Over the last several years, PR professionals have been graced with the superfluous presence of ‘Top X Ways PR Pros Irritate Journalists’ articles; it’s a well-favored topic in our industry. Honestly, if we had a dollar for every ‘Best Way to Ruin a Media Relationship’ blog post that mentions how PR pros are messing it up, we’d at least have enough to buy a pair of Manolo Blahniks.
Yes, we know that there are many people who think they can do PR well, but are missing the appropriate education and experience. There are those that think sending a press release to a 2-year old list with 500 contacts is okay, and there are some who think calling a journalist every day to follow up on an email s/he is obviously not interested in is acceptable. But not every PR professional shares these opinions, and not every PR professional is annoying to journalists. At Ketner Group, we’ve developed strong, mutually respectful relationships with our media contacts, especially in the retail and hospitality industry, and they value our influence and contributions.
We love journalists! We’ll do everything we can to help make their job easier, and if we occasionally teeter on the annoying side (let’s be honest, every PR person has at some point), it isn’t intentional. But…since we’re being honest, let’s admit that we PR pros aren’t the only people who’ve crossed the “Welcome to Annoying, population a zillion” border sign. So in good fun and humor, we’d like to point out some of the minor annoyances we feel when working with journalists.
1. When journalists suggest whacky ideas for PR practices. I’m sure journalists everywhere have their own personal preferences for email or phone pitching etiquette and we really do like to know and honor those preferences! But for the love of all things delicious and chocolaty, please don’t assume your preference is universally shared. I’ve read advice from journalists that suggest PR people should quit sending press releases and keep press pages current, because they’ll check your company’s site proactively if they’re interested. Yeah? You’ll think on your own to check out our clients’ sites for important news? We all know you’re too busy for that, and if we don’t send you press releases, memories of our clients and their customers will quickly melt from your mind like high scooped ice cream on a hot, sunny day.
2. Journalists don’t like it when we use a formal name, but get offended when we use the short-hand name. We recently went to a PRSA luncheon that featured a local Austin media panel that discussed the best methods of media relations. It was an extremely helpful and informative panel, and one point stuck in our minds for a while. A journalist said he shuts down when he sees an email start with “Hi Joe” instead of “Hi Joseph,” even though he goes by Joe. His reasoning is that this person doesn’t know him, so don’t use his short-hand name. But we’ve heard of journalists who don’t appreciate PR people addressing them with their longer, formal name when it’s clear that they sign off on articles with their shorter name. Confusing!
3. A journalist agrees to meet with a client at a tradeshow, but last minute sends the advertising rep instead. The good ole bate and switch. We get our clients excited about meeting with an industry-relevant media contact at a trade show and 30 minutes prior to the meeting, we get an email explaining that they won’t be able to meet, unfortunately, but their ad rep will still be able to drop by the booth. Ouch! It’s okay to say something more important came up, we’d understand!
4. When a journalist gets testy because they are getting meeting requests from vendors with an event’s pre-registered media list. We know that journalists probably begin receiving requests to meet at tradeshows about 2 minutes and 13 seconds after they register for a show. We know that might get overwhelming depending on the size of the show, but hey, we have to ask! We wouldn’t be doing our clients justice if we didn’t.
5. Last-minute interview cancellations. As PR pro’s, we know getting that elusive top-tier business media interview is sort of like getting invited to be on the Olympic team (and if an article happens as a result, it is like WINNING a gold medal!) You got the interview (a happy dance, of course, follows), the client is excited, everyone is prepped and ready to go, and an hour before the interview comes the cancellation note. (“I’ve decided that your client is really not up my alley, I think I’ll pass on the interview.”) Really?! Why did you just decide this now? Top-tier journalists, next time, please really consider whether or not you want to take the interview before saying yes and wasting everyone’s time, or do us the courtesy of a short 20-minute call—you never know what you might be missing!
6. Vague information on editorial calendars. I’m sure editors have a reason for the lack of information on editorial calendars, but it seems so strange to me that most publications do not include which editors are assigned to each article on the editorial calendar. Unless we are very familiar with the editorial staff, most of the time we have to reach out to a very busy editor-in-chief or managing editor to find out which reporter is assigned to a story. To avoid bothering you with silly questions like that, any chance you could just include the reporter’s name? It would save both of us a lot of time!
7. Lack of preparation. We know that journalists are overworked and crunched for time, but it wouldn’t hurt for a journalist to take five minutes to look at the background information that we’ve sent prior to the interview. We try really hard to pull together relevant material that makes a reporter’s job easier – but it’s frustrating when our client gets on the line, and we all realize that the reporter hasn’t taken time to look at the information or skim the client’s website.
8. Scrambling the facts. Yes, journalists are expected to cover way too much ground these days, and in the ever-changing world of technology journalism, a slight error in wording can make a big difference. But we’ve seen some stories turn out so full of errors, it’s made our clients skittish about working with that publication again. We’re always glad to fact-check for technical accuracy, so journalists shouldn’t be shy about taking us up on it—we promise not to be heavy-handed and to respond promptly!