Five ways to avoid making journalists annoyed

The PR industry is changing, along with everything else at the moment. Some communications professionals, especially in the consumer field, spend as much or more time dealing with social media ‘influencers’ as they do with reporters and editors. The risk here is that many younger PRs have little experience of the requirements of journalists writing for big-name publications, and miss huge opportunities for coverage, or make difficult issues even worse by failing to deal with them properly. So what are the new rules to help reporters do their job and avoid unnecessary bad PR?

1. Pitch stories to journalists by email rather than phone, unless you know them really well. A survey of reporters and editors this month suggests 89% prefer this method, with the average news journalists apparently receiving over 60 pitches a day. They are time-poor, and endless phone calls stop them being able to get on with their job of writing stuff.
2. But be available when they need you – a constant frustration for journalists is when they need information from a company and there is no phone number to call for the media team, while emails go unanswered. Great opportunities for coverage are missed every day because of this. Sometimes the website still has contact details for people who don’t answer because they have been furloughed, or have left the company.
3. Don’t annoy them with irrelevant non-stories. All too often journalists’ inboxes fill up with ill-targeted PR messages which would never in a million years be relevant or get coverage. To build up good relationships with key media in your sector, take the time to look at what they actually cover and do not send blanket mailouts just in the hope that someone, somewhere will notice them.
4. Have information in plain English on the website which explains what you actually do. Particularly in sectors such as finance, vague and confusing descriptions abound which leave readers scratching their heads, unless they already have deep expertise. If this is you, don’t be surprised if you get described inaccurately in print.
5. Be flexible in the ways you are willing to communicate with the media. Most senior journalists prefer to be able to have an actual conversation with the relevant contact where possible, as they can find out a lot more this way and clarify any misunderstandings. However, many younger ones working to tight online publication deadlines prefer to have their quotes by email. This can sometimes appear lazy, as it can just mean their articles are little more than a loose thread interspersed with cut-and-paste comments, but sometimes it’s necessary. To get the best results, go with the flow. Give them them the information they need, in a timely fashion, in the way they prefer.

More tips in our media training courses, face-to-face or remotely via Zoom/Webex.