1. You’re a Ghost
You might have been way ahead of the game starting that Twitter account in 2008, but since then you’ve only tweeted twice. If you don’t have time to tweet on the somewhat regular, it may be better not to have an account at all. An inactive account can detract from your overall presence online, plus it’s not a great way to position yourself as a leader or expert in your industry.
2. Your Striking Resemblance to Online Spammers
“I love getting spammed!” said nobody ever. But while most people know spam when they see it, some of the same people can’t tell when they’re being spammy themselves. Just in case, here are some friendly hints. You may be a spammer if…
-You employ automated responses or DMs like “Hey thanks for following, now click on this link to see my awesome product/service/business!”
-Your content stream is full of the same exact message sent to hundreds of people
-You published a post tagging everyone who mentioned the word ‘bananas’ in the past 5 days with: “Hey, you like bananas? I talk about bananas on my blog, check it out!”
Moral of the story: being spammy is a bad way to get attention but an excellent way to get blocked or ignored, and reporters (okay let’s be honest, most people) have a zero-tolerance policy toward it.
3. A Laser-like focus on the Sales Pitch
It’s a mistake to make sales the central focus of your online presence. Doing so can make you seem like the online equivalent of a used car salesman. Just because someone has expressed interest in you does not mean it’s time to give them a sales pitch. Make your focus instead on how you can help or connect with them. This is especially true for reporters, who do not respond to sales pitches, only to those who can help them with their story. If it looks like that’s all you have to offer, they will look for someone else.
4. #NoFilter and We don’t mean Instagram
Some Branding 101 here, but the content you share online is a reflection of who you are, and once it’s posted, it may never go away. Be conscious and selective of what you share online, as anything that is posted in poor taste or in contradiction to your brand could come back to haunt you. This goes for all aspects of your online reputation, whether it’s for a job position, promotion, or a quote. Reporters are always going to vet you first, and that Instagram shot of you dancing on the bar won’t do much in the way of reinforcing your business acumen or expertise.
5. Being “That Person”
You know who “that person” is. It’s the person that nobody likes. You know, the person who comes off as a constant complainer, a loudmouth, a narcissist, etc. You may be none of those things, but like all things in life, perception is paramount. That doesn’t mean you can’t engage in constructive criticism or share your accomplishments. Just be mindful of the aphorism ‘it’s not what you say, but how you say it,’ and people will like you more. And hey, reporters are people. They’ll like you more too.
6. An Endless, Stream of Consciousness
Having a strong and active online presence does not mean posting extremely high quantities of content. Don’t just post to post. Only share things of value, and be targeted in your messages and content. The quality of your content will reflect the quality of your knowledge and expertise.
7. Being an (Anti) Social Media User
A social media rule of thumb: Keep your broadcast/engagement ratio in check, and people won’t think you’re a mindless bot. By engaging in conversations related to your expertise or industry, you demonstrate 3 things: a) you’re an interesting human that doesn’t automate your posts, b) you’re invested in your field of expertise, and c) you have a perspective to share. It is one-to-one conversations, not one-to-many broadcasts, that build relationships with other people online (including reporters).
8. Walking the line between Fact and Fiction
File this under obvious, but if the information you share online is exaggerated, or worse, inaccurate (in your bio, in your blog posts, in the content you post, etc.), no journalist will want to use you as a source. Aside from being an insanely effective reporter-repellant, it can do serious damage to your brand as well. If you’re not sure about your facts, say so. If you make a mistake, retract it. And always be honest about your expertise, because it’s not just your reputation on the line, it’s the journalist’s as well.
9. Your Inauthentic Authenticity
Do a Google search on brand “authenticity,” and you’ll find more articles championing it as the silver bullet to social media success than you can read. In reality, there are few brands or public figures without a filter, and the ones who do exist often go down the same #winning path as Charlie Sheen. The trick is not “authenticity” but calculated authenticity – the ability to be human and relatable without compromising your brand. And although it’s not a silver bullet, it’s incredibly important if you want peoples’ trust. This goes for customers, as well as reporters, who don’t want to follow or interview a robot, infomercial, or corporate spokesperson. So when you’re communicating online, don’t substitute academic words when regular words will do just fine, don’t over-edit, and most of all, try to sound like yourself.
10. Calling yourself a “Guru”
Unless you’re still living in 2002, the term “guru” should be laid to rest from your vocabulary. In fact, using any clichéd buzz words or jargon is a great way to make journalists’ eyes glaze over. If you must use a branding title like this, try a straight forward alternative such as “expert” or “established industry source.” Just keep in mind, it’s better to demonstrate this expertise through your experience, background, testimonials, and the content you share, as most experts and “thought leaders” don’t have to call themselves such.
11. Asking for Publicity
Reporters adhere to editorial agendas and deadlines, and many times current events as well. Few have the ability to just write about whatever they want, whenever they want to. And even if they can, they want a fleshed out story idea and a source that can provide helpful information to their readers. They aren’t the least bit interested in publicizing you. If you do want to contact the media, then do it the right way .
