Minor vs. major mistakes in Public Relations

It’s never ok to make a mistake in PR. For the purpose of this post, well and reality – let’s say there are minor mistakes and major mistakes. A minor mistake may be an accidental typo. Not a biggie (depending on where the typo is), we all make them once in a while. Hopefully the person on the receiving end of the mistake will understand. Minor mistakes are usually accidental.

How about a major mistake?

A major PR mistake is a self or team generated PR mistake that does more harm for your company/product than good. Often major mistakes are because of a poor choice of words. A recent example of this is Arizona State announcing they are not awarding President Obama with an honorary degree next month when he speaks at graduation. The media and blogosphere have been all over this – not a surprise. Major mistakes often create major awareness of the situation. In ASU’s situation, the mistake was how their team fielded responses as well as not giving the honorary degree.

What about this situation?

Last week a White House press aid made an e-mail snafu. The aid sent out a draft of President Obama’s schedule with comments from other press staffers on it. I’m sure that e-mail went out to a few hundred reporters. Oops.

The bottom line is typos and blunders are going to happen. No one is immune to mistakes. Double check your work and bounce your thoughts off others. Review old case studies. Learn from the mistakes you do make, so they won’t happen again. If you’re not sure of something, ask questions. 

8 Responses to “Minor vs. major mistakes in Public Relations”

  1. Susan Hart - April 16th, 2009

    You’re right – mistakes will happen. They happen more when people are in a hurry, which seems to be part of these situations. Maybe the college leadership didn’t take the time to fully discuss the issue of a honorary degree to a President and the follow-up ramifications. Maybe the President’s press staff has too much to do and was trying to get something out in a hurry. To determine if these are simply human errors, see if a pattern develops. That speaks to a much deeper issue of leadership and the work environment.


  2. admin - April 16th, 2009


    You are right as well. Mistakes happen more when people are in a hurry. PR pros need to remember to sometimes slow down. I know many of my careless errors have come simply because I was in a rush. Thanks for your comment.


  3. Deb - April 16th, 2009

    I would say that nearly all of my mistakes have happened when I’ve been in a hurry… fortunately; it is usually just a simple inconsequential typo. That said, I seem to be doing it more often lately and attribute it to one of two things: 1.) I’m now a work at home mom so I MUST work quickly 🙂 and 2.) with the growth of Twitter and other similar outlets, the need to be quick-on-the-draw has never been more imperative – thus I don’t ALWAYS take the time to proofread well or employ the “second pair of eyes”.

    Thanks for bringing this up, Brian. Makes you ponder; which is more important – providing information first or providing information accurately? In most situations, I’m reasonably certain it would have to be the latter.


  4. admin - April 16th, 2009

    Deb – Thanks for your comments. You raise a good question, Providing information first vs. providing information accurately…that answer could be a blog post in itself, but I agree with you in choosing the latter.


  5. A year of blogging about PR and Social Media | The PR Practitioner - July 27th, 2009

    […] Minor vs. major mistakes in Public Relations – Examples of minor and major mistakes in PR. Is it ever ok to make a mistake in PR? […]

  6. Ella Walker - June 30th, 2010

    Public Relations is all about pleasing the common people.:*,


  7. Layla Collins - September 14th, 2010

    you should always maintain good public relations specially if you operate a business*`”


  8. Nicotinic Acid - December 21st, 2010

    there are times that good public relations cannot be always achieved `:~


Leave a Reply