Russell Trahan

Why Your Last PR Campaign Failed: And How to Ensure Success in the Future

By Russell TrahanRussell Trahan

Every turn of the calendar, new quarter or product launch, countless companies and individuals jot down a resolution to launch a public relations campaign for numerous reasons: enhanced corporate visibility, increased bookings and fees and audience expansion, among others. From time to time their PR endeavors fall short of anticipated expectations, and leave many executives and experts alike wondering, “What went wrong?”

There are a few common mistakes that beleaguer the efforts of public relations newcomers and impede the achievement of their goals, but by employing certain strategies, these stumbling blocks can be avoided altogether.

Problem – The Inch/Mile Mindset: At the outset of every public relations campaign is an establishment of aims and objectives, and a roadmap of how to achieve them. The path to increased name-recognition and brand-awareness is best achieved on an upward gradient, with a steady stream of media placements and informed quotes in news stories, both in print and online. By reinforcing this initial roadmap, goals remain practical and concentrated, with an individual or organization working to ascend this gradual incline.

Issues arise when expectations suddenly shift, which can sometimes follow interviews in large-circulation publications, and cause a refocusing of efforts solely on features in outlets of the same caliber, abandoning the preliminary plan altogether. This inch/mile mindset, where one massive placement sends all realistic expectations askew in pursuit of only similar opportunities, can be the death knell for a successful public relations campaign.

Solution: Stick to your chosen strategy, and don’t lose sight of the goals you set from the beginning. Set feasible benchmarks on a timeline, and work to achieve them. The best public relations operations involve repetition and media attention that you build on progressively, not some meteoric rise from a solitary placement in a major publication. The more your name is seen, the more it is remembered.

Problem – Anti-Social Media: Social media platforms have redefined the way people connect and communicate, and have become an integral component to running a business. With check-ins, online reviews and posts serving as public comment cards, if your social media cache is a virtual ghost-town, it will reflect as a stagnant or dwindling customer-base.

PR blueprints today incorporate a social media element, but building your presence online is only the first step. Without engaging potential clients or customers, editors and reporters, your Facebook or Twitter account is the equivalent to an empty suit. The advantages of social media sites are they allow you to cultivate relationships and consolidate customer-service efforts. If you’re not engaging with other users, you’re practicing Anti-Social Media, where your presence does not include participation.

Solution: Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn are not static websites that you can simply construct and put on autopilot – they are the extension of your business or persona online. Would you attend a convention or banquet and remain secluded and silent? Of course not – you’re there to network. The same principles apply to social media.

Make a point daily to monitor your various accounts and their activity. Initiate a dialogue with other users through thought-provoking content, and respond to any questions, compliments or complaints. Update your status at least three times a week and partake in the conversation that unfolds – you’ll be surprised at how simple (and enjoyable) it can be, and the boon it provides to your business.

Problem – Unavailability: When it comes to providing an analysis or informed comment on a circulating news story, the most imperative rule is to remain available. Too often, when a reporter is attempting to reach out to a business or individual, they are greeted by voicemail messages or inordinate lag-times between email correspondences. The result? They move down to the next name on their list, and potentially exclude you from any further story contributions due to perceived unreliability.

Solution: If an aspect of your public relations campaign includes interviews, you must ensure that you’re available at the drop of a hat. Editors and reporters are on strict deadlines, and failure to provide your expertise in a timely manner will cause this facet of your strategy to collapse.

The prevailing issue with many who embark on PR campaigns is that their efforts are complementary to their professional endeavors. Increased business and growing profit-margins are the aim of any public relations enterprise, so a packed schedule is a positive – but the news media is indifferent toward the reason of the delay in reaching you. In this scenario, nominate a point-person who can speak on you or your company’s behalf if you are unavailable. Inform them of your company’s position on certain topics and ensure that they are well-versed in these areas in the event of your absence.

Problem – Topic Rigidity:  Stretching expertise is essential for expanding name-recognition and growing an audience, but a problem can arise when a company or individual cannot see the application of their expertise to other areas. This narrowing of the professional scope can limit public relations opportunities and prevent development in many previously untapped markets.

Solution: Say you are in the insurance industry, formulating strategies for corporations and individuals to mitigate risk and keep costs at a minimum. While your initial instinct is to only comment on stories relating to insurance or articles that specifically cater to this professional sect, by doing so you are limiting the eyes that can view – and learn from – your expertise. A wider PR net can be cast on this focus, such as financial planning tips or shifting trends in healthcare policy, for example, which will amplify your reach and promote maximum exposure to your prospects.

There is a learning-curve with every new undertaking, but it does not have to include initial failure. By utilizing the above solutions to typical public relations problems you can allay risk and foster a strategy for success.

Russell Trahan is President of PR/PR, a boutique public relations agency specializing in positioning clients in front of their target audience in print and online. PR/PR represents experts of all kinds who are seeking national exposure for their business or organization. Russell and PR/PR will raise your business’ awareness in the eyes of your clients and customers. For more information, please visit or email for a free consultation.