The 10 Commandments of Good PR

The 10 Commandments of Good PR

By: Maggie Hollander

Public relations isn’t usually a very “public” job. Working in PR, if you’re doing your job well, your name will rarely (if ever) show up in the press. However, if you make a mistake—or do your job poorly—tweets and articles galore may suddenly appear from those reporters you’ve wronged. Today, journalists need PR more than ever before, but bad impressions can easily get a PR person blacklisted from a writer’s source list.

At LaunchSquad, it’s our mission to be the best PR people we can be—not just when it comes to garnering coverage for our clients, but also in regards to building quality relationships with reporters. In this vein, we’ve come up with the top 10 “commandments” of good PR.

1. Thou shalt not spam

The number one complaint from reporters is the amount of “spam” that floods in their inboxes on a daily basis. From “special alerts” to press releases, anything can land in a reporter’s inbox, regardless of what they actually cover. A well-trained PR person never mass mails hundreds of reporters with impersonal information lacking context or understanding. Instead, good PR means sending the right information to the right people—which leads to the next point…

2. Thou shalt conduct research

Who are the right reporters to target with your pitch? Why might they be interested? Have they written about the topic before? A simple Google search can ensure your pitch is headed to the right person and can prevent embarrassing misunderstandings, such as using incorrect pronouns for individuals with gender-ambiguous names or sending your email to the wrong inbox.

3. Thou shalt be timely

When reporters are on strict deadlines, timing is everything, and it’s up to a PR person to ensure s/he can get the reporter what is needed, when it is needed. A good PR pro also understands that outreach around breaking news or timely event sources must be handled as quickly as possible.

4. Thou shalt be respectful

PR people currently outnumber journalists more than 4:1, so be cognisant of this: don’t waste journalists’ time. Follow up, but don’t send 100 emails to a reporter who has shown no interest in your client or pitch. Don’t pitch multiple people at the same outlet at the same time on the same topic, and don’t lie and say something is “exclusive” if it isn’t. If you are respectful of a reporter’s time and interests, they’re likely to take notice and turn to you as a source when an applicable situation arises.

5. Thou shalt listen

Half of communicating effectively is listening. If a reporter notes they do not like to be pitched on the phone, make a note not to call them. If a journalist says your pitch is not covered by their beat, find a different target (or even ask if s/he can point you in the direction of someone at his/her outlet who might be a better fit).

6. Thou shalt use knowledge for good, not evil

Social media is a great tool for public relations professionals to get in touch with—and learn more about—the journalists they’re pitching. But use this knowledge only for good, not evil. Things can get creepy fast when the line between interest and a sort of unfortunate stalking occurs.

7. Thou shalt learn from thine mistakes

No one is perfect, and PR professionals and journalists are no exception. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes along the way. A journalist isn’t interested in the type of pitch you’re sending their way? Make a note, and don’t send that kind of pitch again. Forgot to proof-read an email? Be more careful next time—every “oops” and “uh-oh” should be a learning experience.

8. Thou shalt communicate honestly

Honest communication is of the utmost importance in PR. If you can’t meet a reporter’s needs, tell them as soon as you’re aware of this fact. If you can’t share certain information, be upfront about it. Honest communication builds trust and understanding—even if it means a story mentioning your client can’t come to fruition immediately, it creates the basis for a positive relationship moving forward. Speaking of which…

9. Thou shalt build relationships

It may sound silly, but journalists aren’t just robots on the other end of the Internet. They’re people, and they have lives outside of writing about your client. Work to build a relationship with the people you’re pitching—using techniques outlined in the previous commandments—and it’ll take you far.

10. Thou shalt be human

Reporters aren’t robots, and you shouldn’t be, either. Write and speak like YOU, not how you think a PR person should sound. Journalists can usually tell if you’re being disingenuous or not entirely yourself—not to mention your pitches may sound more canned and less personal if the language is too stiff. Be human, and own your strengths and weaknesses (but don’t forget to proofread)!

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