A Google search for “things PR people do that journalists hate” returns 3.1 million hits.
That’s a lot of hate.
So, what in the world can I add that hasn’t been said before? Truth is, not much except to say that it is high time those of us in public relations learned a thing or two.
Many of those lessons, like these, read like an elementary school list of class rules:
Do your homework.
The Number One thing journalists wish we’d do is read their previous stuff. One journalist I talked to said 90% of the stuff he gets is not relevant to him.
Take this person’s advice, “[Get] an idea of what type of things we actually write about!”
Don’t turn in an incomplete assignment.
You can’t expect media coverage if you don’t provide everything the journalist needs to determine if a story is newsworthy. There are fewer reporters and producers out there, especially at local media outlets. It pays to provide potential sources, a list of visuals, and even interview availability ahead of time.
You would be surprised how many members of the PR profession still don’t write in inverted pyramid style. The “base” of the story should be at the top of the release, preferably in the lede paragraph. (And yes, I spelled it correctly.)
Speaking of spelling, be sure to proofread your releases and your emails. This is a lesson I continually revisit. I am known to dash off an email without spellchecking or testing links.
Yes, reporters miss emails, but they also receive thousands of media pitches a week. One reporter said it is okay to follow up but don’t follow up multiple times. Even though you may think this is something they “absolutely have to cover,” chances are it’s not—or it would have caught their attention the first time.
And please don’t drop a name and expect it to result in an instant front page story. Saying “so-and-so” knows “that important person” often just leads to resentment.
Respect people’s personal space.
Unless I give it to you, I really don’t want you to use my personal email address. Neither do journalists. Same goes for interrupting a coffee shop conversation to pitch a story. Bad form.
Rather than repeat more of the rules we all “should” know, I decided to reach out to a few media types Well Done works with on a regular basis. Here are their responses to my short survey:
When I asked about their worst PR experience, they reported a lot of badgering, ghosting, no lead time, sending releases as PDFs (No. Just no.), and not understanding the difference between promotion and what is newsworthy.
And then there were the two I had not heard before:
- “PR practitioners who believe the myth that ‘releases are no longer necessary.’ The new, hip way to pitch a story is to just send bullet points? Not true.”I will admit that I’ve read several articles over the past few years that said the press release was dead. I plan to reconsider that.
- “There is one agency that consistently fails to mention the TIME of the events they are promoting. The five Ws are a lost art.”The five Ws are Who, What, Where, When, and How. (in case you were wondering).
Maybe I do need to repeat those elementary class rules.
If you still aren’t convinced that many so-called PR professional still haven’t learned, search #PRFail on Twitter. It’s both cringe-worthy and a lot of fun.