5 ways to annoy journalists

Whether you’re a Marketing Officer juggling PR in-house for a company, or a seasoned PR agency professional managing a roster of different clients, there are certain things you should always avoid…

…if you want to maintain good media relations, that is! Here are the top five ways to annoy journalists – as written by an ex-journalist!

1. Get their name wrong

This is invariably the number one way to annoy journalists. I say this after several years of getting PR pitches that began ‘Hi Laura’ / ‘Hi Mara’ / ‘Hi Lauren’.

Check and double-check their name and the correct spelling – and research it online, rather than ringing them up.

2. Pitch them something totally irrelevant

Researching a publication’s subject matter, style, tone and audience demographics is important if you want to pitch something they’re likely to consider.

When I was an online journalist at the Shropshire Star and Express & Star – and before that as a Features Editor at the Shropshire Review Magazine – I received a lot of story pitches.

The most annoying by far was from someone who insisted we should be interested in sending a reporter from our Wolverhampton newspaper to cover a promotional event in Manchester involving someone dressing up as a giant chewing gum. No joke.

3. Call them

I know a lot of PR agencies still use a practice called ‘selling in’ – emailing a press release or article to a journalist, then calling and haranguing them to make sure they’ve got it, or further promote the story. This, to me – as well as to many other PRs and most journalists themselves – is a really outdated and annoying practice.

From a journalist’s perspective, when you’re trying to write several articles on a deadline, you need a lot of concentration – and a poorly-timed call can be incredibly frustrating. Yes, you might get lucky and come across a journalist who’s really receptive – providing you’ve got a great article for them – but in my opinion, it’s rarely worth the risk.

4. Let them down at the last minute

Whether you’ve promised them a quote, statement, image, 800-word article or anything else from your client or company, it’s essential to deliver.

There’s nothing more frustrating to a journalist than planning in an article for a page or double-page spread, only for the PR contact or company to let you down. If a journalist is on a tight deadline, it also puts them in a precarious situation of having to fill that space with something out of thin air.

5. Expect them to attend your event

One of the most notable effects of the decline in advertising revenues is that there are fewer journalists to cover the same amount of news. Nowadays, journalists are often doing the job of two people, and everything they produce is driven by tight deadlines.

Despite these pressures, many companies still believe in the old fashioned idea of having a ‘press launch’ for every product or service they come up with, or office they refurbish – and are surprised when journalists decline or ignore their invitations.

It takes a lot for journalists to leave their desk – like a genuinely newsworthy event – and while that isn’t to say that press launches don’t still play an important role in media coverage, it’s really a question of scale and relevance.

If you’re looking to delight instead of annoy journalists, and improve your chances of building a mutually beneficial relationship, do drop me a line.

Lara Page