Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why PR campaigns Fail

We here at Real Public Relations are all about tips and lists.  Tips for making your outreach efforts better, lists of popular apps, platforms, why things work, why things fail.  So today, I'm giving you the best of both worlds.  A list AND a tip.  Who says you don't get anything good for free these days?

Why PR campaigns Fail:

This is a topic I've been thinking about for a while now and, lo and behold, opportunity arose to post this. A day after praising a company for making a great PR decision, I come to you with a reason why some, many, in fact, PR decisions lead to failure.

This post comes from the Public Relations Blogger.  It's another great resource for small businesses and non-profits when it comes to public relations.  Here is a sample of the post.  For the complete article, click on the link.

Public Relations Campaigns/5 Reasons Your Might Fail
Creating a successful and effective PR campaign is hard work; there are many variables to take into consideration, and there are even more ways that it can go wrong. Getting it right doesn't involve a secret potion or formula; instead, it involves knowing your company, your industry, and your target audience in each situation, as it pertains to your circumstances.

To help you get started, here are some things to avoid doing when planning your campaign:

Go in head-first. If you hope to have a PR campaign, you had better have a plan. Conducting PR activities, implementing social media, and trying to get people to recognize you with no clear rhyme or reason won't do you much good. Make sure that you have a plan to implement if you hope to have any success.

Here are the other reasons, in order.  The article has more detail regarding why these are poor decisions and I couldn't agree more:

2. E-Mail spamming
3. Using old PR plans
4. Simple implementation
5. Too large of a target audience

All five reasons are perfect examples of why a lot of public relations plans fail.  But I'd like to add a few more reasons.  These are my own and not covered in the article, but I believe they are just as relevant.  So, think of this as a bonus list.  Instead of five reasons, you're getting ten.  The benefits just keep rolling along, don't they?

1.  Misunderstanding your audience:  This is one of my pet peeves when it comes to both public relations and social media.  Too often organizations don't really understand how to talk to their audience.  This is generally the result of a couple of strategic mistakes.  First, the organization understimates their audience.  In other words, they believe the audience is gullible or stupid.  Look around and see how many PR campaigns talk down to the audience.  Treat the audience with respect, and they'll reciprocate in kind.  Second, the organization uses demographic information to lump all members of an audience into a monolithic entity.  I posted about this recently.  Not all 30-something professional women are the same.  even if they might fit into a specific demographic, it doesn't mean they all think alike, talk alike or spend alike. 

2.  Poor timing:  As you've seen, timing is very, VERY important to a successful PR campaign.  If your organization would be a great addition to a current story about the high price of gas, you have to jump on it when the story is hot.  Not a week later, not two days later.  News today runs in extremely short cycles.  You're one Tweet away from a dead story.  Too often, organizations aren't prepared to capitalize on a story when it happens.  Yet, they still make a pitch and hope to revive a story that has already passed its expiration date.  Timing your pitch correctly is crucial to the success of your PR effort.

3.  Inflexibility:  Just like any strategy, there has to be room for changing on the fly.  It's kind of like that old Mike Tyson quote, "everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth."  I have worked with clients that were dead set against changing tactics or making adjustments in mid-stream.  Those efforts always failed...always.  Sometimes this took the form of not using a sub-message instead of the main message.  Sometimes it was as simple as not changing schedules to accommodate newsroom interview reqeusts.  Have a plan, but be prepared to make changes and adjustments as needed, otherwise, your efforts are doomed.

4.  Impatience:  Public realations campaigns, along with social media campaigns take time to work.  When we worked with clients as The PRAS Group, we tried to tell them that an effective campaign takes at least two months to start showing real results.  Now, I'm not talking about a single pitch project.  I'm talkinga bout a full PR push, including releases, collateral, pitching follow up, media training, message development, etc.  Yes, you can write up a press release and send it out to all your media contacts, and you might even get some hits, that's great.  But a single story, not even in the Wall Street Journal, will suddenly make your organization a household name.  You need several stories to hit over a period of time before people will start to take notice.  Too often, organizations try PR once, and leave it at that.  In PR, patience really is a virtue and a key to success.

5  Unrealistic Expectations:  I recently pitched a story where the client wanted to pitch the NY Times, The Today Show and other network news programs.  I did it because I thought the story was excellent and the expectations weren't out of line with the impact of the story.  Because of the nature of the story, I was confident that the expectations, while high, weren't out of line with the possibilities.  However, I have worked with clients who expected an appearance on Oprah, or Good Morning America when the story would have been lucky to be picked up by local affiliates.  For small businesses and non-profits, there's nothing wrong with focusing on your local media.  It's where most of your customers are going to come from.  It's good to dream big, we all do.  But to expect that GMA is going to cover your story is unrealistic unless the story is very VERY good and has relevance to the entire country. 

Keep this list nearby the next time you decide to pursue a public relations campaign.  Making one of these mistkes alone won't kill your efforts, usually.  But combine a couple of these mistakes and your campaign will be behind the 8-ball before you even get started.  And that's no way to build success.

Now, For the Tips:

Our tip today comes from that wonderful site, Mashable.com.  I'm including this list because it's so fascinating to me.  I never really thought about how social media can become a distraction, even as it's being used as an effective tool. 

Social media can be overwhelming, particularly for small busienss owners and non-profit staffers who are already up to their eyeballs in work and putting out fires.  So how can you cut down on the distractions and make your social media campaigns less overwhelming? 

I'm glad you asked.  Here are five tips from Mashable that every small business and non-profit should pay attention to:

5 Ways to Reduce Social Media Distractions and Be More Productive

Those of us who are social media-savvy suffer from a burgeoning problem that constantly threatens our ingenuity. If we fail to acknowledge and solve this problem, our brilliant ideas may may never see the light of day.
Every single minute, more “stuff” is being sent your way. E-mails, text messages, voice mails, instant messages, Twitter messages, Facebook posts… and the list goes on. The proliferation of mobile devices only increases the flow.
What do you do with this deluge? You simply try to stay afloat. You peck away at the latest communications at the top of your many inboxes. And since the flow of information never ends, you risk slipping into a life of what I have come to call “reactionary workflow.”

As always, click on the link for the entire article.

I find this article very interesting.  One of the biggest challenges I face with most of my clients is organization and time management.  Trying to convince a client that they have to carve out an hour a day to maintain and monitor their social media efforts is harder than you might think.

Most simply say they don't have an hour a day.  And yet they're often sitting at their computer or laptop for hours at a time.  Plus, they almost always have their smart phones with them.  Instead of saying, "from 3 to 4 I will do my social media work" they need to realize that it's a minute here, five minutes there. 

The organization factor isn't as daunting.  Most small business owners tend to be pretty organized.  By creating priorities, delegating certain responsibilities and establishing goals, social media can be easily maintained and monitored by even the busiest owner or non-profit. 

So, there you have it.  A list, a bonus list and tips.  Real Public Relations, where the learning never stops.

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