The PR industry continues to go from strength to strength with a steady 5% growth in 2020 and the five years previous to that.
This demonstrates that organisations recognise the value that communications play in their overall business strategy. Consumer research has shown that 48% see journalism and earned media to be the most credible source of information.
Besides being credible, earned media is also extremely cost effective. But many misconceptions are still held around the PR profession.
Here Lis Anderson, director, ambitious PR share five of the most common mistakes to avoid when thinking about PR for your business.
Journalists are the window to your target audience and it’s important to remember that they serve their interests and not your businesses. A common mistake that businesses make is to assume that what they think is news is relevant to a reporter. A new customer, a hire or an office move may be big news for your company, but it doesn’t translate to an effective PR campaign. The key is to work in collaboration with the key journalists in your target media to understand the story hooks, topics and assets that will resonate with their audience. 70% of publishers are open to getting pitched a set of ideas that fit their beat, and they prefer collaboration over getting pitched a finished asset without prior contact. Each publication will have their own editorial style and content requirements. It’s important to tailor your PR pitch specifically for each publication you target and to work on the assumption that one size will not fit all.
Failure to understand the pressures of a journalist
Against a backdrop of spikes in fake news and the rise of social media as a news source, 71% of journalists believe that the public trusts them less than they did three years ago. As a result, journalists are becoming more selective about what they choose to report on. Consequently, PR professionals will need to make compelling cases that their information and news is worth coverage.
But don’t give up if you don’t see immediate results, especially if you’re trying PR for the first time. Public relations should be seen as a long-term strategy and a collaborative approach is the key to generating strong relationships with your key media and positioning your company as a go-to source of reliable information.
57% of top tier publishers receive between 50 and 500 pitches per week so if you are not successful on your first pitch that’s not to say that future pitches will also fail.
Failure to tell a good story
As mentioned before, big news for your company will not necessarily translate to your target audience. The most effective PR campaigns are based around the ability to tell a good story. Crafting persuasive and compelling narratives is no mean skill, and it is this attribute that gives PR its place in the marketing mix. It starts with a deep understanding of your business and the specific problems that your products and services solve for your customers. This is your raison d’être; why you exist.
This understanding forms the basis of your communications key messages. The way that you deliver these key messages must then be driven through personality and told through your brand persona. Make your story compelling by discussing the key issues that your prospects are facing, champion causes close to their heart and share best practice. Telling your story authentically creates a bond of trust with your audience so avoid sales pitches at all times and involve your audience and business stakeholders in your storytelling where possible.
Taking a linear approach to your communications
When it comes to communicating with your target audience, it’s impossible to tell your story in just one press release or article. PR should be strategic and methodical, focusing on 2-3 of your key messages at any one time. Any more than this will be overwhelming or confusing to the reader. But it also serves another purpose. Whilst the reason for doing PR is not to generate direct sales, if done correctly with a drip feed of earned media coverage it can influence the purchase decisions of your target audience.
70% of consumers use three or more channels when researching a purchase, therefore it’s important that you take a multi-layered approach to earned media and cast the net wide when it comes to selecting your target media. It’s also important to view it as a long-term investment rather than short sharp bursts of activity. For best results, supplement earned media with other marketing efforts. The PESO framework of Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media highlights how each distinctive area of the marketing funnel ties into each other to deliver long-term engagement.
Relying on any one form of content
A 2019 survey found that for B2B companies, earned media and branded content ranked as the most impactful. The survey found 30% of B2B respondents cited news coverage as the way people learn about new products online that they can use for their day jobs.
A survey of editors, reporters and journalists has also found that contributed articles are often your best shot at earning coverage; 19% of publishers requested articles, 13% requested infographics, 12% requested mixed-media pieces.
The trick is not to rely on any one channel to get your story out there. Your audience will consume information in a multitude of ways. The rule of seven states that it takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before a purchase is made. Using different approaches (press releases, viewpoints, news hijacking, forward features, infographics, interviews and white papers) will give you the best chance of cutting through the noise; especially if you operate in a highly competitive industry. Whatever media channel or approach you use, the key is to ensure that your message is consistent as it will help your prospects remember who you are.