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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

The Big Three PR Tactics That Just Don't Work Anymore

The Big Three PR Tactics That Just Don't Work Anymore
Credit: ra2studio/Shutterstock

Trying to spread the word about your small business? That standard press release and email blast just won't cut it anymore.

When it comes to publicity, many businesses still rely on the same old tactics to share their company's news or market their clients to journalists and bloggers. These methods include press releases — sent directly to reporters, or distributed via a wire service — press tours, cold-calling and more.

We surveyed 52 PR professionals and business owners to find out if these tried-and-true PR tactics still work. According to their responses, they don't. The top-three PR tactics that professionals say don't work anymore were press releases, mass pitching and emailing, and traditional hard-copy press kits. Press releases and mass pitching both received an overwhelming majority of responses, at 27.03 percent each. Many of the respondents agreed that, in place of these traditional methods, businesses should turn to social media. They also emphasized the importance of storytelling. [5 DIY Public Relations Tips for Startups ]

"Instead of sending out a release, if you have news, why not work directly with bloggers/editors? Or better yet, create a campaign with your blog and social media channels? Or video sharing the story to help bring it to life. The new model of PR puts storytelling at the forefront and turns brands into journalists where they don't need to rely on traditional PR tactics," said Maggie Patterson, PR consultant.

When it comes to storytelling, however, businesses should make sure they're telling the right kind of story. "You will often hear marketing professionals refer to themselves as “storytellers"; however, many of these marketing and PR professionals are telling the wrong story. They often focus on their company’s story, when they should focus on giving their customers their own story," said Stephanie Richards, founder of SowGrow PR.

While most of the PR professionals who responded said that press releases are no longer the best way to get your message across, three respondents disagreed.

"Not true, the press release is still alive and well. In order to get your story out there, you still need to complete at least a one-pager and not 140 characters," said Brian Garrido, founder of public relations agency BG Global.

"Oh, and if someone thinks the traditional press release is dead, they are wrong!" Cheryl Bame, principal at Bame Public Relations, said.

Some of the other responses we saw included sending unsolicited samples and gifts, using famous spokespeople, organizing an embargo and sending pitches via fax. Here are some of the most interesting responses:

"Mass e-mailing your news release hasn't worked in over a decade, yet there is still a percentage of PR and marketing people who do it. Journalists stopped reprinting news items verbatim when internet was still spelled with a capital I. If you want individual coverage, send a short e-mail explaining the uniqueness of your news and why their readers would be interested." – Donna Burns, public relations manager, Cincom Systems

"Deskside reporter visits. Today's busy editors and reporters do not have time for your dog and pony show at their offices. Give them their content in a digital format and see if they can meet you via Skype or a Google Hangout to have a face to face with you and/or your client." – Janice Burch, co-founder, Pro Resume Center

"Not genuinely working to provide value to the reporter, blogger or media outlet. Not understanding their audience and just trying to push your product, service or expertise." – Simon Granner, founder and CEO, Next Gen Digital Marketing

"Only gifting A-list celebrities. It's important if you're going the gifting route to also include top influencers such as bloggers, and celebrities with huge social media followings. Also it's nice to also gift the stylist or publicist that is passing along the celebrity gift for you." – Jordan Landes-Brenman, CEO and founder, Haute House PR

"I’d say the worst PR tactic is to try to host a press conference when you have news that doesn’t impact a mass audience. It will be a major flop, a waste of time and energy, and ruin your reputation with the media." – David Jahr, APR

"One of the biggest old-school mistakes PR firms and businesses make when handling a PR crisis situation is pretending that it doesn't exist! Ignoring a crisis and distancing yourself from it is not an effective tactic. It will only make matters worse."Termeh Mazhari, freelance publicist and marketing consultant

"Not being online is helping your competitor get more PR than you! The biggest PR mistake you can make is to avoid being online in any capacity." – Nicole Dunn, CEO, Dunn Pellier Media

"Calling reporters and bothering them when [they] are on deadline makes them cranky!" – Nancy Garberson, CEO, Marketing & Communication Strategies

Brittney Morgan

Brittney Q. Morgan is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor, as well as a graduate of Drew University, where she majored in History. Her work can be found all across the web at Apartment Therapy, HuffPost, and more. You can also find her on Twitter at @brittneyplz.