Lets start with an obvious statement. Anyone working in PR needs great relationships with journalists. Understanding how they work and what they are interested in will help you gain their attention in a pitch. Get the timing right too and you will be a step closer to inspiring a bylined article, or a request for an interview.
But, when is it ever that easy to get that kind of outcome? There is no magic formula to working with journalists, however, there are a few approaches that will definitely ensure things go the wrong way!
Here are the top 10 things I would definitely recommend you avoid as a PR pro:
1. You clearly have never, and will never, write about this subject. But here it is anyway
"Dear beauty department of publishing house X, please find a press release on the subject 'Innovative brake linings of tractors' attached. We are sure that you will love to publish an article on this topic in your magazine with the target group of 13- to 17-year-old girls." Certainly... Not! When choosing your target lists for press releases you should always keep an eye on only sending your release to those contacts with a definite interest in the topic.
2. Did you receive my email?
You have just sent an email containing a pitch that is of definite interest to a journalist. But still, for some incomprehensive reason, the journalist has not answered after 20 minutes! So, it's about time for a follow-up call to dig deeper, right? Wrong! Leave a sensible amount of time between sending and calling.
3. Inbox overload
Is it your goal to overload the inbox of the journalists from your target media? Then you should definitely send your press release as an attachment and, why not add some uncompressed images in bitmap format. There is a very small chance that this email will not end up as junkmail. Instead, according to an ECCO study, 51.3 % of the journalists prefer a direct link to the attachments in the email which they can click on if interested. The text of the press release should be included in the body of the email.
To make your email stand out amongst all the others, a subject line in capital letters is bound to get attention and garner an open, surely? Throw in some exclamation marks for good measure too!!!! '! URGENT! SUPER EXCITING NEWS!' simply ensures that the mail will end up in the trash directly, without a second look. Just make it relevant and interesting – simple.
5. The top news of the year!
Speaking of things that are 'SUPER EXCITING' – no press release should be 'SUPER EXCITING'. No editor wants to waste time trying to identify real news out of superlatives and exciting-sounding, but empty words. If it is your goal to be moved to as many blacklists as possible, then it’s a good strategy. Yet, if you want journalists to actually write an article based on your input, you should be a bit more specific and let the ‘SUPER EXCITING’ data and facts speak for themselves.
6. Prepared for what?
You have finally managed to get the editor on the phone. Guess what; he is actually interested and immediately begins to ask questions. That would be a win-win situation if you were able to answer his questions – at least on a basic level. Therefore always be prepared with regard to possible questions and keep special topic suggestions in reserve, fitting the publication that you want to address. Don’t waste time by not doing your own research, it will pay off in the long-term.
7. Of course you want all this stuff!
Huge press kits are all well and good – as long as they do not arrive in an oversized box filled with Styrofoam that will make a complete mess of the press room. You will not make a single journalist happy with this, let alone the cleaners. Think before you waste money and paper.
8. Do you have time?
You should be able to convey the importance of your pitch in a few sentences – otherwise you will give the impression that you do not really know what the essence of your story is. A short, catchy explanation arouses more interest than any page-long explanation.
9. Now we’re best friends!
You’ve been published and now you think it’s a friendship. So you start looking for the journalist on Facebook. Think carefully about this though. Are you really friends? Or would it be better to stick to LinkedIn and Twitter?
10. What deadlines?
A target publication is planning a special issue about a topic that fits your client's main focus perfectly – so far, so good. Unfortunately, the deadline was yesterday. Accept it and move on. If the deadline has passed, so has the opportunity.
Any journalists out there agree or disagree with these? Any PRs know for a fact there are bigger and badder things we can do to rile a journalist? We’d love to hear your experiences and advice in the comments below.
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