I began my marketing career at a political communications consultancy in Washington, D.C., and it was only a matter of days into each client engagement when one of their executives would say, “have you thought of the TODAY Show?” or, “do you think the Journal would be interested in this?”
It didn’t take me long to figure out that anyone who works in PR is caught in the vast space between fact and fiction, perception and reality, and needs to constantly manage executive expectations while also maintaining effective and fruitful relationships with journalists. Ronn Torossian, a brash public relations expert in his own right, once said of his field: “PR is a mix of journalism, psychology, and lawyering -- it’s an ever-changing and always interesting landscape.”
Given the confluence of factors that go into PR on any given day, along with the fact that 99% of businesses I know wish they got more press, better press, or different press on a daily basis, we decided to go to the experts on this issue. We asked a slew of journalists, producers, editors, and bloggers for their ultimate pet peeves: the things we as marketers do on a daily or weekly basis that make them want to scream, cry, block our emails, or ignore PR pitches altogether. Here's what they had to say.
We heard loud and clear that a quick "I saw that you wrote about X company, want to write about Y company in their industry tomorrow?" never works. Invest the time to understand a reporter's beat and recent coverage before hitting the "Send" button.
2) Put down the phone.
If a reporter doesn't respond to your email or social media interaction, adding a phone call, telegram, fax, or carrier pigeon to the mix likely isn't going to break through the clutter. Leave the phone calls for reporters you know well or requested follow-ups for information -- cold calling is highly unlovable.
3) Don't act desperate.
Exclamation points, all caps, and high priority notifications signify that the email is HIGHLY IMPORTANT to YOU, not to the reporter you're sending it to. Skip the theatrics and focus on a clear, concise story to drive engagement.
4) Be prepared.
It's not just for Boy Scouts. Like the rest of us, reporters don't like rushing around for an embargoed story because your materials weren't ready in time. Give reporters adequate time to respond to, act upon, react to, and file a given story.
Everyone said that great public relations people make it possible for them to do their jobs every day, and expressed their deep appreciation for marketers who “get it.” But it didn’t take long for them to start listing off the tactics, tricks, and terms we often use that push our counterparts in journalism right over the edge. Some of these were probably pretty funny to you (whatever side of the fence you fall on), and others were quite serious -- but all of them serve as excellent reminder to marketers that we can and must tailor our approaches to better suit the needs and interests of journalists if we're hoping to get more and better coverage.
Journalists and PR professionals -- what other faux pas should we all strive to avoid?
Originally published Jul 15, 2013 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017