Five basic PR blunders every start-up needs to avoid

By Jules Brooke
Thursday, 25 October 2012

feature-public-relations-thumbYou probably heard about the PR clanger that Google dropped last week.


They distributed a media release before it had been completed – and included the line ‘Pending Larry Quote’ at the top. This caused much hilarity in the global media, particularly as the release was about a sensitive topic: Google’s drop in profits.


I have to say, I felt a little sorry for the PR person who was behind it. Talk about a big mistake!


But it got me thinking about the smaller mistakes made by small businesses who try their hand at PR.


What are some of the more common mistakes? Here are five essential ways to avoid a PR blunder for your start-up – or how not to ‘do a Google’:



1. Don’t assume your story is interesting. Find an angle


This is an easy mistake to make. You have been working on your new start-up or your home-based business for a while. You know it’s interesting.


Will anyone else think so or are you too close to it? If you can almost see it in the media already – what would the headline be? If you don’t find a newsworthy angle then it is unlikely to get picked up.


Think laterally, ask others or just brainstorm a few ideas. You can’t do a straight ‘this is my business, isn’t it great’ type of release or eyes will roll when it gets in front of a journalist.


There are a few online resources and articles that can help you find a good angle – try Googling it!



Above: Jules Brooke.


2. Don’t make typos, spelling mistakes or use bad grammar


This is an absolute no no. For journalists and editors, whose life is spent reading and writing, there can be little worse than bad spelling.


You need to know the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’ and ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.


Then there is the grammar. If you don’t know an apostrophe from a comma or where a full stop should appear, don’t write the release yourself. Get a professional to write it for you.


Story continues on page 2. Please click below.

3. Don’t ‘Bcc’ your release


Choose your ‘ideal’ journalist and tailor the email and pitch. You need to be selective.


Most journalists, particularly those working on daily newspapers and in the business media, will want an exclusive.


They want you to pitch your story to them (ideally by phone first) and no one else.


They want a scoop, so give them one. You should ‘cherry pick’ the media that you think will target your market and start with them.


Then, if you have pitched the idea, send them some information about it and if you still can’t get them to commit to a story, move on to the next contact.


Lastly, make sure you don’t send the same release to two or more people on the same magazine or newspaper at the same time. That’s a sure fire way to make sure none of them touch it!



4. Don’t forget to keep notes – and your promises


If you are going to run your own PR campaign, you must make sure you keep track of your communication with your various media contacts.


Create an Excel spreadsheet and keep notes about when you contacted them and what was said.


Don’t forget to do what you promised to do, whether it is sending high res images or providing more information.


Make sure you follow up with them but do give them time to get back to you first, before getting in touch again.



5. Work that media coverage!


Many small businesses are very excited to get their first story in print (or whatever) but then do very little with it other than show friends and family, or maybe frame it for the wall.


There is so much more you can do with it these days. Post your magazine or newspaper cuttings on Facebook, Tweet about them, post links to blogs or talk about the media coverage in your own blog.


If it’s a TV interview post it on YouTube – although make sure you have the rights to do that first.


Radio interviews can be posted as MP3s. Basically, make that story go as far and wide as you possibly can.


Oh, and don’t forget to use it to add credibility to your message when you are selling your product to retailers or sitting in a new business meeting.


These are just some of the typical mistakes made by small businesses, start-ups and micro businesses – people who are learning as they go. For Google, there was no excuse.


My last tip – don’t forget to say thank you if someone writes a story for you.


Jules Brooke is the owner and co-founder of, a DIY PR website for small businesses that tell you how to run your own campaign as well as selling media contact lists across a variety of categories.


Jules also runs her own PR agency, Handle Communications, where she concentrates on PR for SMEs.


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