The information you are releasing is bound to make an impression. But too much of a good thing can backfire. Avoiding overexposure can keep you from losing credibility and earning a reputation as a pest.
Being diligent in putting information out is a hallmark of the work public relations professionals do. But commenting on issues when you don’t have a vested interest in situations can lead to the perception your organization is overly eager for publicity. Such a scenario will not win you friends in the media, and may earn you or your organization a reputation for overreacting.
The first step in avoiding overexposure is to resist the temptation to comment on every issue that comes along. It is your job as a public relations professional to keep your organization from being perceived as a mouthpiece to attack individuals or situations that have no bearing on your work. An organization can destroy its credibility by addressing issues in a fashion that make it appear superior, argumentative, or an expert on everything.
There is an old saying public relations professional professionals should remember in commenting on issues: “Do you really have a horse in this race?”
Another way public relations professionals overexpose themselves is by contacting the media every time something minor happens. Rather than waiting for relevant news, they send out press releases on a regular basis, regardless of whether the information is insignificant. As a result, the media often reaches a point where they ignore press releases from certain individuals or organizations. Keeping your organization from reaching that point is crucial if you don’t want to risk the media one day ignoring a major announcement.
Most people working in public relations either studied it in college or, even better, have previous experience in journalism (an advantage because this gives them firsthand knowledge of how the media operates). Regardless, public relations practitioners should educate themselves on what different media outlets want from their organization and what would be a waste of their time to read. An approach that is always wise is to contact individual producers and editors and ask them about the information they are seeking for different stories.
Overexposure can also occur when public relations professionals attempt to force themselves on the media. There may indeed be times when the work your organization does would be relevant to a news story, such as the Red Cross in disaster situations or a political organization during a campaign. Issuing press releases in such situations is appropriate and you should follow-up. But get out of the way after you have done those things. The media will let you know if they are interested in more information.
Several years ago I was a reporter with a morning newspaper where I covered the city council. Each week, without fail there was a city councilman who called me the day of the council meeting to see if I needed any information. While he often provided me with relevant information, more often that not I didn’t need his assistance. What he was really attempting was to tout his importance on the council, a perception that was shared throughout the newsroom and also among reporters with the afternoon newspaper. In short, he was known as a pest. Public relations professionals run the same risk.
There are three other considerations that do not relate to overexposure, but will help in keeping your message relevant:
- Going overboard. Your message is important enough without having to exaggerate or use unnecessary prose. Avoid the temptation to make your information sound like more than it is.
- Timeliness. Getting information out immediately is critical. There is no point in releasing a response to an incident that occurred a week earlier, or announcement of a product released months ago.
- Get to the point. Press releases should be brief and written in a way that lets readers immediately know what they are about. As with a newspaper story, the headline and first paragraph should give readers an idea of what they are about.