Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

One of the biggest mistakes in my life was assuming the wasabi on my plate was avocado.

Years ago, I was the keynote speaker for a large luncheon meeting. Over 150 people were gathered to be entertained by my thoughts and wisdom. I’d been working on my speech for weeks. I was ready.

It started out well enough. I was shown to my seat at the head table. I met everyone seated next to me and we began eating lunch.

Just before my presentation I popped a bit of green into my mouth from my plate. I’d never seen wasabi. Pretty soon my eyes were watering, my throat was closing and I was losing control. I tried to gracefully wipe my pouring eyes and gather my voice to assure everyone that I would be okay.

But I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t going to be able to get out of this without effort. I abruptly stood up and headed for the hallway. Once there I was saying, “What was that?” to anyone who would listen. One “helpful” person suggested that what I was experiencing was “self inflicted misery”.

My mistake. I thought I knew what I was doing. Luckily I have a sense of humor and so did most of the people in the audience. We laughed, choked and moved on.

Mistakes are a great way to learn. However, some mistakes are made over and over again – even when we know better.

Mistakes with your public relations efforts aren’t so easy to laugh off. Here are the biggest mistakes businesses make with their public relations efforts.

  1. Our website is fine, we don’t need an update. Wrong. If your website is “fine” you are in trouble. Websites are dynamic and need constant attention. Many people use only the internet to research businesses. If your website isn’t up to date, easy to find online, mobile friendly and user friendly you risk being left behind.
  2. You only need a press release to convey your news. Wrong. Releases sent without any preparation, thought, targeting or established relationships are likely to be deleted or tossed on the floor. Getting good coverage for your business is a relationship game. Press releases are only a tool. Nothing replaces knowing the right contacts for the right news at the right time.
  3. I don’t understand digital marketing, so I’m not going to worry about it. Wrong. Not understanding something is no reason to ignore it. If you aren’t sure how your business can benefit from digital marketing, start asking questions. Learn more. Now.
  4. I don’t need to prepared for a media interview, I know what I’m doing. Wrong. You may know the subject matter, but how you convey your message means everything. Many people cringe when they see their finished interview because it didn’t represent what they wanted to convey. Often it may leave negative impressions not intended. Effective preparation will ensure that you successfully communicate your message.
  5. Twitter is a great resource for damage control. Wrong. Twitter is great for quick exchanges, but if you find yourself doing damage control Twitter is the last place to go. Damage control calls for careful planning and strategy – something not available in this format. Twitter may be a tool used in damage control, but it isn’t the way to go without a plan.

Self inflicted misery is something we can all avoid.

Always learn from your mistakes. Try to keep a sense of humor. Never eat things on your plate unless you know what they are.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.

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