THE BIG PITCH: What mistakes have you made in the past that taught you a lesson about PR?

Paul Shinoff, The Shinoff Group, San Francisco.

Paul Shinoff, The Shinoff Group, San Francisco.

Paul Shinoff, The Shinoff Group, San Francisco.

Forgetting to make money. I partnered in my first agency after a happy

career in journalism - where someone else pays you at the end of


In the early period, we fought good fights for good causes, such as

schools, children’s issues and working families. It was easy to forget

that, despite the psychic rewards, the rent, salaries and profits had to

come out of my own checkbook. Today, buoyed by hi-tech and corporate

clients, we do good work and are well paid. Yet sometimes I watch - with

quiet envy - as some new kid on the block works for a deserving client

while sacrificing financial reward. In these frenzied times, as we rush

to plant a flag for a new branding campaign, it’s all too easy to forget

that the most effective campaigns underscore values, too.

James Monahan, TreyPR, Seattle

Once, when one of our clients (local symphony composer Matt Messina)

performed at a brand new symphony hall, the press release read that he

could not read or write music - he uses special software instead

Misunderstanding the release, the newspaper ran a story announcing

(erroneously) that Messina was blind. The story then got picked up

nationally by Fox News. Lesson learned: Follow up with TV editors and

reporters once they arrive at your event - and don’t assume that just

because the press has arrived to cover your client, they have the whole

story right.

Robert Deen, Deen & Black, Sacramento

I had a bias against hi-tech that kept our agency out of that


It bored me. I didn’t want to help some engineer explain why his new

motherboard was something special. For a California firm, that was a

huge mistake.

Hi-tech PR today is about as interesting, exciting and lucrative an area

as you can find. It’s one of our fastest growing practices, and I wish I

hadn’t waited so long to be a part of it. That’s the lesson: that bias

can blind you to the opportunities which change brings.

Mitchell Friedman, Mitchell Friedman Communications, San Francisco

I called reporters to secure interviews for my client, the editor of a

computer industry publication. A pitch letter, mailed out the week

before, reviewed topics he could and couldn’t address because of

nondisclosure agreements. A talk show host, who recalled receiving the

letter, agreed to an interview - without me present. Afterward, the host

was angry and vowed never to speak with me again, as my client couldn’t

talk about what he was most interested in! I learned three lessons from

this episode: one, never assume that people have read, much less

remembered, written communication; two, be explicit with reporters about

topics clients can or cannot talk about, even at the risk of canceling

the interview; and three, reserve the right to insist on being present

at interviews.

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