PR can do wonders for your startup or small business, but not all strategies have proven to be effective.

Below, 16 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council share the one PR strategy they think all startups and small businesses should stop using, and why.

1. Over-the-top self-promotion

David EhrenbergPress releases are a tool for getting your company’s name out there—one that should be used strategically.

Writing releases for non-events or releases that are blatantly self-promotional backfires. Stick to providing relevant, timely, and interesting information that will be useful to your audience.

– David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

2. Limited, egotistical content

Tolga TanrisevenConstantly keeping yourself in the spotlight. Establishing a startup is extremely exciting, but only pitching content that revolves around yourself can make your new business look greedy and egotistical.

Not to mention, sharing information only related to your individual key performance indicators and successes, segments the content to a very narrow audience, thus decreasing SEO value, engagement, and exposure.

– Tolga Tanriseven, GirlsAskGuys

3. One big launch

Charlie GrahamThere is a big trend among startups that you need to put everything into an enormous launch.

True, a great launch can occasionally make a company, but that is more the exception than the rule. Instead, go for a drumbeat approach. Create a key set of messages and spread your PR across multiple months with a “drumbeat” of new features, events and data that reinforce the message.

– Charlie Graham, Shop It To Me, Inc.

4. Insensitive or self-promotional Facebook comments

Steven Le VineI have no problem with one promoting their business on Facebook, but what is almost always a bad idea is promoting one’s business under someone else’s posts.

I have seen it get so bad that people have promoted their businesses under posts regarding the death of a family member or a very personal subject—and it’s usually someone you barely know or someone collecting Facebook “friends” as leads.

– Steven Le Vine, Grapevine PR

5. Press release avalanches

Nicolas GremionFirst, let me state that I do recommend the use of press releases when they are warranted. The problem is that companies tend to overuse them.

They think the more, the better, so they’ll trumpet just about anything. But if you keep doing that, people will stop listening to you. So by all means, make press releases a part of your efforts, but only use them when you have real news to announce.

– Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.net

6. LinkedIn and Google+ groups

Alexandra Levit 2Honestly, I’ve done this myself, but group posting is a total waste of time unless you are willing to invest an hour per day interacting with the group and commenting on everyone else’s posts.

At that point, someone might like or comment on what you have to say. Otherwise, the hours you spend posting about your product, service, or even general advice will yield little to no fruit.

– Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work

7. Expensive agencies

Grant GordonA marketing/PR agency may have a flashy portfolio that impresses you with their big name clients, but for a startup or small business, paying thousands each month to such an agency isn’t going to be good bang for your (limited) buck.

You’re better off working with an experienced freelance PR professional who can put out a press release, blog posts, and get you local media coverage at a lower cost.

– Grant Gordon, Solomon Consulting Group

8. Press release wires

Firas KittanehTraditional distribution services no longer work. Journalists dig for stories they want to find, which usually aren’t available on the public domain, and use the rest of their time to cover news they receive inbound.

No respectable writer references wires for publish-worthy news. Stop spending money on aggregation services that, at best, syndicate your content without driving any real eyeballs.

– Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

9. Content for link-sharing

Aaron SchwartzGuest blogging is an awesome strategy to grow your brand—you introduce your product to new people, while also linking directly to your site.

Unfortunately, a lot of startups look to write on other people’s blogs solely for the link. They’re not bringing useful information to a new audience. Taking such a short-sighted approach is offputting, and may make more relevant sites ignore your requests.

– Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

10. Self-promotion

Brock StechmanTalking about yourself is one of the most ineffective PR strategies.

Effective PR should be focused on helping your clients and communicating how you’re solving their problems. What are you doing to help clients overcome complicated problems?

– Brock Stechman, DivvyHQ

11. Cookie-cutter strategies

Andy KaruzaPeople think it’s just about putting together one press release and submitting it through PR Newswire. You have to get out there and connect with the journalists directly over social media or through their media websites.

When you pitch, make sure your story is customized to them and is something they personally would be interested in writing about. Research before you pitch.

– Andy Karuza, SpotSurvey

12. Narrow focus on “big outlets only”

Basha RubinThe notion that only big outlets matter needs to go for three reasons.

First, it helps to have a mix of occasional, high-impact coverage, as well as having saturated coverage in more niche communities. Second, this initial media coverage will help you build credibility and obtain high-exposure placements. Third, it helps your SEO to have a lot of people mentioning you, not just the “big guys.”

– Basha Rubin, Priori Legal

13. One-time boosts

carlo ciscoPress can drive traffic and perhaps even convert customers, but its typically a one-time boost. Entrepreneurs need to view PR as part of a holistic strategy and leverage it past the initial story.

Take distribution into your own hands and advertise press to your target customers through channels like Facebook. Make sure to use quotes and logos from noteworthy sources for social proof on your site.

– Carlo Cisco, SELECT

14. Premature stories

George-Bousis-bwThink about defensibility. When there are ten competitors in the market, you don’t want to let them in on how you’ve reached profitability or success. Keep your brand under the radar until you’re ready to tell the world what you do.

– George Bousis, Raise Marketplace Inc.

15. Mass emails

john ramptonIf you think you can copy and paste an email to thousands of PR professionals, you’re going to get about the same result as the effort you put into it.

Writers for big publications get pitched daily. You have to stand out above the crowd and be personable. Get to know the person you’re writing to before you pitch them. Be part of their community and you’ll be much more likely to get a story.

– John Rampton, Hostt

16. Self-service newswire services

Gideon KimbrellThese can be useful for SEO, but that’s about it. You won’t make much of a ripple with “news” stories you wrote about yourself.

To get truly powerful exposure, you’ll need to pitch your story to reporters who will write candidly about your business. Ultimately, you need to cultivate those relationships.

– Gideon Kimbrell, InList Inc

What are the PR strategies you think businesses should avoid like the plague? 

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Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber

Scott Gerber is the founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs.