PR faux-pas: how not to annoy journalists

Have you ever felt stumped for not receiving desirable coverage and held your media database responsible? Watch out! The relationship between journalists and PR pros is relatively volatile. When it’s good, it’s excellent. If it’s bad, it can get risky!

A journalist’s mailbox is bombarded with hundreds of emails every day, and one wrong move from you could annoy the journos or editors, and your pitch will never make it past their inbox, much less receive a response.

Consider these seven press outreach tips to stop obliterating your chance of media coverage:

1. Sending a clean, concise and factual press releases/pitches

Time is precious for all of us, and undoubtedly for journalists. They have a tight schedule with strict deadlines, and the rambling and bland press releases only annoy them.

Keep in mind that your release should:

  • keep within 500 words
  • include bullet points where ever possible
  • have short titles
  • include all five or six Ws
  • have an email subject that is compelling and crisp. 

2. Give life to your photos

Another major frustration for journalists is to receive boring or uncaptioned images. Doing this would pile up the journo’s task to track you down, contact you, and wait for a response. It, however, risks your image either not being used or captioned incorrectly.

3. Know their preference for attachments

Avoid attaching a PDF for your press kit! You are annoying them by sending one. Often, the characters don’t show up, or there is a break in the code while copying content from pdf to word. We need to make their life easier and avoid any complications.

4. Be prompt with your response

Journalists often have to work with unrealistic deadlines. Sometimes, a delay in response from a public relations professional will only result in missing their deadlines if requested for specific information. PR contacts with a trustworthy and responsive reputation are far more likely to gain coverage. If a journalist’s query is answered 10 hours thereon, they might already work on their next story.

5. Accuracy, brevity, clarity and direct focus

You are probably competing for a journo/editor’s attention with a hundred others. It’s our job to get them heeded; irrelevant wordy emails are more likely to get deleted than turned into a published story. Follow this simple notion of “Accurate, Brief, Clear and Direct”, finishing with a simple question such as, “Would you be interested in getting more information about this story?” Knowing the journalist’s “beat” and proofreading your matter, especially when spelling a journalist’s name. If you mess that up, you risk looking lazy and insulting.

6. Asking them about publishing details

After a story is covered, a journalist must deal with many other tasks. Do not ring constantly asking for associated details. Instead, set up a Google Alert, so you are immediately informed when your article gets published. In case of absolute surety from your side that your content would be highly relevant to them, a gentle email nudge is acceptable to many journalists a week later. Avoid spamming them.

7. Asking for changes after a story is published.

Finally, if a journalist includes you in a story, do not badger them about making changes after the story goes live. However, you can ask them for changes if that concerns your company’s name. But not about what they have written about your company. You have control over the assets on your site, not over other publications.

With these seven outreach tips, you’re more likely to make real connections with a few relevant journalists and receive that press coverage you’re aspiring for.