The PR Scaries: Four Things that Give Us Nightmares

October 25, 2023
By iQ Staff
shining light with ghost shadow

In the spirit of Halloween, we're bringing this article back from the dead. Revisit the PR nightmares that continue to keep us up at night. (Originally published October 28, 2020.)


As communications professionals, we don’t stay up late worrying about ghouls and goblins. Instead, some of our worst nightmares consist of social media gaffes, cringeworthy PR phrases and ill-advised marketing decisions.

Here, in honor of Halloween, we list a few of the spookiest PR blunders:


1. A post from the wrong social media account

A company’s social media profile is an extension of its brand and serves as an invaluable medium for building a community of consumers. Profiles are meticulously crafted and maintained with a specific brand voice to foster positive perceptions about the brand and influence behavior.

Social media managers who handle multiple brand accounts on every social media platform, in addition to their own personal accounts, live under the constant threat of mistakenly logging in to the wrong account and posting something that confuses, disengages or enrages those followers. Avoid causing your own social media crisis by utilizing a social media management tool and triple-checking which account you are logged in to before publishing anything.


2. An unprepared spokesperson

After working hard to pitch your story to desired media outlets and secure interview opportunities, it is now up to your spokesperson. As the face of your company, the spokesperson is responsible for disseminating key messages and crafting the image of your brand with memorable sound bites and insightful commentary. Even the most straightforward media interview can take a wrong turn when basic preparation isn’t done or your advice isn’t followed.

A spokesperson who doesn’t take this role seriously, shows up dressed unprofessionally, and hasn’t reviewed the key messages or talking points may quickly derail an opportunity. And, following the pandemic era of virtual interviews, PR practitioners must also think about a new set of technical difficulties that can turn a dream interview into a nightmare.


3. A broken embargo

Embargoed news releases are often used for big stories, when it would be beneficial for you as well as a specific media outlet to have the information ahead of the scheduled publication date. However, this approach involves high-stakes negotiations and clear ground rules, as multiple audiences and stakeholders are involved and must adhere to a strict timeline. A broken embargo—whether intentional or accidental—would not only derail your entire earned media strategy, but also diminish the impact of the story and cause you to lose control of the narrative.

When it comes to embargoed news releases, we recommend working only with trusted journalists. An established relationship and understanding of expectations are essential for a successful embargoed media placement. Otherwise, there may be a risk of a reporter breaking the embargo to take advantage of the scoop.


4. A CEO who doesn’t understand PR

A CEO who is unsatisfied with your current results but is unwilling to invest in larger marketing budgets and public-relations efforts, can be counterproductive to your organization’s goals and performance.

Work to overcome this obstacle, increase your organization’s potential, and gain traction by educating your disengaged leadership team about leveraging a thoughtful communications strategy. Use data and metrics to convince senior management of the unrealized benefits. If possible, align yourself with a colleague in the C-suite who can help champion your cause.


Avoid these mishaps, and you’ll be rewarded with PR treats instead of tricks. Happy Halloween from the team at iQ 360!