5 mistakes that can sink your PR proposal

You want to attract a potential client, not turn them off to your expertise and offerings. Avoid these missteps, because they can stand in the way of you securing a coveted project.


Developing PR proposals is a necessary evil.

It can often be a time-consuming venture, which might or might not yield a return on investment.

You want your prospect to feel confident you know about them and their industry. You also want them to understand more about how you think and be able to see it a way that is applicable to them. However, you don’t want to give it all away for free.

Successful PR proposal development is an art and a science. Even if you get that fine balance of it just right, you might sabotage your work by making one of these avoidable mistakes.

1. Being passive

There are many reasons to not use passive voice in your PR proposals.

It’s wordy, less clear and ambiguous, but moreover, it doesn’t show confidence. Passive voice is called such because the subject lets something be done to it versus doing it actively. It takes the subject out of the driver’s seat.

Is that the type of impression you want your PR proposal to project?

Many PR pros use passive voice in proposals, and I think it’s because we often aren’t confident when we write proposals. We are unsure, nervous and maybe even desperate. We don’t feel we are in the driver’s seat.

That can cause you to give away power throughout the entire new business process, which reflects in your PR proposal.

Which sounds better:

A content marketing plan will be developed to drive leads to your site. (passive)

We’ll develop a content marketing plan that drives leads to your site. (active)

To identify and fix passive voice in your proposal, look for words ending in “ing” and sentences with the word “will.” Grammarly also suggests finding passive sentences by placing “by zombies” on to the sentence after a verb.

You might not feel confident, but don’t let your PR proposal give you away.

2. Adding excess words

Word are like snowflakes: They are beautiful, expressive, unique and delicate. They can be magical until they come pouring down at you like a blizzard, burying everything in a 100-mile radius.

Use words efficiently.

Remove extra instances of “out.” Examples include “build out,” “seek out” and “send out.” Drop “currently,” as well as “and, also” (it’s saying the same thing twice).

After you write your proposal, see how many words you can eliminate. Keep the meaning, but lose the fluff.

3. Not showing you’re an expert

Let’s go back to confidence.

You are being considered for the job because you are an expert. Experts make recommendations based on skill, knowledge, data and expertise. They don’t think or believe things; they know.

Stop saying, “I think,” and “I believe.” Instead, own it. You shouldn’t have to “think,” “guess,” or “believe” something if you do your research.

Skip generalities. Know what your prospect is currently doing (both good and bad), along with what their competitors and the industry are doing.

4. Assuming they know terms and concepts

You work in the PR industry day in and day out. This means there are a lot of things that might seem common knowledge, but they aren’t.

It might be obvious to you, but it’s not to your prospect. Be aware how you write and err on the side or explaining things too well, instead of too little.

Prospects develop greater trust in PR pros and agencies that help them understand the lingo and industry knowledge.

5. Not repeating yourself

In your proposals, do you write, “as stated previously,” or “as mentioned above?”

Don’t. Though well meaning, repeating does two things you want to avoid. It makes readers stop their flow, searching to find where you previously stated the concept. It also makes them feel stupid because they might have missed what you said before.

This can cause them to lose confidence that they know what you are saying at all in the proposal. Though it might seem repetitive, restating your idea can make the proposal easier for your prospect to read.

What mistakes would you add to this list?

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

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