Top 10 Reasons Why Your PR Efforts Fail

Does it seem like your PR efforts are wasting time and money? Do you repeatedly try and fail to get reporters’ attention? During my many years helping business, government and non-profit clients secure positive news coverage, I’ve felt the adreniline rush that comes with magnificent news coverage, and the agony and embarrassment that follows a media interview gone awry (scroll down to the graph that starts “Then another tollway spokesperson”). With those memories I present the Top Ten Reasons Why Your PR Efforts are Getting You Nowhere:

  1. You emphasized tactics over strategy so your PR campaign lacks clear business goals and objectives.
  2. You’re targeting the wrong media because you haven’t identified your key audiences.
  3. You’ve re-purposed an old media list and didn’t delete the reporters who lost their jobs when their papers folded.
  4. Your final press release required three complete rewrites because you didn’t create a content outline for your boss’s/client’s review.
  5. You e-blasted the release to reporters and editors and it was dumped in junk mailboxes, never to be viewed.
  6. You wrote a one-size-fits-all pitch letter that left reporters with two choices — trash your news now or trash your news later.
  7. You fumbled through a media interview because you didn’t bother thinking through the possible questions and answers beforehand.
  8. You wouldn’t practice for your on-camera interview and your family still jokes about how your eyes bugged whenever you talked.
  9. Your customers don’t know about your news coverage because you didn’t bother merchandising it or sharing it on social networks.
  10. Your messages are so confusing that even your mother can’t describe what you do.
Leave a comment if you have additional entries to my top 10 reasons for PR failure.
 Post happily written by Michelle Damico





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Debate on Press Release Demise Continues!


PR pros will be debating this topic forever; I’m convinced of it. The debate rages on between members of my LinkedIn Groups as well. In fact, many public relations professionals have commented on my post “The Press Release is NOT Dead” and it spurred a nice LinkedIn conversation that’s worth sharing. It started when Melissa Bleasdale, a member of the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) Technology Section shared her insights. See it below, and then read my reply.

Melisa BleasdaleMelisa Bleasdale • When we say the press release is dead, which it is, we are not saying that we don’t send them out, because we do – mostly out of habit and because our clients like it. However, in my 20 year career in PR, actual articles have only ever been written because of one-on-one communication with editors and journalists, which does, at some point, involve saying, “I’ll send you the press release” aka synopsis of what the news is. We use Marketwire and it’s not inexpensive and PR profs have to show ROI in the form of actual coverage and not mere pickups and regurgitation of press releases. I can’t speak for everyone of course, but this has been my personal experience as a tech PR rep in the Bay Area.

Michelle DamicoMichelle Damico • Hi Melisa, thanks for the comment. I only write/send out releases when they fit the client strategy. I mostly use well-written pitches to reach journalists. However, when appropriate, I use releases to make sure the journalists have ALL the info they need in one doc. When I pitch them & they’re interested, they often ask for a release, which I translate into, “Give me the background I need.” I contend, the release is NOT Dead, because it provides valuable info to time-stretched journalists AND it has the opportunity to go viral and become a lead generator– which it HAS for two of my clients! 

I really appreciate that you took the time to comment. Have a great weekend.

Here’s a different perspective from another member of LinkedIn’s PRSA Technology Discussion Group:

Marie-Dominique Bonardi

Marie-Dominique Bonardi • I completely agree with you Michelle. The press release gives a great structure to the message. The structure of the press release make the message clearer and stronger. It is really important, all the more when you have customers with weak messages. It is a support of the PR activity, it does not replace the relationship with the reporters, it never has. 
You can change the way you send it, the way you post it, it is still a great basis for the PR pitch and it allows the customer to keep an historical track of PR activities. To me the “press release is dead” message is a marketing way to position some agencies as “trendier” than other. This is just PR marketing. 
We all use the new tools which are great to connect to reporters. But the core of our job (messaging and relationship) remains the same.

Michelle Damico

Michelle Damico • Thank you Marie-Dominique for your excellent comment. It’s a great contribution. Have a great Friday and Mother’s Day, whether you’re a mom or not!

If you have witnessed the value of spending your time writing press releases, I’d love to hear anecdotes about how they worked to generate awareness and boost business leads. I’d also love examples of when a press release flopped. Why didn’t it create the buzz, attract the attention you thought it might? I’ll dig through my files and see what I come up with as well!
 Post happily written by Michelle Damico
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Facebook’s Got a Bleeding Heart

May hearts & flowers © Michelle Damico

My garden’s bleeding hearts on this first day of May reminded me of Facebook, which has added a new page option for users who wish to sign up for their state’s organ registry.

