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Five Things a PR Pro Should Never Do
By: Elizabeth Friedland
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Things You Should Never Do as a PR Professional:
Pitch Non-News.
Many times a client will approach you, acknowledge they have no news (or worse, insist that an irrelevant or very minor bit of information qualifies as news), expecting the PR team to land coverage in every major publication in town. Don’t do this. By spamming out information that truly isn’t newsworthy, you’re conditioning the reporter to ignore you, your client, and eventually anyone who identifies themselves as publicists. Instead, come up with ways to create an initiative that actually does warrant media coverage, or brainstorm other ways besides media placements to accomplish the clients’ goals.
Promise Anything.
It’s too easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new campaign or client and promise the world: “The media is going to eat this up!” “We can definitely give you an exclusive interview with our celebrity spokesperson at 4 a.m.” “There’s no way the Today Show would turn this down.” Yet it just takes one broken promise — whether it was under your control or not — to alienate a client or journalist. Promise the client that your team will work hard. Promise the journalist that you’ll do all you can to secure an interview that meets their deadline. But never promise results. In the field of PR, there’s no such thing as a sure bet.
Measure placements with AVEs.
PR isn’t advertising, so why measure PR success by advertising standards? AVEs (advertising value equivalents) don’t take into account tone, accuracy, penetration, or true reach. While the topic of PR measurement warrants a blog unto itself, a great starting point is this presentation from Joanne Puckett, Vice President and Research Director at Ketchum Global Research Network. She makes excellent points as to why AVE’s don’t do PR any justice, and what metrics to use as a better alternative. Start here to break yourself of the terrible AVE habit and educate your clients as to why they should too.
Say “No Comment.”
Repeat after me: There is never a reason to say “no comment.” “No comment” means “I have something to hide,” or “The bad things you’re hearing are true,” or “The rumors are accurate but I’m not allowed to confirm them yet,” or “My company doesn’t value our relationship with the media.” Instead, provide all the information you can disclose, and explain why you aren’t able to provide the information a reporter may need if you’re truly prevented from disclosing it. Then give exact details about when you can provide more information — and follow through.
Step Into Unethical Territory.
While this sounds like obvious advice, PR ethics can be complicated and hazy, especially as these rules try to keep pace with the changing digital times. A few of the big ones: Do insist bloggers and journalists disclose freebies and perks received by your company or clients. Don’t expect coverage in return for anything — favors, ad buys, free products, or special treatment. Do remember to disclose contributing authors of blog posts rather than stray into the murky territory of “ghost blogging.” Essentially, don’t engage in any PR tactics or strategy you wouldn’t want revealed on the front page of The New York Times.

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About the Author
Elizabeth Friedland in Senior Digital Strategist, specializing in PR, at Hirons Advertising & Public Relations. To learn more than you ever wanted to know about her, visit www.elizabethfriedland.com.
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