12. That Horrible Profile Picture or Lack Thereof
If you’re serious about being taken seriously, you can’t have a bad profile picture. That includes profile pictures that are low res, poorly lit, poorly cropped, unflattering, unprofessional, or taken in the mirror of your bathroom. Don’t have a good photo? Then go get one, because a bad profile picture or no picture at all, suggest the same thing: you don’t take your online presence seriously. Here are a few tips: Photos of people always win out over faceless logos – call it human nature, but people like to put a face to a name, especially online. Many reporters will ask for a high res picture of you to use with the story, so consider investing in professional photos. Finally, use the same photo across all of your online accounts, which will help reporters recognize you easily.
13. An Incomplete…
So you started to fill out your profile and figured you’d finish it later. Unfortunately, that makes it seem like you have trouble finishing what you start. It also doesn’t help a reporter figure out if you’re a good fit for their story. Incomplete profiles are a drain on your overall online presence, so don’t make it public until it’s complete.
14. A Snooze of a Bio
Want to make it incredibly easy for a journalist to vet you online? Then spend time creating an informative, engaging, and brand-conscious summary of who you are and what you do. This is where you present your “hook,” in other words, why you are interesting, important, and of course, worth quoting. Avoid bragging or including irrelevant information. Like most things in life, it’s best to be authentic, direct and concise (but don’t be afraid to get a little creative). Your bio/personal summary is often the first impression you have with people online, so make it good.
15. Your Invisible Background
Similar to an insufficient bio is a lack of evidence to back up your expertise. The anonymity of the digital world has made it easy for anyone and everyone to proclaim they’re an expert at something. But when a journalist vets you, they will be looking for solid evidence. Your online presence should include your education, your work experience, awards, certifications, and anything else that supports why you’re the skilled and knowledgeable source that you are.
16. Your Hidden Publicity
Have you been quoted or featured in an article before? Then by all means, make it known. It may not be fair, but your credibility with journalists sky rockets the more press you receive. A lack of previous press won’t necessarily count you out of the running as a source, but if you’re not displaying your press mentions, you’re missing a crucial opportunity not only to prove yourself to reporters, but to customers as well! (and isn’t that why you want press to begin with?)
17. Hard to Find Contact Information
Your contact information should be consistent and clearly visible across your entire online presence, from email signatures to websites to social media. No one likes searching for information that’s hard to find, especially reporters on deadlines. Plus it’s simply too easy for a reporter to go with another source whose contact information is easier to find.
18. Poor Communication Skills
This runs the gamut from poorly worded messages to typo-laden blog posts. Everything you write and publish online should be revised for clarity and typos. If you can’t communicate effectively to the reporter or your own audience, then they will assume you can’t communicate effectively to their audience either.
19. Poor Punctuality
If you show up late to a job interview, you’re probably not getting the job. Same goes with getting press. Reporters have strict deadlines to meet, so should they contact you about being a source, your response and all subsequent communication should be prompt. Reporters are going to cover their bases, so it’s unlikely you’re the only person they’ve reached out to. The later you are to the party, the less likely you’ll be the one who gets their attention.
20. Being Overly Friendly Slash Creepy
Oh, there are so many ways to be overly friendly slash creepy online. But here’s a good rule of thumb. Treat strangers online the way you would treat them in person – that is, politely and with some distance. You wouldn’t normally send a holiday card to someone you barely knew in person, would you? You probably wouldn’t give them a *hug* or mention personal details you knew about them either (sure, you probably engaged in some social media stalking, but there’s no need to divulge that within the first few minutes of conversation). Sadly, overly friendly slash creepy online communication isn’t a rare occurrence for reporters. And understandably, they tend to ignore it.
21. You Retweeted Them Once, and Now You’re Besties
But actually, you’re not. Building relationships with reporters is certainly a critical component of a good PR strategy, but your avid “likes” and retweets does not a relationship make. A real relationship is something developed over time, through shared interests and communication. Pretending a relationship exists when it does not comes off at best as annoying, and at worst, disingenuous.
22. Taking Advantage of the Relationships You’ve Built
So you have spent the time to build a legitimate relationship with someone, and that someone happens to be a reporter. Well done. But that still doesn’t mean it’s time to ask them for a favor. Every now and then your relationship with a reporter may be something to leverage (provided it makes sense and you’ve done your share in helping the reporter out too). Most of the time however, the relationship will work to your advantage if and when a reporter or his or her network has an opportunity for which you are relevant. You’ll be friends, you’ll be on their radar, and you’ll be golden.
23. Harassing Reporters (or Anyone) Online
Similar to spamming, aggressive tactics will only get you blocked and/or blacklisted. If a reporter does not get back to you, there’s a reason for it. Don’t tweet them repeatedly or send multiple follow up emails. It’s not only rude, it’s completely ineffective.
24. Having a Crappy Website
You might be super knowledgeable and incredibly awesome at what you do, but if your website is bad, it’s a huge blow to your credibility (we’re talking, huge). Before you even start thinking about marketing yourself for press opportunities, it’s imperative to have an up-to-date, well-designed, and user-friendly website. Not sure what qualifies as “good”? Check out these infographics on website planning and responsive design .
25. You’re a Jack of All Trades, and a Master of None
It might seem like it’s a better idea to market yourself as an expert in many things, but most of us aren’t experts in every aspect of our industry, and we shouldn’t pretend to be. That doesn’t mean that if your expertise is specific, it won’t yield many press opportunities. In fact, having a niche expertise will often make you more attractive as a source. Keep your focus narrow, and not only will you be a better source, you’ll get publicity in the areas that really matter.