Common mistakes new PR pros make

You never stop learning in the public relations industry. You can always be a better writer, listener and practitioner. The reason why you are in the position you are today is not just because of YOU. At some point you received help or advice from someone else, whether it was a professor, colleague or mentor.

I asked three members of Phoenix PRSA’s new pros group, who each have at least two years of professional experience to answer a question that can provide valuable insight to new pros or college students.

What’s the most common mistake you made as a new PR pro or you see newer pros make??

Katy_KelewaeKaty Kelewae: This is a balancing act. New pros need to find a happy medium between thinking they know everything and questioning their skills too much (thinking they don’t know enough). It is OK to make a few mistakes, just remember what you did, why you did it and then change your thinking the next time you are in that situation. At the same time, while I’m sure there are plenty of very smart new pros out there who did very well on their capstone projects, they need to remember that the “real world” is different and they need time to learn (again).

ChristinaChristina Salgado: One of the most common mistakes that I’ve been guilty of, and see many new PR  pros doing, is in the area of pitching and coming up with story angles. All too often, I see a lot of press releases and pitches that sell the company, not a story. You walk a fine line between putting out a story for a reporter, and a selling a brochure for the company on paper. It’s important to remember that you’re writing just as much for the media as you are for your company, and it can’t be too heavily saturated with selling points for your business.

Another mistake I see new pros make is not giving reporters enough information for their story. In order to optimize the chances for news outlets to pick up your story, you have to be able to serve everything for them on a silver platter. This includes a heavily detailed story and photos and ALWAYS offer to put the reporter in touch with the subject of the story for an interview.

Last, it’s important to abide by editorial deadlines! Know the deadlines of every magazine and newspaper. Keep a monthly calendar handy, so you know what magazine and newspaper issues are coming up, and how your client can fit within those stories.

Effie MooreEfia Moore: My mistake was I didn’t take advantage of all of my resources. I encourage new pros to volunteer, create, and take on new projects and to interview people they admire. Set three month goals, ask a lot of questions and find out what your company is willing to invest into you. Network with other PR pros. To have someone in the industry to go to that understands your challenges is priceless.

All three fellow pros bring up great points. I was interviewed recently about this topic and gave the same answer along time lines as Katy, don’t pretend to know everything. Christina makes a great point too, remember to pitch a story, not sell the company. Finally, Effie hits it head on when saying it’s important to take advantage of your resources.

Feel free to chime in – what’s the most common mistake you made as a new PR pro or you see other newer pros make?

10 Responses to “Common mistakes new PR pros make”

  1. Heather Huhman - June 22nd, 2009


    Great post! A few I would add:

    1. Not taking enough time to think through assignments. Many new pros think they need to turn assignments in as fast as possible. As a manager, I would rather they take their time and do it correctly from the start.

    2. Not asking enough questions. When I give an assignment and the new pro has no questions, I get a bit concerned. Surely there was something I left out! Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you aren’t sure.

    Again, great post!


    BrianCamen Reply:

    Thanks, Heather.

    I agree with you. It’s a common mistake that newbies think speed is everything. Unfortuntately, it’s accuracy that always wins at the end of the day.



  2. Adrienne Bailey - June 22nd, 2009

    This is an excellent post.

    As a new PR professional myself, I love the advice from fellow PR people! Reading what others are doing and learning helps me recognize changes I need to make and areas I can improve. Another I would add: not taking the time to do research. Research is an essential aspect of PR that cannot be taken lightly. We often want to rush through the research just so we can begin pitching and getting coverage. However, what is the point if you are finding the wrong contacts and pitching the wrong angle to the wrong publications? Also, as young PR professionals we need to be problem solvers. Diligent research can help solve problems as we are constantly discovering new ideas from one another and finding new “best practices.”


    BrianCamen Reply:


    I think even though younger PR pros may learn about strategic planning and research in school, it’s still not in the front on their minds when they start a PR job. You are correct, PR pros want to focus on pitching, getting coverage and the rewards. Strategic planning is equally as important.



  3. James S. Walker - June 22nd, 2009

    Hi Brian,

    I’d add brainstorming your own solutions to problems. It’s not wise to always do this because you don’t know everything, but you know something, right? You have an interesting perspective and just may come up with something interesting to your manager and the client.

    By all means, get the assignment your tasked with completed, but throw in an extra idea or two from time to time. Shows that you’re engaged, thinking of alternatives and (if they’re good) can help you land a spot at the big brainstorm or account kickoff.



  4. Abbie S. Fink - June 22nd, 2009

    I’m a few years past being considered a new pro, but I thought I would chime in from the “seasoned pro” perspective. I agree with Effie, take advantage of the resources and the contacts that you make. If a seasoned pro says “give me a call” definitely give them a call. And make it a phone call, not an email. One of the skills we need as pr practitioners is the ability to get on the phone and in very short order, convince a reporter that we are pitching is worthy of their attention. So put the same effort into asking me for an informational interview. I am always happy to meet with up and coming pr professionals, all you have to do is ask.

    And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention social media — start actively engaging in social media. Start following people in the indusry, media people, etc. to learn what’s happening in the communications field. But a word of caution, employers are starting to review social media sites when considering applicants for positions. Be careful what you post.


  5. Adrienne Bailey - June 22nd, 2009

    Totally agree on the social media, my “primary audiences” for the social media sites I use are those in my industry, other PR firms, writers, clients, career services, and anyone else that fits with my general interests. Be sure what you are tweeting/posting/sharing is engaging others, while still staying relevant to whatever it is you are using social media sites for.


  6. knoodlePRgrl (Christina Salgado) - June 22nd, 2009

    Common mistakes new PR pros make


  7. zamomar (Omar Zamora) - June 22nd, 2009

    Common mistakes new PR pros make RT @knoodlePRgrl


  8. Oops…! Common PR mistakes newbies make « hannjrand - February 27th, 2012

    […] […]

Leave a Reply