4 phrases PR pros should never utter
This article originally ran on PR Daily in June of 2017.
Every industry has
buzzwords and jargon we wish people would stop using.
Marketers and PR agency pros are especially guilty of beating banal words
and phrases into the ground. More frustrating, though, are the things we
hear in our industry as reasons why a public relations program can’t or
Here are a few that drive me up the wall, along with how we can replace
1. “It’s hard to measure that.”
It might be hard, but it’s not impossible. Stop talking about how hard it
is to define success. Instead, craft measurable, sustainable programs that
It’s not easy to do this, but the first step is to ensure you’re set up for
success by defining goals and objectives. Your goals must be more tangible
than, “sell more products” and “increase our revenue.”
PR is not defined by
earned media anymore. Because so many of the ways we promote our clients are digital, we
have tools and resources to track our results beyond vanity metrics.
Start saying, “Here’s how we can measure this.” Set goals and implement the
systems to measure them.
2. “Nothing is ever guaranteed.”
This is probably the single most harmful sentence for the PR industry.
It implies: “You can pay us, but we might not deliver.” When a client hires
a PR agency, the last thing they want to hear out of the gate is, “We don’t
know if this will work.”
Clients hire PR agencies for creative ideas, relationships with members of
the news media and for industry knowledge. Anyone can make cold calls to
journalists from a purchased list, but PR pros should understand how media
A PR agency should never use “earned media is never guaranteed” as an
excuse for failing to deliver against its
goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). The better option is to start out with an inkling of what will work and
what won’t before sending the pitch.
Instead, tell clients: “If this doesn’t resonate with our media contacts,
here is plan B.”
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3. “That idea probably won’t work.”
Stop telling clients “no” when they come to you with a perfectly good idea.
When a client or boss suggests an idea for a
PR pitch or program, you immediately want to tell them that it’s a long shot. The journalist
might not find it interesting, or you don’t have enough lead time. It’s
called covering yourself, and we all do it. What it communicates to
clients, however unintended, is that you’re uninterested or uninspired by
Instead of having an awkward conversation about whether something warrants
media attention, think creatively.
Say: “This might not garner much earned media attention. However, we can do
a Facebook Live post from our next trade show. Then, we could invite three
major industry influencers to run bylined guest blog posts the following
Nobody wants to overpromise and underdeliver, but most ideas are an
opportunity to show off creativity. As a client, I would rather hear: “You
know what would be even stronger? If we used that idea combined with a
testimonial, case study and more data. Where can we find that?”
4. “There’s no news here.”
One of my most frustrating moments as a PR pro occurred last year when my
company signed on a new PR agency.
They had pitched us a great plan and proposal full of fresh ideas.
Fast-forward two months, three months, four months, and we weren’t seeing
earned media placements. “It’s because there’s no new news,” they told us.
My first thought was: “Why did you sign our business? You didn’t seem to
think that was an issue in your proposal.” My second thought was, “Isn’t it
part of your job to create news?”
Some organizations have obvious stories to tell, but it’s part of a PR
practitioner’s job to anticipate journalists’ needs and sniff out the real
story so we can be successful in generating media placements.
If we don’t think we can do that, we must ask more questions during the
proposal process, or decline the business altogether.
PR pros don’t do this to be dishonest. We do it because we are hungry for
new business and we really want to be successful. If we realize we
are in over our heads and the news hook isn’t obvious, it’s our job to find
a legitimate news hook.
Next time, let’s try this: “In order for our media contacts to go for this,
we will need access to XYZ. Is that something we can have? And if not, what
else is in the pipeline?”
If PR wants a seat at the strategic table, PR agencies should lead the
charge by banishing these tired lines from their client communications
Maris Callahan is the director of PR for Donuts Inc. and name.kitchen. A
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