• Ryan Haynes

How to annoy a journalist and waste your time with the press

Updated: Aug 31

Build relationships with the media, the right way


On joining a recent webinar where journalists shared their pet peeves with PRs, I took notice and reflected on my experience as a PR person pitching stories and content to the media.


The days when I was a trainee PR in the mid-2000s, I had mere seconds to pitch my story to a journalist before they either criticised my pitch or hung up. Emails had to be written within an inch of their lives to make them punchy and relevant to stand the chance of a reply.

The media has changed massively in 20 years, but there’s some things to remember.

Journalists will get annoyed with

  1. Generic material sent out in bulk, nothing like receiving totally irrelevant information

  2. Website and social profiles that say nothing at all about a company

  3. No faces of the people and team’s involved, where’s the human?

  4. Missing deadlines, it’s not like they’re important?!

  5. Being chased for mentions in their articles

  6. Receiving a long, drawn out story

  7. No media assets, who needs a good photo or video anyway?!

  8. Cold calls on Twitter and Social Media DMs

  9. Being told what they need to write

To prepare a PR Media plan that is going to get you noticed by journalists, referenced by writers and mentions in the press, make sure you:

  • Demonstrate the product is in demand. Prove there's traction.

Journalists will research first, make sure there's immediate evidence in a company's social media posting and content activity. Share news of new customers and success stories, show there is momentum in the business. Your social channel should demonstrate why they should feature you in their content and the value of your expertise. Journalists want to see the mutual exchange of brand credibility.

  • Cut through the noise. 63% journos said, PRs need to understand their target audience and what they find relevant.

The one way PR can help newsrooms is to approach them with relevant content. Read the publication, review the recent stories, understand the journalist's subject interests and pitch similar style content. All publications take a cookie cutter approach, this is what the audience expects; the same features, stories and columns with a specific template. It’s important to craft your content around this. The commercial messaging is obvious if not tailored to the publication and audience.

  • A face to the business.

Publications want to see the people behind the business, this is the way to connect it with the readers of the publication. The more you can humanise stories the wider the opportunities. Bring to life your teams, your leadership or your customers.

  • Someone to exemplify/ be the example, more likely be picked up

Case studies and real life stories are important, brand ambassadors add real credibility to the company. More often than not, journalists do not want to speak to vendors, but the end customer - they want to know about the wider commercial strategy - not an aspect of the business that your technology fixes. Remember, the story is bigger than you.

  • Exclusive content

Journos want relationships with experts, therefore it's important to match your content offer with what writers are writing. Compile pitches around their previous stories, or provide them content not available elsewhere. Journalists have their little black book of contacts, and this is where you want to be.

  • It's important to deliver, otherwise will ruin relationships

Journalists and publications do depend on the work they’ve commissioned, so it’s important to meet the deadline and provide content to the specs provided (make sure you ask). If you are unable to deliver, tell them. There’s nothing worse than ignoring it, because you could leave them without content.

  • Freelancers may be at pitching stage to editors, so no guarantee,

Remember that freelancers have no control on publication date or changes to the article. In fact there are often times a journalist will get paid for an article that never gets published. Content published is earned PR, and just because you put in the hard work, doesn’t mean you’ll see the results you hoped for.

  • Press releases still drive stories

76% journos say they do like to receive a press release however they are considered, functional but not human, pr click bait themselves. The first 2 paragraphs need to be connected to the headline. It’s important to surface on the facts in headline bullets, the impact it’s had on business, industry and commerce, the narrative is less important.

  • Humanise the company, deliver quality

Telling real people stories stand out, explaining how the product impacts their business, using an array of quotes, videos, insights. Polls and surveys are still of interest, but the media are more interested in quality reports.

  • Offer a range of people to speak to

Get more opportunities by having a range of spokespeople including women, disability, ethnicity along with a case study.

  • A library of media assets

It’s important to have all the assets to complement the story. More so now do publications need a range of content across all their channels and they need the rights to use it. Provide a range of assets including video, photos and quotes.

  • Consider the right platform

Just because you want TV doesn’t mean you’ll get it. This will depend on the story, the facts, the people and the size to get traction from some media. What channel will actually work for you, between radio, newspaper, blog, specialist trade where is your audience most likely to see and take action? Explain why the story is in the interest of the audience, it’s important to sell the idea. It’s not always important about numbers/audience but who you want to see it. Focus on maybe smaller metrics, audiences and targets to get into the sweet spot.

  • Ask what journos are looking for

Take the time to actually listen first. Know what sections or features in the publication they’re championing and how you can help them create really interesting content. Remember, audience traction is important for them. It’s worth following people on Twitter or use Muckrack or the publication to know their previous stories; what are they interested in and what are they looking for.

  • Careful with social

Check bio (and on Twitter) to see if they’re happy for DMs. Cold call Twitter DMs for some journalists is a bit of a NO NO, it’s better to respond to a shout out or chase by email.


Also…

  • Add a bit of personality to emails

  • Keep in touch, even once a year to say hello

  • Some editors and writers get irritated by follow ups, so do it sparingly


Haynes MarComs provides full media training to support marketing teams to develop the skills to work with the media, as well as enabling spokespeople to speak with journalists. Whether it’s learning to deliver an interview, curating content for the media or crafting media pitches, we can help.

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