As someone on the receiving end of an organ donation (my right knee’s ACL was replaced a few years ago when a snow boarder hit me while skiing) it was very humbling when the nurse offered me the chance to send a note to the donor’s family, telling them their loved one’s life goes on, thanks to the tissue donation that enables me to run, walk and have free movement.

Organ donation is not only about hearts, livers and kidneys. One body may have as many as 50 opportunities for transplantation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Facebook is taking steps to be more socially responsible. I’m hoping that altruism is the main goal; the skeptic in me thinks Facebook wants to develop a softer public persona as well. Either way, I’ll be signing up (as I already have on my driver’s license). You should too. If you want to learn more, read about. It’s all over the web today. 


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It’s #FollowFriday — You sharing the love?

It’s February’s First #FollowFriday, which means time to fulfill Twitter’s mission — to be helpful.

Every Friday on Twitter is #FollowFriday — or #FF — whenTweeps recommend others within their networks who have worthwhile things to say and are worth following.

I have many #FF choices and I hope to add more to this list when I can catch some time today. Please don’t be offended if you’re not on this list. You will be!

Here are some of my #FF choices. If you follow them too, tell them I sent you, and don’t forget to use the #FF hashtag.

@SarahSkerik — leads social media initiatives at PR Newswire and included my quotes in her highly respected PR Newswire blog.

@PRSaraHEvans — a leader in the PR social media community and founder of JournChat

@AnnDwyer_Crains — writes about Entrepreneurship and the challenges facing small business people

@PRSoapBox — Colleen Campbell, a former colleague, is brilliant and her observations about digital PR and the industry in general are spot-on.

@ScottKleinberg – 0ne of the most helpful journalists you will ever find on social networks. He writes for the Tribune and assists other Tribune staffers with their social media actvities.

@BernieTafoya – Newsradio 780s veteran street reporter. One of the most creative guys on radio and a class-act pro.

@GiniDietrichSocial media powerhouse, super creative CEO, author and founder of the popular “SpinSucks” blog.

@MarjHalperin — She’s a colleague, and fellow radio news junkie, communications strategy maven, and is all over Chicago‘s cultural and arts scene. She is now heading up Mayor Emanual’s initiative to craft Chicago’s Cultural Plan.

@PointA_PointB — My friend, Catherine Morgan, Brainiac, extremely connected life coach who has an answer to every entrepreneur’s question. She’ll steer ya right!

@MrMediaTraining – one of the most insightful and spot-on interview training coaches, who is so good at finding others’ media blunders and picking them apart with great precision

Keep checking in here, as I plan to do a favorite journalists Tweep list.

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Great Tool to Follow Journ Tweeps


twitter logo map 09

Image by The Next Web via Flickr

If you are a news junkie and a Twitter fan, you will want to check out this directory of journalists on Twitter, listed by their media outlet. It comes from Muck Rack, which follows what journalists are reporting and talking about on social media. It also ranks the most active journalists on social media on the Muck Rack Leaderboard, which is a great way to follow trends and developing news.

Muck Rack is a fantastic source for anyone interested in news and communications. It was started in 2009 with about 150 journalists on Twitter and now lists thousands of reporters and editors who are active on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Quora, Google+, LinkedIn and more. What’s best is that the list is actually fact-checked by a team of editors, so you know you’re getting great info.

If you want to get even closer to the action, subscribe to the Muck Rack Daily email to learn on a daily basis what journalists are saying. This is a great resource for anyone who is trying to promote their own business, or who is doing PR and Media Relations on a shoestring!  If you subscribe, let me know what you think.




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“How do I…?” The entrepreneur’s most common PR question

“How do I use PR to…    

  • Get more customers?
  • Grow my business?
  • Stand out from the competition?
  • Inject new life into my online presence?

Almost every week, small business people and entrepreneurs ask me how can PR build your customer base and grow your business?

It doesn’t happen overnight, unless you’re one of those rare savvy jack-of-all-trades who hits the PR jackpot and has your product or service featured on The Today Show or on the Chicago Tribune front page in your first round of media outreach.

It starts with building relationships with the people who can help you spread word about your business.

Look at your local newspaper or radio station. What stories do you see about your industry? Who is the reporter, how can you contact them, what are his/her interests? Do you have any interests in common?

You can find out a lot about reporters by simply following what they write about. Many media outlets provide online profiles about their writers and editors. Often, they’re buried online under the “About Us” or “Contact Us” sections. For example, many major metro newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald (serving the North and Northwest suburbs), have a very detailed list of their reporters, writers and editors.

