When’s the last time you took out a ruler and measured a newspaper article that featured your company? Let’s hope it’s been at least a couple decades (or never).

We haven’t heard anyone ask for column inches in a while, but there are still a number of misconceptions about PR that can hold back or even undermine a media relations campaign.

Here are four PR missteps to avoid and how a true media relations specialist will newshack a path into the headlines.

Aiming only for the magazine cover.

Sure, every company wants to be splashed across the cover of Forbes or profiled above the fold in the Wall Street Journal. But stories like that don’t happen overnight. They’re the result of months, sometimes years, of relationship building with the right reporters, and depend on a number of factors outside your control (timing, news cycles, etc.).

Unless you’re Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc., your best bet at attracting tier-one media is to build up a steady drumbeat of coverage in relevant trade and local publications. These placements will build credibility among your customers and other target audiences and help build the case for tier-one reporters to cover you.

Putting print on a pedestal.

Even among tech companies, a desire for print coverage lives on. The media doesn’t understand it, and neither do we. Consider these numbers: The New York Times has 1 million paying digital subscribers, plus an additional 59 million nonpaying digital readers. In contrast, the print edition has just 625,000 weekday and 1.5 million Sunday payers.

Beyond differences in subscribers, online stories tap into a broad audience: Tech site The Verge receives 6.6 million unique visitors per month (UVPM), Mashable receives 20.6 million, and The Huffington Post gets nearly 30.4 million. Sure, it’s always nice to have a framed copy of USA Today hanging in your lobby, but in most cases, web stories’ wide readership and the speed and ease of sharing mean they cover a lot more ground than their print counterparts. Plus they’re indexed by the major search engines to be rediscovered for years to come.

Valuing quantity over quality.

The number of placements does say something about the health of your campaign, but much more important is the impact of those placements:

  • What is their reach: How many subscribers do they have? What’s their UVPM?
  • What are their readership demographics?
  • Did the publication and the reporter share the story on Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Instagram? What kind of social following do they have?
  • How long do stories remain on the homepage? On the site in general?

It’s nice when your press release is syndicated by a couple dozen news outlets. But it’s the in-depth coverage by a handful of carefully selected, well-shared media that are more likely to move the needle.

Relying solely on the media to tell your story.

Even with no news to share, you can still earn your way into TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Forbes, and dozens of other publications. Most of the major tech media accept contributed content for publication.

There are standards to uphold – you can’t write about your products or services and expect it to be accepted – but articles that take a fresh, unbiased, analytical approach to pressing issues, challenges, or trends are a prime opportunity for you to raise your profile and drive your own narrative. This type of owned content should be a key component in any media relations strategy.

So give your media relations campaign a hard look. Even if you refocus your efforts in only one of these areas, you can build a more effective public relations practice.