Dec 08

PR Pet Peeves – How to End Up on a Reporter’s Naughty List

About 2,200 local newspapers across the United States have closed since 2005, according to a recent Washington Post report. This means there are fewer and fewer reporters out there to cover the news. With the ratio of PR professionals to journalists being 6:1, it is important now, more than ever, to establish strong relationships with the media in order to secure coverage. 

The KCD PR team took to Twitter to highlight the public relations tactics that do not spread holiday cheer to journalists and will secure a spot on a journalist’s naughty list this season. 

Obscuring key information in press releases.

Journalists value factual information above all else. They will quickly be able to tell if you incorrectly interpret company data for your company’s benefit. This is doubly true for financial journalists, who are skilled at reading through earnings reports. Kiah Lau Haslett, the Managing Editor at Banking Director, showcases an unfortunate example of this:

Calling all news “Breaking news”

Not all news is breaking news. And that’s okay! All news has its place. However, calling something breaking news in an email subject line when it is not will annoy journalists and make them question your news judgment going forward. The same holds true for phrases like “This just in” and using capital letters in pitches unnecessarily.

Maggie McNeary, a senior editor at the AR Democrat-Gazette provides an example of this phrase being misused:

 

 

Following up too soon

Persistence is often the key to success in public relations, but following up too soon with news can often be the kiss of death for your pitch. Wait at least 24 hours before following up with reporters. When I was a reporter, I received up to 300 pitches a day, and would often need time to sift through them. Jim Pavia, the Money Editor at CNBC, noted an incident when a reporter called him only an hour after pitching him:

 

Not having contact information readily available on company’s website

 

Sometimes, public relations professionals are lucky enough to have reporters seeking out their clients for interviews. However, reporters will get discouraged if they are not able to find contact information for your client easily. I was shocked when I was a reporter at how many companies provide no communications contact information on their websites whatsoever. Elizabeth O’Brien, Deputy Editor at Money, shared this complaint:

 

 

Not listing phone numbers

 

Deidre Hipwell, the Emea healthcare and consumer team leader at Bloomberg Business, shows how important it is to have your phone number in contact information in your email signature as a public relations professional:

 

Furthermore, Daniela Altimari, a statehouse reporter with the Hartford Courant, notes how reporters value including phone numbers for follow-up questions in all press releases:

 

Vague pitches with a lack of follow-up

Pitches should always include a short positioning statement that describes what your client does to help orient journalists. However, at the very least, if a reporter has follow-up questions on what a company does, public relations professionals should do their best to respond thoroughly to them.

Marc Saltzman, a freelance journalist who has written for USA Today, notes a time when a PR professional sent a vague pitch and then didn’t even bother to answer his follow-up questions.

Sending off-beat pitches

Most reporters are assigned beats that they cover. This information is readily available via Twitter, Cision, and even news outlet websites. However, public relations professionals often still send off-topic pitches to journalists – even when they tweet or otherwise indicate they are working on stories on a specific topic. Justin Roberti, a freelance reporter who writes for Benzinga, highlights this problem below:

David Mack, a senior breaking news reporter with Buzzfeed, even wrote a poem about this phenomenon:

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