Public Relations 101: Here Are Every PR Practitioner’s Top Nightmares

 

As an adult, not many things give me goosebumps and nightmares the way Chuckie the living redhead demon doll and IT the psycho clown do. However, upon making a living in the public relations and communications industry, horror movie lead characters take a step back following the sleepless nights caused by these occupational hazards of a nightmare.

The never-ending press release revision nightmare.

We’ve all been there. You think you have finally gotten a press release to a T after the hundredth revision and ‘a higher authority’ requests you reword the two pages all over again because of one specific quote. For a rookie, this is a nightmare – well since the client pays your retainer fees and the boss pays your salary plus this is a new job which has one at the crossroads of learning ‘new experiences and not questioning what is being taught’. On the other hand, a senior member of the profession would be tempted to set fire to the word document (figuratively speaking) with his or her writing skill constantly being evaluated and questioned.

Sometimes the revisions make sense. Unnecessary and excessive grammatical errors can’t be forgiven. Leaving out crucial information or using misleading information is a cardinal sin, especially if no revision is done before the client sees the final press release draft. From my own press release nightmares, I learnt from one very valuable tip when it comes to press release writing – to tune your writing tone and suit it to the target media demographic who will be reading i.e. casual for sports, formal for corporate, etc. If you’re having a press release nightmare, revisit the press release with a pair of fresh eyes – the second opinion if you can to lessen the blows of these nightmares.

The zero-media-coverage nightmare.

Who has never faced this nightmare? I have personally rolled around in bed woken up by this nightmare even after so many years of practising pitches. What makes this nightmare worst is how close to reality it can be. Imagine a couple of weeks after sending out a press release and follow-up calls to see only one or two clippings – what PR practitioner in his or her right mind wouldn’t panic? Especially if you were trained to receive beating after beating for your incompetence over the lack of coverage.

Before your next catatonic shock, it is important to bear in mind that there are times that you can control media coverage and times when you can’t. If you’ve strived for the best by personalizing media pitch angles, follow-up calls, etc and still fail, I would propose to document the steps taken to tackle the lack of coverage issue and share this with your direct manager. Always document media feedback with regards to why the story isn’t a success and highlight this in clear and transparent communications. The next step would be to discuss internally how you can tackle this issue. But one thing, be sure to highlight the issue before it escalates.

The ‘you can’t sit with us’ nightmare.

If you’ve watched sufficient American high school movies and dramas, you would understand the metaphor from Mean Girls – roughly translated to refer to that one time when you are excluded from joining the ‘It girls’ or the popular crowd. As much as we would like to believe that such childish high school behaviour ends at the same time our SPM does, the harsh truth is that office politics still exists despite the desperate measures taken to mask it, especially by human resource and talent recruiters during the preliminary hiring process.

This is absolutely normal, you will come across a team of ‘favourites’ and then one person (or a few depending on the size of the team) who will appear to be the black sheep. The favourites often lunch together, share pitch proposals and help each other out when dealing with rough clients, media pitches, etc while the Black Sheep will be stuck to deal with this on their own or set for slaughter (no pun intended).

The public relations industry is a heinous industry – I think I have overused this phrase constantly but bear in mind I am not one to sugarcoat reality. It can get extremely tough hence I believe that one of the things that help anyone survive through this industry is by working alongside a supportive, positive and strong internal team. If you are stuck with a team that will throw you under the bus over every mistake that happens instead of work together or support you, I doubt you will last for long. Eventually, the emotional stress will get to you and that’s not the right way to live.

The viral social media posts about your PR incompetence nightmare.

Social media in my humble opinion can be the bane of one’s existence. Sure it’s all fun and games until something negative about yourself goes viral or when that post results in cyberbullying. For a public relations practitioner, well technically a rookie as seasoned practitioners probably are used to this and have better methods of evading this by now –  the ultimate nightmare would be a viral social media post about a careless mistake in your daily tasks. It could be a misspelled name in an email pitch, accidentally spilling water on a journalist during an event, follow up calls to the wrong person at the wrong time, well it could practically be anything. Mistakes happen. Being called out on it isn’t fun either, especially on social media where everyone feels superior to you in every way.

You can either take it from a positive angle – learn from your mistakes and take precaution in your daily tasks.  Even if you were called out on something that wasn’t your mistake, do not take it personally. It could be a complainer had a bad day or something, we all have our moments. It is no joke when one says that working in this industry requires you to have the thick skin of an elephant. Easier said than done, I know, but being hypersensitive or self-defensive won’t help you either.

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