These editorial directories can be a bit hard to find. For example, the Daily Herald lists their media contacts under the tab “Services & Info, which isn’t the most intuitive for searchers. Often, media outlets bury their “Contact Us” link at the bottom of their web page in very fine print. Take the time and patience to look for it.

If you’re looking for contacts on a magazine web site, often you’ll find an editor to reach by clicking on their “Advertising” tab and clicking on their “Media Kit” or “Editorial Calendar.”

Trying to reach TV reporters? You’ll often find their contact information online as well, although it seems TV stations make it the hardest to find that info. For example, this NBC5 Chicago contact site has minimal information. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, pick up the phone, call the station or outlet’s general number and ask to be connected to the Newsroom. Someone staffing the news desk will be able to direct you to the appropriate person. Don’t be surprised if you get a reporter’s voicemail.

Use the search tool available on nearly all media outlet web sites to see past stories. If their stories are archived (often for a fee), make a small investment to get copies of their most recent reports.

Consider ways to get their attention by sending them samples of your product, inviting them to visit your business, or sharing a new angle or bit of advice on something they’ve reported on. Better yet, send an email, complimenting their work and offering your expertise for a future story.  Invite them for coffee (most reporters don’t have time for lunch, but you should still extend the invitation.)  Don’t be discouraged if they say they’re too busy for an in-person meeting. They really are busy – their jobs have become more demanding. Besides reporting the news, media reps also are expected to post on social network profiles and/or provide additional content for media-owned blogs (or even their own personal blog).

Are you on Facebook or Twitter (either a personal or professional page)? It’s very likely that reporter is also on social media, so take the time to “Like” their page, follow what they do, and engage. Post items on their wall that are helpful. And I mean helpful - not bragging or advertisements. Show them that you can be a valuable resource.

Establishing media relationships is one way to open the door to possible coverage and demonstrate your expertise and credibility.

Next time we’ll talk about how you can use social networks to spread word of mouth and get your customers and their friends talking about you and providing untapped exposure.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your experiences working with reporters. What have you done to get their attention?

Was it fruitful? What could you have done better? Leave a comment and I promise to respond!

 Post happily written by Michelle Damico




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Kicking off December with Thanks to You

This is a great time to say thank you for following my blog and participating in great conversations that (I hope) have helped you realize your PR goals and your business dreams.

This year has been tough for nearly every organization seeking to boost sales or increase awareness through traditional media such as print and broadcast, or word-of-mouth platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

In 2011, professionals were faced with a double whammy: shrinking marketing budgets and trying to follow and adapt to an ever-changing media landscape. We’ve all had to learn a lot of new rules and tools to stay on top of social media marketing.

As my way of saying thanks, I’d like to share a few timesaving tools and resources that kept me on top of my game this year:

1.    PR Daily: A fantastic eNewsletter for PR and marketing professionals following traditional and social media trends and topics.

2.    LinkedIn’s Answers: Saves countless hours researching an infinite number of topics or challenges. Why start from scratch when you’ve got experts eager to help on any topic for any industry.

3.    Google Docs: Invaluable for collaborating on projects. Edit or create documents on a Google Doc and use Google’s chat tool for instantly discussing or improving upon your changes. It’s simple and elegant.

4. Share your computer desktop view with others remotely for presentations or collaboration. Others can view your desktop presentations or follow as you navigate web sites by simply clicking on a link to

5.    Highrise Contact Management: Following-up with the reporters you pitch, or the prospects you’re trying to reach is easy with Highrise. It helps you track all emails and phone calls and sends reminders about the tasks related to those contacts. An easy way to create, organize and monitor all your customer info, emails and notes.

Give these free tools a try and tell me what you think. And if you would like to review your PR efforts this year, or want to discuss your 2012 strategy,  don’t hesitate to contact me through the form here on my blog or at michelle at michelledamico dot com.

Wishing you happiness in the Season of Giving and lasting prosperity in 2012.

Enjoy these photos as a gift from my personal collection. 

Gifts from an ice storm, by Michelle Damico


A visual feast is often the next best thing, by Michelle Damico


Your passion will take you there, by Michelle Damico

Yes, social media can motivate and inspire

Running by Coolidge Corner

Image by jpo.ct via Flickr

I ran/walked today for 30 minutes. Not a big deal for most people. But I hate running. Have hated running since college. But since having emergency surgery this summer, I lost interest in my power walking routine and gained weight. Now I want it off.

