How to protect yourself against common PR mistakes

No matter how long you’ve been in PR, you’re bound to have had at least one of those days where everything seems to have gone wrong.

From clients that have been misquoted, to a press release that didn’t get put out in time, to a hashtag that seemed on the face of it, fairly straightforward but resulted in one of the biggest hashtag fails of the century (Does anyone remember the name of Susan Boyle’s album after all that furore?), there are always things that can go wrong.

However, there are a number of common mistakes that you might be making as a PR consultant that could be far more damaging to your long-term profits than these one-off events are.

Here, we take a look at some of the common mistakes you may be inadvertently making, and what you can do about them.

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Going ahead with what you know will work without informing the client

You know what you’re doing, we’re sure, but the client also knows what future plans are afoot for their own business, and they may not yet have divulged these to you. However, great you think your latest press release for the client may be, running it past the client is always a good idea to avoid something that may well potentially damage their brand at a later date.

And while we’re at it, make sure you know which of your client’s staff have the authority to give the go-ahead on such decisions. Going off what the receptionist said is ok, rather than the person that’s been quoted on the release is never a good idea.

Not keeping an eye on Social Media

It’s not enough to post a schedule a month’s worth of posts on the clients’ social media profiles and then let them roll out. You absolutely have to keep an eye on each of the profiles you’re managing for the client, firstly to respond to comments where necessary and also to switch up the schedule should something happen that would render your previously scheduled posts insensitive, insulting or worse.

You can – if you’re careful – use current events to drive more traffic for your client’s social media profiles by keeping an eye on trending hashtags, but make sure you keep to the right voice for the company across the board. Don’t take notes from Habitat, who in 2009 decided to use trending topics to advertise a giveaway. However, they faced a major backlash when it found they were using hashtags relating to the Iranian Election protests that were happening at the time. Top tip – keep it relevant. If you’ve nothing to say about a hashtag, don’t use it.

Know what you’re promising your client

A structured plan with clear goals is imperative for a client to know whether you’re handling their business the way they want you to. Don’t assume PR for one client will take exactly the same path as for the next. Really spend time getting to know your client, their needs and their idea of how to get there before you come up with a strategy, and quantifiable ways to measure the success against that strategy before you begin working with them.

Preparing the ground may be a little time consuming, but when you show them what you’ve delivered, they’ll know you’re doing the job they pay you for.

Protect yourself with personal indemnity insurance

Despite covering these common mistakes, there are things that can and do go wrong in PR. In the unfortunate event that the company you’re doing PR for loses money due to a poorly timed tweet, unauthorised press release or some other issue due to action or inaction on your part, the worst thing may not be that you lose the client – in some cases, they are well within their rights to pursue a claim for damages.

This is why it is vital to consider personal indemnity insurance. This could act to cover you for the costs of an unpaid bill, and could also help to cover costs of defending yourself in a court of law should things get so far.

While we’re sure you’re certainly up to the job, mistakes can – and do – happen and like anything, it’s important to be prepared. Avoiding the common mistakes mentioned above and getting yourself covered with personal indemnity insurance will ensure that you can continue to offer a great service to your clients, without fear that if something were to go wrong, you’d be in more trouble than you could handle.

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