MARKETING

8 Publicity Fails of PR Pros and Overeager Entrepreneurs

If your PR person isn't getting you results, these missteps might be to blame.
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The first commandment for landing publicity: Thou shalt not annoy.

I get a ton of emails every day from readers asking questions, from people who want to leave me their multimillion-dollar estates and from public affairs professionals. The questions from readers about how to handle situations at their offices are my favorites. The inheritances (or British lottery winnings) that simply require me to send along $20,000 to get the ball rolling are summarily deleted. But the PR stuff? That's another story.

Now, I write a lot about various companies, and I love to get information from PR people, because otherwise, I won't hear about the interesting thing that your company does with and for people. So, I do love to hear from all of you! But if you're getting ignored all the time, I have my reasons (see eight of them below). Even if you're not a PR pro, the following lessons might also be instructive--particularly for anyone who wants to get the media to sit up and take notice.

1. You sent it as an email blast. When you send something out to me and 40 other people, I consider it spam.

2. It has nothing to do with topics I write about. I write about great people, policies, and practices. For instance, I've written about why not to hire jerks, perks you can implement, how to get a job, how to hire people, good things companies do, and bad things companies do. Basically, I write about anything that relates to people at your company and how to manage and lead people better. Still, you'd be surprised what people think I write about.

3. I get an email from you every day. There is no way one public affairs firm has 365 clients that are doing something that relate to how to treat your people as your company's most valuable asset. After the 10th email in a row from you that doesn't relate to that topic, I'll just start deleting your emails without even reading them. Trust me, I'll never run out of things to write about.

4. You send "teasers" rather than actual information. No, I'm not going to email you to find out more if you don't give me a reason why I should.

5. You don't respond to me within a reasonable amount of time. If you send me a pitch, and I respond asking for more information, respond pronto! If a week goes by before I hear from you again, I'm pretty sure I don't want to work with you.

6. The information you're offering me isn't ready. I can't tell you the number of times I've gotten pitches that say things like, "Jane Doe has 10 ways to make hiring better!" I bite, only to receive the response: "I'll speak with Jane and get back to you!" Why on earth did you send out a pitch saying that Jane has these 10 things when Jane hasn't written them yet? Yes, I understand that Jane is your client and she said, "Send it out," but it's not going to help Jane, and it's your job to let her know.

7. You've done no research about me whatsoever. And by research on me, I mean, you can spell my name correctly and get the topic correct. Seriously, my bar is that low. If you've been able to find my email address, you can find my name. Copy and paste works really well. (It's Suzanne, by the way, not Susan, not Sue, and not Suzy.) If you've spent 30 seconds looking at the titles of my articles, you should know what my name and topics are. Do that.

8. I can't get your client a job at Inc. or anywhere else. I am actually happy to refer and recommend people for positions that they would be good for. But the thing is, I don't know you, and I don't know your client. Getting an email from a public affairs person asking me to connect you to an editor at Inc. so you can write here won't fly. I'm all in favor of networking, but you're asking me to stake my professional reputation on one paragraph of information.

So, if you're a PR person or an overeager entrepreneur, and you're not getting a response from me or other people, these might be the reasons.

Last updated: May 13, 2014

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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