From growing pains to client gains, our seasoned team of PR pros is sharing some of the industry’s biggest pitfalls to look out for on your professional communications journey. 

1. Starting a campaign without specific, measurable goals

It’s easy to get excited about a new campaign or project and want to dive right in. However, without a benchmark in place, it is impossible to demonstrate successful growth or impact at the conclusion of the task. First, focus on the desired outcome and develop a strategic plan for achieving it. Determine if the objective is to raise awareness, change attitudes or drive actions. Then decide how to measure the campaign’s overall success.

At T&C, some of our tactics include media monitoring, social media tracking and Google Analytics reporting. From tallying up media impressions to calculating website traffic to considering event attendance and sentiment, it is crucial to measure your outcomes. Pay attention to what worked, what didn’t and how to improve strategy moving forward. Not only is this important for an agency’s growth, it is important for proving your value as a PR professional to clients.

2. Not sending invitations to a media event or special event far enough in advance

Everyone is familiar with the saying “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” but the only thing worse than a crying host is a crying client or angry journalist. Waiting until the last minute to finalize invitations makes the event appear sloppy and unorganized. It also increases the likelihood that guests will have prior engagements and be unable to attend. For a general event, we recommend a month minimum in advance for the initial save the date, and no shorter than two weeks out for a formal invitation. Media events often happen more quickly, and it’s great to get it on calendars as soon as possible with our ever-changing news cycle.

Event planning is all about the details and from timely invitations to special touches; the little things make a big difference. Attendees expect events to be flawless; they may not remember what goes right, but they will certainly remember what goes wrong.

Seamless logistics improve an overall guest experience. From providing umbrellas to escort a VIP through inclement weather to bringing a steamer to ensure a step and repeat isn’t wrinkled, every event touchpoint leaves a lasting impression.

3. Not having a streamlined communications plan

Even the most exciting news in the world will get lost in the mix if a company’s messaging and approach is inconsistent. At T&C, we understand the big picture and help clients cut through the clutter and share thought-provoking content. Understanding which stories to tell, how to tell them and crafting them to appeal to the target audience is what brand messaging and strategic counsel is all about.

4. Expecting coverage without putting in the work

In a perfect world, every story would get picked up by the client’s dream publication. In the real world, we know it takes more than just writing a good pitch. That’s why at T&C we’ve spent years cultivating relationships with top-tier journalists, both at the local community level and on the national stage.

From coordinating regular editor briefings and press trips to fact-checking and monitoring journalist beats, we stay in the know on who covers what. As self-proclaimed news junkies, we follow pop culture trends, stay on top of the news and keep our client’s stories relevant. And rather than hit send on a press release and see what happens, we are meticulous in our follow-up.

5. Speaking off the cuff for clients or hypothesizing without the facts

Off the record, nothing is ever actually off the record, especially in the digital age when anything can be recorded or instantly streamed and shared. That’s why it’s imperative to always tell the truth and be factual. Providing false information to or misleading the media makes people appear uneducated, at best, and dishonest, at worst. The best way to prepare for an interview is to do thorough research and have factsheets and talking points handy.

When it comes to the interview process, authenticity and self-awareness are key. Body language is also important as 93% of communication is non-verbal. At T&C, we offer media trainings to guide our clients through the interview process. Understanding who should talk to the media, what to say, what not to say and how to say it is crucial.

These same tips and tricks apply to PR professionals, as well as anyone giving a presentation, leading a meeting or making a first impression.

6. Not having a crisis communications plan in place

Crisis communications is a must-have business tool. Tragedy or any sort of unpleasant situation can hit anyone at any time, so it is important to be prepared. At T&C, we counsel our clients to always have a plan in place. We were reminded most recently after the 2018 7.0 Alaska earthquake how important it is to also have an internal crisis plan as a communications agency.

Our entire team is FEMA-trained in the National Incident Management System and Incident Command System and has experience managing crises. We were able to quickly implement our expertise to ensure our own team’s safety, while also supporting our impacted clients. Some tips to prepare for a crisis are to establish a chain of command, assigned spokespeople and to prepare strategic and consistent messaging for quick response.

7. Not understanding SEO

Search engine optimization and digital marketing ensure that website, social media and digital content reaches its target audience. Without a strategic digital plan, even the best content won’t be discovered to its full potential. Some tactics the T&C digital team implements are website and keyword audits to increase rankings on the search engine results page.

Powerful videography, strong graphics and a thirst for following the latest digital trends are how our Google Analytics-certified team stays up to date on the best of digital PR.

8. Not staying up to date on internet trends and news

With a 24-hour news cycle and an internet that never sleeps, the race to stay relevant is faster than ever. With information coming from all directions, it is important to capitalize on keywords, hashtags and Google trends to ensure content is captivating and highly searchable.

The best performing content is also easily digestible and sharable. Posting regular content, like blogs and newsletters, sparks reader interest and improves SEO. That’s why our social media and content teams collaborate with the digital team to maximize impact.

9. Not embracing evolution

Before the rise of the internet, news came solely from print and broadcast media. In today’s world, consumers are overwhelmed by the amount of information coming from all angles. Podcasts, social media and AI are just a few ways nontraditional media is making a splash. With so many different ways to share a message, it is important to stay on top of trends and understand how each market segment is consuming their news.

This is especially important for reaching Millennials and Gen Z, who consume the majority of their news on social media. As these generations become the dominant age group in the workforce and increase their purchasing power, understanding influencer marketing and other new trends is imperative.

10. Not investing in your agency’s culture

At T&C, our president & CEO Jennifer Thompson abides by the idea that happy employees are the best and most productive employees. That’s why she founded a company culture set on not hiding from failure, but failing forward and learning from our mistakes. Sharing blunders helps colleagues grow into better professionals in the long run.

Our company culture also supports celebrating professional victories, both large and small. We have a dedicated “kudos” Slack channel where employees are constantly supported and motivated by each other. This little incentive builds comradery, connects people in remote offices and inspires us to learn from our teammates’ successes.

Our “work hard, play hard” mindset fuels creativity and reduces stress. At T&C, we spend the last hour of the day on Thursdays going over a recap of the week’s work, sometimes over a beer, cocktail or mocktail. This allows us to bond and brainstorm with coworkers on other teams. Work-from-home Fridays, an innovative family leave policy, and encouraging office music (check out the T&C Spotify playlist) are just a few ways our agency culture transforms coworkers to a work family.

Megan O’Malley, creative content specialist

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