A Small Man Media Guide To PR Mistakes

Here at Small Man Media, we like to think that we don’t just offer a service to our clients – we offer a service to THE WORLD. Because we’re nice like that.

Our newest member of the team is… Well, it’s me actually. Pete Cashmore: Writer Monkey. Before I joined the Small Man ensemble, I was a journalist. In fact, I technically still am one, as long as there are still publications fool enough to pay me. I have written for national newspapers, local newspapers, men’s magazines, women’s magazines, music magazines, style magazines, tennis magazines, luxury watch magazines and even the Easyjet in-flight magazine.

Over the course of my glittering(ish) career, I have, understandably, worked with many, many PR organisations, and have formed pretty firm opinions on what makes for good PR, and what makes for PR PR (the first ‘PR’ standing for ‘Pretty Risible’).

And so, with these in mind, I present to you now, Five Things That PRs Really Should Not Do.

1. SEND YOU A REALLY JAUNTY AND FAMILIAR EMAIL THAT IS REALLY OBVIOUSLY COPIED AND PASTED AND THEN TYPE YOUR NAME IN, BUT IN A DIFFERENT FONT

You know the kind of thing I mean. “Hi there pete cashmore. Hope you’re having a great Friday! How about this great weather! I hope it holds for the weekend pete cashmore!” It’s a sure-fire way to make a journalist feel like a faceless nobody languishing on an endless mailing list, when we are delicate flowers who like to feel that we are special.

Do not use this, it is not your friend
Do not use this, it is not your friend

2. ATTEMPT TO PIGGYBACK A MAJOR ONGOING ASPECT OF THE NEWS AGENDA IN AN INCREDIBLY SPURIOUS WAY

You know the kind of thing I mean (again). “Cristiano Ronaldo has been in the news this week after picking up the Ballon D’Or award – but did you know that Cristiano is also a big fan of black pudding? Well, next week is National Black Pudding Week and… Wait, come back! We hadn’t finished!”

Black pudding, preferred dinner of Cristiano Ronaldo. Or not.
Black pudding, preferred dinner of Cristiano Ronaldo. Or not.

There’s actually a serious point to this, and how it can all go horribly wrong. At least one UK PR firm, unbelievably, attempted PR pitches with the news hook being the Grenfell Tower disaster, and as a direct result, lost their client. The pitfalls may sometimes be glaringly obvious – people still fall into them.

3. TELL THE JOURNALIST HOW YOU SEE THEIR ARTICLE ‘WORKING’

Ah, bless ’em. It’s always difficult when you have a wonderful in-your-mind’s-eye image of how a page should look, with all its lovely coverage and branding and enthusiastic messages, but at the end of the day, it’s the magazine writers and designers and editors who make the decisions. As a PR, you can be guide, ideas generator-and-profferer and facilitator, but never, EVER, a dictator. Because dictators are bad.

A popular dictator, waving at you
A popular dictator, waving at you

I remember once, one PR person for A Very Popular Games Console Football Game That Shall Remain Nameless, started one of his emails with the phrase ‘Okay, here’s how the piece is going to look….’ Needless to say, he was not correct.

4. TAKE A GOOD LONG HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND ASK YOURSELF: WOULD THE PUBLICATION TO WHOM I AM PITCHING REALLY FEATURE MY CLIENT?

A classic bugbear of commissioning editors everywhere – being pitched an article that would never, in a month of squillion Sundays, feature in their publication. It’s an infinitesimal waste of their time, it vaguely suggests that you haven’t actually familiarised yourself with the publication whose editorial needs you purport to understand, and above all, it’s a waste of YOUR time. And what is time? It’s MONEY baby!

A clever visual representation of the 'time is money' concept
A clever visual representation of the ‘time is money’ concept

5. CHECK THAT YOU HAVE ACTUALLY SPELLED THE JOURNALIST’S NAME CORRECTLY

“Dear Paul Cashmole, did you know that next week is National Black Pudding Week?” DELETE. DELETE AND NEVER COME BACK.

This could happen to your email if you're not careful
This could happen to your email if you’re not careful

Pete Cashmore is (as he has already pointed out) Small Man Media’s Writer Monkey. He also makes a very fine seafood risotto, with cajun spices.

Writer Monkey Pete throws another tantrum
Writer Monkey Pete throws another tantrum

 

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