Marketing / Public relations, PR

4 big mistakes you’re making when doing your own PR

One pitch just isn’t a PR campaign. When PR agencies run a campaign, they can reach out to 100+ media outlets. You? Why not try and reach out to ten contacts to begin with.

10 September 2015 by

If you’ve ever called a PR agency to investigate you’ll know this as fact: PR is expensive!

So it’s understandable why many soloists decide to do their own PR campaigns. And given all the success stories we’ve heard (like the one where a small business owner called a newspaper and the next day found themselves on the front page shaking hands with Tony Abbott!), why wouldn’t they?

Accessing the media has never been quicker, and there are some great articles on how to structure a press release when you’re writing it yourself.

But recently I’ve heard some really sad stories of awesome businesses that have come so close to major PR exposure, but blew it with simple mistakes. So I’d like to share four such mistakes with you – and what you can do to save yourself from wasting your time, and ensure you’re securing the major PR your business deserves.

MISTAKE 1: Not getting the basics right

I was talking with the editor of a brilliant and successful blog last week, and I asked him what the number one mistake was that soloists make when contacting him. He said this: 40% of the time his name is spelled incorrectly.

Face palm.

Worse, they’d often manage to spell his name correctly in the email address, but just not taken the time to ensure it was right in the email body.

It’s basics like these that are not negotiable. You can’t re-do a first impression and misspelling the name of the guy who you’d like to spend a couple of hours writing an article about you for free isn’t a good start.

Another basic gripe is no follow through. Just like a sales prospect, you should follow up a PR contact. I’ve heard of journalists who never reply to the first email as a general filter system, and if you don’t send them a follow up email, you’ll never get heard. As a rule, if you haven’t got a response to your smashing pitch, make at least one call and two emails at the minimum.

MISTAKE 2: Making it all about you

Is your pitch to media all about your business? Unfortunately this will get you sent straight to the trash. When pitching a story to a media outlet, it’s important to structure it the same way they do their stories.

If it’s a magazine that focuses on business that inspire, then submit an interesting story about how your business did something that would be inspiring to other businesses.

If it’s a TV lifestyle program and you have a product for kids, then contact them with some ideas to keep the kids busy in the school holidays.

The rule of thumb is to do most of the work for them. Everyone who works in media is super busy and when time is really tight they’ll often run something that’s not necessarily perfect for their readership, but close enough is good enough when they have something (your thing) at hand, ready to go!

MISTAKE 3: Pitching to one outlet only

One pitch isn’t a PR campaign. When PR agencies run a campaign, they can easily reach out to 100 media outlets. I imagine you don’t have time for this just yet. However, try and reach out to at least ten contacts to begin with. The more irons you have in the fire, the higher your success rate will be. Then, once you have feedback from these ten, you can tailor your pitch and tweak your email for the next batch.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to big brands, and major media. They need stories just like everyone so be sure to hit up the major paper as well as the local one that arrives free in your letterbox.

MISTAKE 4: Giving up too early

If you don’t hear back about your pitch straight away, don’t get discouraged. It’s the smallest things that could mean your story is missed. If there’s a particularly bad storm in your CBD that day, a major political event, or even a radio ratings day, your email may not be read. It’s the follow-ups that make the news, so be sure to back yourself and not question your pitch.

If you don’t get a response, just try again on a sunny day when the Kardashians aren’t doing anything newsworthy.

Now let’s share some little wins here – have you done your own PR? How did you go?

Amanda Westphal

created Prize Pig, an online platform busting with media competitions that any small business can access to get major media space without the media spend.


  • Lara J

    Thanks for the good tips! I’ve been lucky enough to have 3 articles in the local papers in the last 4 weeks! Just as my business is opening the doors to our brink and mortar store as well too so that’s been quite lucky! I must admit that I did have a little help and guidance along the way but I wrote my own articles first and then had someone read over them and provide feedback that I took on board to make it better. I didn’t try the big ones but after reading this article I will next time. Thanks!

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