Failure guaranteed.

8. Impertinence.

You were here with my CEO for 30 minutes, so you must write something, no?” No.

9. Inconsideration.

Lack of help with setting up an appointment, lack of interest for the public’s needs, talking down to people, lack of care — all these are the best ingredients to keep a reporter away from your door forever.

10. The Barbie complex.

I won’t get my hands dirty with this work; this is for the agency.” If your PR rep has a clean nails policy and all hard work goes to your external agency PR staff, you might want to reconsider her engagement with your company.

If you found that any of these sins pertain to your PR rep, think twice. Only one of these sins is enough to write the name of your organization with sparkling red letters into the memory of a journalist. If you want no visibility, it’s your right. Good luck when you’re in a crisis, but go for it. However, if you’re yelling out loud that you want visibility, and you get reporters to run an interview with you, but you then treat them with one of the sins I have mentioned above, you might want to reconsider your stance.

What you should check when you want to hire a PR rep:

1. Personal profile management. You hire a communicator. If the person can’t take care of their own image, face-to-face or online, why would they do any better for your company?
2. Awareness and professional competencies. Would you ever give the social media strategy of your company to someone who doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile?
3. Credentials from former companies. How well did a PR rep do to protect a company when in crisis, and to enhance the company’s visibility?
4. Credentials from journalists. Are they respected by at least five reporters from media that you’d like to see your name in? If the PR person has an impeccable reputation, hire them, empower them and stick to them.
5. Credentials from former PR agencies. If a rep is clear-minded, knows what they want, and knows how to assign tasks, they will do the same for you, which means they will save you money from the budget you invest with your PR agency.

In a world where true communication professionals are rarer than hen’s teeth, your company’s communication should start with the basics. If your goal is to achieve outstanding results through communication, but your PR backyard smells awkward, don’t be afraid to do a spring cleaning despite the late autumn.

THIS TEXT HAS FIRST BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE COLUMN MEDIAPOWER BY LEADERS MAGAZINE ON DECEMBER 19, 2011 http://www.leadersmagazine.cz/2011/12/19/pr-sins-and-what-to-do-about-them/#.UuCuPbRNyM8

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The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.
Cristina Muntean
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Let's Talk

The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.