The 10 Biggest PR Mistakes Companies Routinely Make with Social / Emerging Media

The entire Geek Beat team is, by definition, intimately involved with the process of dealing with Press Relations. We receive hundreds of press releases by email each month, and dozens of new products arrive at the office for us to evaluate and share. Yet amazingly, dealing with PR firms is basically the worst part of our jobs!

PR companies tend to want to control everything – access to the real people behind the companies they promote, schedules for the release of information, and even the general direction that stories take. And I don’t blame them for most of that. But there are times when they go way too far, or not far enough, and it makes our lives a living hell.

To be clear, I’m talking about Press Relations specifically, not traditional marketing or social media blunders with average people that turn into PR nightmares.

Some tips are below, but if you want to join the discussion, we’ll be talking about it more on Wednesday, July 18th, at 2 PM Eastern during our Webinar with the folks from CEDIA. You can join us at So, if you’re part of the PR Machine and you have to deal with the emerging media take heed! Don’t make these mistakes:

10 Worst Social Media PR Mistakes Companies Make

  • Emailing blind press releases. We don’t blindly repeat press releases. In fact, we don’t consume news that away at all. Your press releases never answer the right questions and they are entirely one sided. So if you want us to give you some attention personalize your message, offer up someone for an interview (especially face-to-face), or drop us a product in the mail.
  • Not knowing who you’re dealing with. I’ve called or responded to press releases only to be asked who I am and grilled for background information about our distribution, etc. So basically, someone emailed asking for attention, then when they got it – acted like they didn’t want it.
  • Not understanding Social Media metrics. Be aware that influencers are measured in many ways. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Klout, RSS, Podcast subscriptions, TV / Radio distribution, website traffic etc. They also have different specialties, and social media celebs often have fiercely loyal followers. So stop trying to compare the genre to traditional media. Influence and conversions are much higher online.
  • Using words like amazing, revolutionary, game-changing, etc. Just don’t do it. We hear these words 20 times a day. Literally. We’ll decide when to use those words, you just give us a good story about a product that fills an actual need – and does it well.
  • Sending any sort of email stating that review units are unavailable. Really? That would mean you literally have no product. If someone isn’t big enough to warrant a review unit just tell them honestly that you can’t get them on with their level of exposure. And have something to offer them in return, like stock b-roll video footage, photos, or an interview with a product manager.
  • Failing to fulfill a promise. I’d rather deal with grouchy PR person who does exactly what they say they’ll do than the nicest liar in the world. If you promise to call, email, follow up, send a package, or whatever, and you don’t – you have just become a liar. Worse yet you wasted someone’s valuable time.
  • Thinking PR is free. Outreach efforts to the media cost money. On BOTH sides. It costs companies money to pay for the time it takes to manage the program, but it costs the media time to actually cover the products. For companies like ours, there are also direct production costs to create video, etc. So:
    1. Don’t tell people you can’t ship a sub-$100 review unit. That’s a fraction of the cost of a video which would otherwise cost you about $1,000 per finished minute.
    2. Find a way to show some appreciation when coverage occurs. A sincere email is all it really takes.

    If you can’t do those two things for one of your press contacts, they shouldn’t be on your list!

  • Fail to respond to press inquiries. 50-60% of the time when we’re working on stories we’ll look for contacts at companies we’re interested in covering. We send emails, Tweets, and Facebook contacts and no one responds. When that happens, guess what? No coverage for you.
  • Inundate us with repeated and unnecessary updates. On the other end of the spectrum, some companies over-communicate. For example, no one needs a press release to tell the world about an internal management change, unless its significance is viewed as a game changer. And adding new color choices to your line of iPhone cases is not going to warrant media coverage. (Yes, that’s like 10 press releases a week…) After a short while we just ignore you.
  • Fail to link to information in an actual press release. 10-20% of the press releases we receive via email, or see posted to the social networks, don’t contain a photo or even a link to actual product information on a web site. Almost no one is going to take the time to hunt down your information.
    • The bottom line is that most of these things occur because companies take a shotgun approach to social media marketing efforts. They try to build the biggest list they possibly can, then spam it mercilessly. (I’d like to actually name a few, but I’ll be nice.)

      The better way to do it is to develop fewer, stronger relationships, understand the needs of your valuable press contacts, and give them the stories that will resonate with their audiences.

      (image via Wikimedia Commons)


  1. Sylwia says

    Working at a university with highly educated people of all fields, I have learned many things about humans and relationships. The only universal observation I have is that ignorance is a bliss. Knowledge, money, position, job title have nothing to do with anything.
    Yet most people are blinded by the notion of their brilliance.

  2. says

    Hi John P.,
    thanks for the enlightning article about a closed part of the corparate world.

    I find it strange that in this fast moving environment, we call life, nobody at coporate level uses common sense anymore. That’s what I kept thinking when I read your article. Your solutions are known to people if they use more common sense in my view. I hope you agree John.

    Thanks and take care,