In order to learn from your mistakes, you must first make them…or should it be, in order to learn from your mistakes you must first Google them?

The mistakes that PR pros make are a popular topic but they all seem to linger around the same area of discussion: what PR pros should do to stop annoying the media. These lists are so abundant that even the most junior of all PR staff would know them off by heart within the first week of starting.

Although we do walk hand in hand with journalists and bloggers, PR practitioners equally need to focus on relationships and client service.

So, here is a list of the top five PR mistakes that has nothing to do with the media and everything to do with clients and business decisions.

1. Not understanding what your client needs
PR agencies seem to make the mistake of not really listening to what their clients really need. They fall into the trap of sending out a press release and ‘seeing how it goes’.

Every organisation has a story to tell, objectives to overcome and goals to reach. It is the PR practitioner’s job to see these needs and meet them. There is no point in doing PR for a client if you aren’t getting the results they want.

2. Sticking with the tried and tested
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and in some cases this may ring true. However, in an industry like PR, sticking with this will ultimately lead to being left behind, scrambling to stay afloat.

That isn’t to say that ‘tried and tested’ traditional PR strategies don’t work, they do, but in order to stay up to date and create bigger and better successes, PR practitioners must accept change, be innovative and become experts in new media strategies.

3. Poor internal communication
As PR practitioners we are meant to be expert communicators and yet some agencies fail when it comes to communicating with colleagues.

Poor internal communication can not only have a detrimental effect on the company but it can also cause problems with clients – especially if the client account is spread across multiple people.

Communicating internally can help in so many different ways. It can help avoid a crisis, shed light on new opportunities and create better team and client relationships.

4. Palming off new (or even old) clients onto junior staff
A client’s worst nightmare: An agency sends in the senior staff to pitch and form the initial relationship but as soon as the contract is signed the account is given to a junior PR with little to no experience.

There is nothing wrong with having junior staff on an account team, how else are they meant to learn? But to place them as the sole contact and practitioner on an account is a big no-no.

A client will almost never mind about having a junior staff member on their account but when it comes to decision time they expect senior, more experienced members lead the way – and so they should.

5. Treating all clients the same
No organisation is the same, each client will have a different story to tell, unique experiences to talk about and different topics of interest that they would like to be seen as experts in.

Some agencies make the mistake of following the same action plan for each client, ultimately leading to the client leaving because they have not had their goals met.

No organisation is the same and every strategy and tactic must be individually tailored to each client in order to be successful and maintain a happy relationship.

Catriona Pollard
BY Catriona Pollard ON 23 August 2011
Director, CP Communications, which provides specialist PR and social media strategies that achieve positive media coverage, increased brand awareness and improved sales results.