AWSC: The hardships of PR are the hardships of the media: how to increase your chances of getting a response

Originally published on 


Getting exposure in this day and age isn’t an easy thing. With shortened attention spans and increasingly crowded news feeds, getting your brand (whatever it might be) noticed is a battle. There are many ways in which one could get exposure – from social media to spray painting your brand logo on crosswalks – but the one industry that will probably never go out of style is Public Relations. PR people are the folks that get your name into magazines and your representatives on TV screens, and their job, despite popular beliefs of glamour, is not easy.

I am not a PR specialist, so I’m not here to tell you how to do it right, but as someone on the receiving end of those efforts I think I can speak on behalf of the media industry when it comes to the consistency of mistakes people make when sending their message out there in the world. Over the years I’ve also noticed that many people do their own outreach or dash into the profession without training and not having being properly mentored. You can learn from books, from other people, from experience, and from your own mistakes. Busy people on the receiving end will not, however, send you a feedback card to learn from, they will delete and unsubscribe.

Here’s a shortlist of common mistakes that will send your precious press release straight into the trash bin.

Wrong contact person: in the spirit of saving time, many PR companies purchase lists and follow them for several years in a row. I strongly recommend going through that list at least once a year – manually. Yes, I know it’s very time consuming, but when you keep emailing your news to a person who hasn’t been with the publication for 3 years, we on our end get a little frustrated and it is a waste of your time.

Spell check the names: honestly this isn’t hard. The first thing you need to do is make sure you spell the person’s name correctly. Mistakes and typos happen but they can be avoided by a triple check and a quick Google search.

Wrong publication type: building on the previous point, and to better your own results, the list cleanse should also make sure that all publications on your lists are relevant to your product. It is good to be sure that your invitation for a tomato sauce tasting isn’t going to a fly-fishing magazine. It is also very unprofessional to open an email with “I know you are an expert on [fill in your product]” when that publication has nothing to do with that category.

Massive photos: I know it is tempting to let your large, beautiful photo say a thousand words so fine, go for it, do it, just not as an opening sentiment. If all people see when opening an email is an ambiguous photo past which they need to scroll to see the headline you might not get them very far. Always lead in with a convincing headline: unless you are inviting people to an art show or celebrity gossip forum this is very likely not the place or time to let the image say it all.

Links: we like links, not too many, just the relevant ones. Links to the product, to the event, to the song or movie trailer you are sharing. Not seeing a single link in the email press release is somewhat suspicious.

Name-dropping: when the subject line of your email has something about Drake in it and nothing inside the email is about Drake, you’ve lied. If you say Oprah would have loved this product but she hasn’t even seen it, you’ve lied. When you are saying this is the best tomato sauce we will ever try and the world hasn’t come to that conclusion because no one has even tried it yet, you’ve lied. Stop lying.

Too many emails: in this case I don’t mean too frequently, I mean too many copies of the same email. Please ensure your mailing list does not allow for double entries and that people you are sending these multiple copies to are not all the same person. Seeing four copies of your press release will only clutter and frustrate the receiver’s inbox.

Too many follow-ups: in reality it is highly likely your first email was unnoticed, especially if you do not have an established relationship with the publication – so it’s ok to send a follow up. Do not, however, send a follow up on the follow up on the follow up – writing that it is a follow up. If your email looks like a stepladder of your own emails you are doing something wrong. Be original with your follow up; do not just simply resend the exact same thing without a more personal note.

Just as all PR advice columns state you have to be short, sweet and to the point. No one has time to look for a jewel in your haystack of words since your one email is very likely one of three hundred. Be respectful, considerate and concise.

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