So much of my life is directed by chance, and this little story is proof once again. My new client, Coach Brendan Cournane, planted the idea of a run/walk routine when reporters picked up on this training technique and wrote about it in their news coverage of Brendan (he coached 400 runners) in this year’s Chicago Marathon. I am amazed and inspired by his stories. I’ve been thinking about running since he called me a week before the marathon. But in my mind I made all the expected excuses why I could not “Just Do It.”

Why did I decide to  lace up today? A simple Twitter inquiry from @GiniDietrich, PR Maven and Blogger Extraordinaire. She was following up on my comment to fellow tweep @MSchechter about his run-walk program.

Gini’s question: “how are you doing?” was code for “so have you gotten off your butt yet and started the program?” That simple prompt stayed with me all day. Whenever I checked Twitter, it was staring me in the face.

By 4:30 this afternoon, I said enough with the BS. No more excuses. End the week with a positive accomplishment. And I did.  Thank you Brendan, Michael and Gini for the inspiration and motivation this month.

Once again, my writing and social media idol Roger Ebert is right: ‎”So much of what happens by chance forms what becomes your life.”  Life Itself, a memoir. 



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Phone calls DO matter for PR success


Image by plenty.r. via Flickr

Texting, posting, tweeting, liking, commenting, following, emailing. Key verbs for interacting with reporters? Yes, but what about CALLING? I still believe in the power of the phone call to get reporters’ attention. They generally discourage it and I respect that, but I rarely get a complaint when I do phone them. I also am respectful of their time and deadlines when I call.

A call, even if it’s a voicemail, can point them to your email amid the hundreds they get all day. It can entice them to check out your business or client web site, and it’s part of your brand awareness to a key audience.

In fact, today, I credit my calls in helping earn major placements for my client in:

And since the Tribune covered my client’s story, the Tribune-owned WGN-TV aired photos  during the evening news!

Without making my calls these stories may not have happened.  An email alone would have probably gotten lost in the deep dark inbox hole at the those outlets.
I always follow some important rules when phoning reporters:

  1. Ask first if they’re on deadline and say you’ll call them back if they are
  2. Know what they write about and be knowledgeable about why your pitch is news
  3. Believe in your client. It’s easier to cold call a reporter when your gut says you’ve got great news to spread.

What’s been your experiences phoning the media? Leave a comment or let me know if I can help.

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Farmers and Facebook – One Nudge at a Time!

For many farmers, the hardest part about social media is taking  the plunge. So maybe you just need a little shove, a few small steps to get you started? That was the topic we covered today on RFD Now, a program produced by the Illinois Farm Bureau and carried on 70 radio stations in the Midwest. I was joined by Chris Klein, the owner of Klein’s Farm and Market out of western Illinois. Chris’ farm has had a Facebook presence for about a month, and she launched it immediately following one of my social media workshops for farmers.  We talked with RFD Radio hosts Julie Root and Allan Jarand. (You can hear a recording of the segment at

If you’re not on Facebook and eventually hope to establish a business presence, here are a few things you should do now:

  1. Sign up and get a personal account so you can have access to Facebook and see what other farmers are doing.
  2. Go to other farms and businesses in your community and begin Liking them to see how they’re using Facebook.
  3. Find your friends and relatives and begin friending them. You’ll turn to those friends when you establish your Facebook business presence.
  4. After you see what others are doing, identify your own business goals for Facebook? Get 100 likers by Labor Day? Boost sales at your market or farm? Increase sales of a specific item?
  5. Identify how you’ll achieve that goal. Will you simply generate awareness about the farm? Promote special produce? Provide helpful growing tips for the back yard vegetable garden? Advice for how to prepare the produce you grow? Maybe you just want to establish a face on farming, so your customers understand the hard work involved in getting food to their tables?

As a newbie on Facebook, it can still be overwhelming. So make it easy to transition into social media:

  1. Your first month, just interact with other farms or businesses. See how they respond when you post items on their wall. You’ll find many businesses don’t reply at all. I call that anti-social media. If you are not going to have a dialogue on Facebook, why bother being on it at all? Your “Likers” don’t want to hear about your sales or promotions. They want to know who YOU ARE. Provide them with something valuable — your expertise. And have  a conversation. Take advantage of this marvelous network!
  2. Also, If you have a smart phone, download a free Facebook app and start taking photos and uploading them onto your Facebook page. It’s very easy once you try.
  3. Once you have a comfort level, you can use your existing account to set up a Facebook page for your business.
  4. Be sure you take advantage of the business info tab to give the fullest description about what you do and how you help your customers. Provide complete address and contact information. And be sure you use key words so if Facebook user are searching for a strawberry farmer in Udina Illinois, you’ll drive them directly to your Facebook page.


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