I'm not a professionally trained PR pro and like my entire career, I'm self taught. Along the way I've made mistakes and while sometimes embarrassing, they've taught me a lot. In fact, when I got a client on TV I had a lot of advice to share!
After you read my mistake, leave a comment with your own rookie mistakes (if you dare).
Mistake #1: Getting my employer in the news but not finding a way to work them into the resulting conversation.
I was so nervous about the interview I didn't even think about my employer. I was thinking about answering the question on live television. While I planned ways to get plenty of media mentions and social media coverage, I messed up the Fox 13 interview. Now I know that I could answer the question but preface it with something like, first I want to thank my employer [name of company] who sponsored this event.
Mistake #2: Believing a reporter who wanted to come to my house for an interview claiming, “it will only take a few minutes.”
He told me not to put on makeup or clean the house…famous last words. Always be ready and prepared because anything you say is fair game. He cast me as an internet addict on a daytime television show. I still cringe when I see how terrible I look. He taught me what it means to put someone in a bad light, he literally had me stand in bad lighting so it made me look even worse. Then he wanted me to share the story, which didn't mention that being online is part of my career. Fortunately I can't find the story anywhere online.
Mistake #3: Trying to be an expert on something I wasn't an expert in.
If you're not an expert, don't try to be. Just be honest and say that you're not an expert on the topic. Once I had a reporter call me to ask questions about dance moms. While I have a daughter and she's in a class, I'm hardly the expert. Instead of realizing and admitting to that, I tried to answer. Not only that my toddler was screaming. So I was trying to answer while running around my house trying to escape her.
I also learned, get a babysitter for any interviews. Even if your child is usually an angel, they may embarrass you by demanding your attention at the worst possible time.
Mistake #4: Not getting to the point.
I got a call from a reporter, one of the first times I'd ever been called. Instead of getting to the point, I began rambling because I was nervous. As I like to say, land the plane! In hindsight I should have slowed down before answering and focus on just a few things instead of trying to cover every point.
Mistake #5: Not realizing my ‘off the cuff' statements are still “on the record”
My best moment in the news is probably this story, except it got me in hot water with my sister who didn't appreciate being mentioned. I was interviewed for over two hours and I was speaking a bit off the cuff about her family (and it's on her public blog). Of course that's what got covered. Instead I should've talked about my friend Scott‘s amazing life, he would've liked the publicity.
Also remember that you might say something that could get you in trouble with your employer or someone else.
“Good interviewers are always trying to get you to be more candid than you want to be.” – Brad Kincaid
Just remember the more you practice at PR, the better you get. I still prefer blogger over being on TV, but I'm glad I got the opportunities. My mistakes help me prepare clients and put me in their shoes. They helped me be a better at my job so I don't regret them entirely, but they definitely make me cringe.
Please comment: What PR mistakes have you made and what did they teach you?