Doing PR well can be a big challenge. Often there are simple things you can do to improve how you tell your story.

But the absolute easiest action to take is to avoid things that are destructive, alienating, and downright stupid. Here are some that you should keep at arm's length.

Threaten writers and editors

Sometimes you get people who want to throw their weight around. Maybe it's at the company or it could be the PR representative, whether in-house or in an agency. This is one of the dumbest things you can possibly do. What you ultimately want from the press is useful attention. Threatening to pull your advertising or go over a reporter's head might, sometimes, seem to get you what you want, but more likely you won't because it's highly unlikely you have something a publication needs that badly, like access to a celebrity for an entertainment magazine. Instead, you make enemies that last pretty much forever.

I've seen this happen and the result is that agencies and even companies land on internal blacklists. They can't get coverage, and when writers move from one place to another, they take that attitude with them.

Request an advanced "review" copy

Sure, according to recent news reports some political groups have managed to get reporters to run stories by them even before sending the stories to their editors. You know what this would do at many publications should the information come to light? Get them fired. Maybe you can get direct quotes sent, but even that is problematic for many editors and writers. I had someone recently ask me for an advance look. The response probably chilled down their email servers.

Ask about others being interviewed

Another thing I've seen many PR people do, and one that I, and many of my colleagues, work around, saying something like they're not firmed up yet, or even saying outright that they don't give out source lists. Yes, we all know you want to be in an "important" crowd, but no one on the reporting end has time for such games. It's way too easy to pass by one source and go with another instead. Almost never will you be the single person or institution that has to be interviewed.

Turn up your nose at the "small" publication

Time is short and precious, we all know, and you don't have time to do every interview. But there are ways to beg off. A snotty attitude isn't one of the ways to try. With the number of freelancers in the business, you never know where else their work might appear. I've seen people offhand dismiss a writer who was doing a piece for a smaller publication and then badly want to be in a major story that would appear in another. What happened? The writers found different sources. When you hear that this is a relationship business, that's part of it. If you have to say no, learn to be polite.

Set up hoops

Asking a reporter to do this, that, and the other thing for the honor of an interview, or even a statement, is like asking someone out for a first date and then handing over a list or requirements. It's a goofy idea if you apply common sense.

Be unresponsive

You want coverage. You might even hire a PR firm and tell them you want coverage. Then a request comes in and suddenly you're not sure. Or you think you're busy. Or maybe there's an exciting game of bocce on TV. So you don't get back to someone when you or a representative might even have made an inquiry or a pitch. That makes you look like an amateur. And if you say you'll speak and then become unavailable at the last minute, you're messing with probably tight deadlines and someone's work responsibilities. Think anyone will want to hear from you in the future?

Speak without an idea of what you're talking about

Never ever agree to talk about a subject if you don't have a good grasp of it. There are few things as irritating to a reporter as booking time for a conversation, asking questions, and realizing that the interview subject probably knows less about the topic than you do. If you can't say something with some depth, just pass at the beginning.

Published on: Jul 29, 2016
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