As Public Relations (PR) students we are constantly reminded by our professors that we need to cater our messages to our audiences; am I right? Often times in our profession journalists are going to be our audience and apparently they do not like us all that much. Okay, maybe saying they don’t like us is a bit drastic; but there is quite a bit of evidence that journalists have some major pet peeves when it comes to the tendencies of PR people.
At the end of the day, after we have spent hours working on our news releases, journalists are typically the people who decide if our company or our story receives coverage on their particular news medium. Knowing this I would want to know if I was doing something to piss off the journalists I am working with.
So what in the world could PR people be doing to tick journalists off? I always thought PR people and journalists were like two peas in a pod. We both are on a mission to inform the public; we are both creative people; we both are thoughtful communicators… so what is the problem here?
Let us learn from the PR people’s mistakes so that in the real world we can maintain a good rapport with our fellow journalists. After poking around on the internet looking at different websites and other blogs, here are a few common themes I noticed:
- Spam: Don’t send them stories that aren’t related to their beat. If you flood their inbox with spam, they will likely ignore the one release you send that IS related to what they cover…and you will have lost an opportunity.
- Insincere flattery: Don’t say things like; “I just read your amazing story,” or “since you just wrote about ______, thought you’d be interested in _____.” Apparently this is too buddy-buddy for some journalists. When journalists write stories they are programed to report on the facts; meaning they may not have much emotional connection to their stories. The thing to take away from this is that flattering Journalists will not make them more inclined to use your story; instead they want us to get to the point and make it news worthy.
- Lies: Make sure that all of the information in your release is factual and information is not ‘inflated’ to make your company or client look more important. Yes, it’s fine to position things in the best light, but it must be truthful. Journalists can sniff out a lie and as a result your (and your organization’s) credibility will be shot.
- Missing information: Not sending pictures or links to pictures bugs the crap out of journalists. I think this is an important thing for us to make note of when we are emailing journalists. Not only do they want us to give them a tightly written news release, they also want us to include some visuals. I can understand this because as we all know ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ so if we include a photo or two then that means less writing for us and greater appeal to the journalists.
- Too much spin: If your organization inadvertently (key word inadvertently) misrepresents anything, the worst thing is to try to spin it into a positive. Instead admit when you were wrong (and sometimes it’s hard to get your organization to do this). It’s much more authentic to say ‘we screwed up and we’ll do better next time,’ as long as it’s sincere. After all, we’re human and no one is perfect. You’ll gain the respect of the journalist and the public if you acknowledge your errors.