5 Most Common Mistakes in Public Relations

May 28, 2022

When I was working as a Public Relations consultant or executive (whether in agency, freelance, or corporate), I met so many misconceptions about this profession that led the campaign to failure. This is actually devastating, because my clients or stakeholders put the wrong expectation on me, became disappointed with the result, the good will isn’t well echoed, and … of course, I got the bad impression as the result for it.

Here’s my experience I can share where you might learn a lesson (or two) to keep your brand and reputation intact. The mistakes people made in Public Relations:

1. Being dishonest to your PR 

I have to tell you (this is the reason why I put this topic as Number 1) that this is super important, when it comes to building or even fixing a reputation, you got to be an open-book to your PR or Brand team. Your PR person has to be the first person that knows everything before everyone knows a thing about you—and it might not be good.

Let’s put it this way: if you make one sin, consider to directly have a confession to your PR buddies.

If you think no one will ever know about one single mistake by keeping every detail to yourself, you might be wrong. But, notifying one potential danger to your PR team might save you from a long ballad of crisis handling. It is important to have your PR team decides if a prevention or a standby-reaction is needed, in case of breach made way for itself.

Sometimes, it’s not something bad or ugly. It is not always like that. It could be something private that doesn’t give any impact to public yet it could still make news.

2. Being ignorant, undermining situation

It is the utmost importance to have media monitoring available everyday ideally. Twice a day, even better! The routine can warn you to any potential crisis in the early beginning, but it takes quick analysis and sharp instinct. In every situation, trust your gut!

Not in the intention to make your freak out every time something’s wrong, but taking precaution would be good.

Whenever a protest or any unfavorable sentiment comes up to the system, never look at it with one eye closed. I’ll speak from my own experience. If there’s something upsetting about your brand, never underestimate the animosity it could get by judging it as ‘no big deal’.

When your brand is accused of something negative, it’s not for you to say that it’s not big of a deal. If it’s true, you got to make mends, and if it’s not, then you got to make things straight again. When you handle it properly from the beginning, not only the smoke will be gone fast, the fire won’t be burning higher. 

In my case, I was already giddy up to prepare for the war, yet I was stopped. I was told it’s going to be okay and wouldn’t mean anything. Of course, my instinct and calculation was right, the negative sentiment caused us ‘code red’ for the next 7 days.


3. Forgot to think again ‘where’s the news value?’ 

Before you’re proud of sharing any press release or keynote speech, I really hope to think and rethink, “what’s in it for us, the media and the public?”

Nope, I don’t want to hear your defense, ‘but this is our new feature!’, ‘but we just released this new cool ad campaign’, ‘but we just changed our management and leadership’. I’ll stop and ask you, “what could all that give impact to our lives or interests?”

Tell me if your ‘whatever’:

  • solves any of our issues, or 
  • that it is the first of all time, 
  • caters 10,000 people at the same time, 
  • beats any records—world record even
  • presents any weirdness, uniqueness, bravest thing our eyes could ever witness, 
  • new insight that answers of our life-long question, 
  • would impact our livelihood
  • would support or shake the economy, large group of people or community, stock performance, government stability, or any movement
  • interests many people to join or flock your place, event, or activities
  • now you might have another idea

In conclusion to this point, please consider if you can give any data (or stories) that would impact us. Please take a look out of your sphere, try to test their POV and interest, and ask yourself if your ‘whatever (data, story angle, new feature, new program)’ would mean anything to any of us that you need to deliver it to the media through a press release.

4. ‘Who’s Your CEO?’

Almost similar to #3. Is it your CEO … how could I put it… that important?

Ok, let me help a little bit to connect the dots. Does he/she have any story angle that would interest us (once again)?

I had an experience where the company focused on selling out their CEO or Managing Director. In this context, the company builds new app that people have so many questions about and the quality of the work they deliver. People have so many doubts about them.

Instead of addressing these doubts, they sell more about the background of the CEO to buy assurance. My suggestion to them is to focus on the quality they have that might give their users certainty and trust, such as showing how they actually work, how they actually recruit an expert to train their service front-liners who can make sure what they deliver would beyond, or at least, meet users’ expectations.


5. Not play with a (well-thought) strategy

For this point, I think it’s pretty obvious. The reason why I’m writing this is because I have one distinguished experience. A rather weird one actually.

The new company with a CEO no one knows wanted to target international coverage and their business is B2B, which rarely attracts mainstream news outlet. 

He thought he could use the same strategy of the famous local ride-hailing app, where they also target international news coverage on their founder to ease their ASEAN expansion. Well, that startup companies have thousands of local coverage, has become a household name, and has its founder a rising star. One more thing: It runs B2B and also B2C. So the strategy could not be the same.

How would an international news outlet be interested in a company that hasn’t bring any impact that huge to their base country, only have a few percent of active users compared to their downloads in their pocket, and is managed by an unknown CEO with only a brief experience in startup? Think again before you rush.

That’s all five, but I have more! Tell me if you relate to any of these experiences or if you have other experience and tips on the comments.

Last, but not least, please also do tell me if you’d like more of my PR tips and experiences.

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