Five Costly Mistakes For New Pros to Avoid

5Have you ever wished that you’d done something differently? For most of us, there is at least one mistake we wish we hadn’t made. Hindsight is 20/20 and no matter how prepared you are for your career, mistakes will inevitably happen. To make your transition from student to new professional as smooth as possible, keep any eye out for these common (and potentially costly) mistakes.

Misspelling a Journalist’s Name.

When pitching, this is one of the easiest mistakes to make. While it’s not necessarily fatal – if the journalist is interested in the content, they may pick it up anyway – it’s certainly embarrassing and could devalue your credibility.

Being a new pro, you’ll always want to put your best foot forward and show that you bring professionalism and valuable skills to the team. Don’t jeopardize that by not taking 15 more seconds to double check someone’s name. While you’re at it, run spell check to make sure there aren’t any other errors that may have slipped under the radar.

Not Prioritizing Deadlines.

You may have days when you have your to-do list planned out, but another (more time sensitive) project pops up just as your day is getting started. These little projects are one thing I personally like about being a PR pro because each day truly is different, but having a dynamic schedule also presents risks.

Don’t let the small project become a huge project because you put it off for a week and it’s due tomorrow morning. It’s so easy to get caught up in the urgency of sporadic assignments, but you need to be disciplined in carving out time for larger, long-term projects.  If you find that you are struggling to keep up, communicate that to your supervisor or colleagues who can help.

Referencing the Wrong Media Outlet.

Just like misspelling a journalist’s name, this is an easy one to make when pitching. If you are working for an agency, you may talk to people from numerous media outlets each day. You’ll want to avoid telling the guy from The NonProfit Times that what you have to offer would be of interest to readers of The Chronicle of Philanthropy. As much as we love to be quick and responsive, it’s worth it to slow down a little for the sake of accuracy.

Not Keeping Your Supervisor Updated.

Keeping your supervisor and team members updated with how your projects are going is so invaluable. Teamwork makes the dream work, but not without clear communication. As mentioned previously, this comes in handy if you are struggling, but it’s also critical to establishing expectations. Allowing others to draw their own conclusions about when you will have a project finished will come back to haunt you more times than not.

Sending Out the Wrong Version.

Out of all these mistakes, this one may have the potential to be the most costly. Anyone who has internally edited content before it’s made public knows that the process can be long and tedious. A minor change may not seem significant, yet the change may have been in reference to financial or other information that needs to be completely accurate. Before you send something out, always check to be sure that you have the final version.

Being a new professional is about learning, but you’ll be one step ahead of the game when avoiding these little mishaps. Attention to detail is invaluable and it’s something that gets stronger over time. The more you practice, the more effective you’ll be at predicting potential mistakes and spotting them should they arise. In time, you’ll find a style that works for you. Keep calm, stay focused and enjoy your new career as a PR pro!

JeffJeff Adkins is a public relations associate for Henry Ford Hospital and Health Network in Detroit, Michigan. An active member of the Detroit chapter of PRSA, Jeff enjoys connecting with fellow PR pros and seeking out new professional experiences. He’s a 2014 Wayne State University alum, where he obtained a Bachelor’s in Public Relations and was a member of the university’s PRSSA chapter. In his free time, Jeff enjoys being active outdoors and volunteers as a public relations officer with Portal Paranormal Society. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter at @jeffadkins14 and LinkedIn.


Five Tips to Fine-Tune Your Media Relations in Sports PR

#NPPRSA - The Edge (1)Good communication skills and strong media relationships are essential for any PR professional to be successful with those they work with, but with the different public relations industries becoming more and more niche these days, there are some keys things to keep in mind depending on which media outlets you are pitching and working with the most.

For those working in the action-packed and non-stop sports and entertainment industries (or looking to get into these areas), here are five tips to keep in mind to help you fine-tune your media pitches, break through with key media contacts and more to further develop your media relations:

Timeliness & Relevance

As the old saying goes, “timing is everything.” In the sports and entertainment industries, this is even more important to remember when it comes to PR and pitching specific media reporters whether they are with long or short lead outlets.

More often than not, unless something is breaking news, it is best to tie your media pitches into something timely occurring that the outlet and reporters are covering (or could cover) whether it a large sporting event (such as the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, US Open, etc.), the start of a new sporting season (like golf and tennis season swinging under way each summer or football season and college sports getting started again each Fall) or anything else that’s relevant so that there is a direct tie-in to the media reporter and their upcoming editorial calendar an outlet.

Keep the Competition in Mind

When working in the sports and entertainment industries and with the media coverage surrounding them, to say it is a highly competitive space for coverage would be an understatement. When pitching various media try to keep in mind everyone else they are being pitched by and those who work with leagues, teams, events, brands, athletes, etc. and try to determine what your best pitch angle is to make you stand out from the rest and break through to the media contact.

In addition to the timeliness and relevance of what you are pitching, think of creative ways to enhance your pitches by determining the best subject line (and one that isn’t over the top or misleading), including images with your text or bullet-pointing information so your pitch helps you get straight to the point.

