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The Dos and Don'ts for All PRs

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No matter where you are in the PR game of life, there are certain 'Dos and Don'ts' that don't get old. Some of them may seem pretty obvious, but sometimes it's the ones that should be apparent that people forget.

In the big bad world of public relations, it's easy to forget how much we owe to the press. A couple of a months ago a senior account executive from an agency in London called up one of the biggest newspapers in the city after finding out their release was not going to be run. They demanded to speak to the editor in order to complain. The next day, a piece ran on the online section of the paper explaining that speaking rudely to a journalist will get you nothing or nowhere. It's true - in this line of business, the last enemy you want to make is the media.

These are a list of 'Dos and Don'ts' that I've learnt, with some that have been passed down to me from various colleagues, directors and CEOs.

Do - always call the journalist. This is the basic rule of PR. Don't expect them to read their emails, they will receive hundreds of releases a day, and are constantly working to tight deadlines. It takes one minute to pick up the phone to sell in your story.

Don't - send out the blanket of doom email. It looks unprofessional on so many levels. Firstly, the journalist will know you've sent it to a large group of people; secondly, it's not personal at all; thirdly, you run the risk of having it deleted straight away. Yes, sometimes we have a huge distribution list to send out a release to, but take the time, divide up the work, and make every email count.

Do - keep your releases short and snappy. Make sure your intro is around 30-40 words, and covers the key points so: who, what, where, when, why, how. You need to hook the reader to get them to want to read on.

Don't - forget it's a release and not a story. Try not to use figurative language, words like 'fantastic', 'fabulous', and 'amazing' do not belong in a release.

Do - include photographs, only if they are needed, and make sure that there is a picture caption at the bottom of the release.

Don't - forget to add your contact details. Your email, company, phone number (and area code if you're contacting abroad), and mobile number. Don't add your Twitter if it is your personal account, use the company one.

Do - think two steps ahead. If you're sending out a release about what could be a sensitive matter - you need to be able to think what the repercussions of your piece could be. You can't control the future, but you can try your hardest to predict it.

Don't - be afraid to use your contacts. Maybe they aren't the right person for the story, but usually they are nice enough to point you in the right direction.

Do - proof reading. It's one of the most basic rules you are taught from an early age, and it is still so important. The last thing you need is a headline that reads 'ABOARD THE YACHT'S COCK' instead of 'ABOARD THE YACHT'S DOCK'.

Don't - use technical language if it's not going to the trade press. Not everyone will know what 'Asset-Backed Securities' are or even what 'Mercaptans' are. Essentially, know your audience.

And finally, do build a relationship with key journalists. If there is a journalist or editor you speak to frequently, invite them for a coffee, lunch or a drink.

A majority of these are rules should be a given - the most important thing to remember is don't get complacent.

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