Don’t Get Discouraged if You Don’t Hear Back

Sometimes I like to think that “PR” more accurately stands for “persistency = results.” Like when sending out a press release announcement to a large database of media contacts (or on a newswire), you don’t always receive a lot of immediate feedback from those you sent it to.

If you don’t hear back on your pitch within an appropriate amount of time (of which there is no magic rule of thumb for), make sure and send a follow-up email or give them a call to see if they received your information. As for cold call media pitching, it seems more media prefer to receive email pitches first before being cold-called with pitches but that once you have established communication or a relationship with them that they are more willing and likely to talk on the phone with you.

Making Sure You Manage Expectations

For those of us who work in sports along with a lot of us who work in public relations, the phrase “under promising and over delivering” is very important to remember.  This applies not only to those you work with/for, but also the media you’re building relationships with and collaborating on coverage opportunities.

When it comes down to things like determining how much time a media reporter can have in an interview or how much time they need to schedule photo shoots, it’s important to be aware of tight timelines and deadlines. It is in everyone’s best interest to be honest and forthcoming about what you (and who you work with/for) can and cannot do so that you are appropriately managing the media’s expectations.  By doing so, this will help you with building lasting media relationships for both the short term and long term.

Keep up with What the Media are Covering

With the integration of social media into our daily lives and almost every move we’ve made in the past five or six years, this has become both a blessing and a curse at times for those of us who work in PR. Social media demands our constant attention (not to mention that sports related coverage consumes about 90% of twitter and all tweets produced daily).

However, social media also provides us an opportunity to follow key media reporters, see what they are covering and determine better pitches to add a more personable touch to connect with them and develop our relationships. While it is impossible to follow every media contact you want to get through to and see what they are covering, for the ones you do follow it allows some extra insight on events they are planning to attend, products they like, things they are passionate about and any other tidbits of information you might not have known otherwise that can help you determine a good tie-in when getting in touch with them.

I would also keep in mind that social media channels are NOT the best or recommended way to pitch key media contacts, but that it can’t hurt to respond to their posts and engage in conversations that potentially could help make you stand out to them when they do receive pitches and emails from you at another time.

About the PRSA Entertainment & Sports Section

Practitioners working in the high-profile worlds of sports and entertainment face unique challenges. PRSA’s Entertainment and Sports Section offers great opportunities to connect with peers who understand your issues and are willing to share solutions. Through in-person and virtual networking events, newsletters and other resources, the Section helps practitioners develop public relations and management skills directly relevant to their entertainment and sports environments.

Natalie MikolichNatalie P. Mikolich, is the 2016 Chair-Elect of the PRSA Entertainment and Sports Section and the Founder of npm|pr (  Natalie has worked with a variety of national businesses in different industries ranging from sports, fitness, health, beauty and luxury lifestyle to non-profit organizations and special events in addition to world class professional and Olympic athletes. Along with this, Natalie has provided public relations services for some of the leading global sports and entertainment agencies. Follow her on Twitter @npmikolich.


Three Ways to Make Your Press Release Stand Out

#NPPRSA - The EdgeLike it or not, press releases are still a major resource for PR professionals. As a new PR pro you’ll may be charged with drafting a majority of the releases for your company. Below are three ways to make your next press release stand out from the crowd.

Craft a strong and engaging headline

To cut through the constant clutter of press releases, you’ve got to have a strong headline. When creating your headline you want to grab the audience’s attention and entice them to click or open the email.

You’ll want to answer the following questions: Why do I care? How is this news?

Let’s try a little experiment – which headline would you be interested in?

  • Atlanta had 45 Million visitors to the city in 2013

  • Atlanta sets new visitation record with 45 million visitors in 2013

The first headline is straight to the point, however there’s nothing to entice the reader to find out more information. The second headline tells me that Atlanta set a new record number of visitors to the city, which leads to more questions about how many visitors do other city attract? What was the previous record for the city?

Capture them with the lead

Now that you’ve got their attention, draw them in with the lead sentence. Most lead sentences are less than 30 words and answer the question of why the reader should continue on.

  • Atlanta set a new record for visitation in a single year, welcoming 45 million visitors in 2013. (17 words)

Make your way down the pyramid

For the rest of the release follow the Inverted Pyramid Structure. The first paragraph should contain, besides the lead, the most pertinent information and answering the 5 W’s (Who,What,Why, Where and When) of the release.

The next two paragraphs should provide additional or supporting information, though not as essential as the first. Quotes from executives or experts are often found here.

Finally, the last paragraph should contain the background details and basic general information.

Bonus Tip!

Before you begin writing a release, put yourself in the shoes of your intended audience. What would make you read this release? What makes this news? How would this make my job easier? By looking at the release from the reader’s perspective, you’ll gain a new sense of clarity.

What are some of your best press release tips?

Victoria Lightfoot (1)Victoria Lightfoot graduated from Georgia State University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, concentrating in public relations. She is currently the PR coordinator at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and volunteers on PRSA Georgia’s College Relations Committee and co-chairs the Travel & Tourism Special Interest Group. Connect with Victoria on LinkedIn and Twitter (@Victoria_Lenese). 


Likeable Social Media: Book Review

714bRDv3idL._SL1500_As a new PR pro, one of the many roles you may play on your team is to manage the social media accounts for various clients. I already know what you’re thinking. How hard can it be to post on a client’s page once a day?

When you take on this responsibility, it’s important to keep in mind what you think might be common sense, isn’t after all. I was reminded of this after reading Dave Kerpen’s “Likeable Social Media: How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be generally amazing on Facebook and other social networks.”

A New York Times and USA Today bestseller, the book explores the basics and fundamentals of managing a Facebook page on behalf of a client while offering real-life examples from Kerpen’s own experience. Cofounder and CEO of Likeable Media, Kerpen uses his own experience with national brands such as, Neutrogena, Uno’s Pizzeria and more to paint a picture of real-time case studies.

What was interesting about Kerpen’s approach and what I especially appreciated were the action items found at the end of each chapter. While I was highlighting ferociously every time I came upon something I found relevant or applicable to my client, I found it super helpful that there were three to five quick takeaways for how the reader could apply what was covered in the chapter on their own.

Here are my own three quick takeaways from Likeable Social Media that hopefully can serve as food for thought in your own social media strategies:

Be human.

When posting and engaging on behalf of your client, converse with your followers in the voice and tone that is appropriate for the client. But be careful to not come off as a robot. For example, a luxury eyewear brand wouldn’t respond to a customer’s compliment with “That’s totally awesome. Thanks for sharing!” Instead, their response would likely sound a bit more like “Thank you so much for your kind comment. We appreciate you taking the time to share your great experience with us.”

Respond to your positive comments, too.

This might be a no-brainer, and a bit of a “duh” moment. No matter how simple it might seem positive comments might get overlooked more than a negative comment would. Think about it – one negative comment from a customer complaining about customer service or a product on your website and the entire team can go up in arms, trying to respond to the customer in a timely and appropriate manner. A simple thank you from a customer, however, could go unacknowledged from the company for hours – even days.

Take the time to respond to your positive feedback. After all, these are the people who could possibly be brand ambassadors for your company down the road by sharing your company’s news with their friends.

Create a community.

Kerpen shared various examples such as Stride Rite that successfully created a community using their Facebook page. The shoe company achieved this not by posting about shoes every day, all day. Rather, the company decided to shift gears and take the approach of sharing content that would be interesting and relevant to their target audience: moms – and their kids who wore the shoes.

Now, this community of moms is consistently engaging on Stride Rite’s Facebook page on tips for new moms, pictures and videos of babies and milestone moments, and general questions for raising a child. And what’s key is that Stride Rite has embraced this and responds to comments, questions and shared items. As a result, Kerpen says the company online sales increased steadily week over week since the initiative launched.

Finally, my one criticism of the book was that I was searching and hungry for additional best practices on other social media platforms, specifically Instagram and Twitter. If Kerpen decided to come out with a book on best practices for Instagram, I’d read it.

If you’ve just started your first PR job and will be handling social media for a client, I’d highly suggest this book. It will take you from the newbie in the office to the rock star rookie with stellar social media strategy in no time.

If you have any questions or want to chat more about what I found interesting from this book, find me on Twitter at @shandihuber!

Shandi HuberShandi Huber is a senior account executive at Wordsworth Communications, a public relations agency in Cincinnati, Ohio. An enthusiast for all social media platforms, you can often find her pinning her dream closet on Pinterest or posting photos of her new puppy on Instagram. Connect with Shandi on LinkedIn and Twitter(@shandihuber).

The Tools: Book Review

9780679644453_p0_v2_s260x420As the first half of the year comes a close, I began looking for inspiration to accomplish my goals for 2015. “The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower, and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion” is the perfect book to help you finish what you’ve started in 2015.

There are five tools can be applied to any problem or situation you may encounter on your way to achieving your goal.

Authors Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, respectively, outline five common issues we all experience – procrastination, grudge-holding, insecurity, anxiety and lack of self-control – and developed these tools to help move past mental blocks, break down resistance to change and  connect what they call the “higher forces.”

“Real happiness is the constant presence of higher forces in our lives.”

Their theory is that the higher forces are available to everyone, you’ve just got to tap into them. So what are they?

  1. Reversal of Desire connects to the force of Forward Motion.

  2. Active Love connects you to the force of Outflow.

  3. Inner Authority connects you to the force of Self-Expression.

  4. Grateful Flow connects you to the force of  the Source.

  5. Jeopardy connects you to the force of Willpower.

Each chapter provides an in-depth discussion of the tool with real life examples from Stutz and Michels, what you are fighting against and cues of when it’s time to use it.

If you are looking for to make an immediate change as we prepare for the second half of the year, “The Tools” is a great place to start.

Victoria LightfootVictoria Lightfoot graduated from Georgia State University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, concentrating in public relations. She is currently the PR coordinator at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and volunteers on PRSA Georgia’s College Relations Committee and co-chairs the Travel & Tourism Special Interest Group. Connect with Victoria on LinkedIn and Twitter (@Victoria_Lenese)