I Heard It From The PR Girl

Week 13: How PR Can Sometimes Drive Journalists Crazy

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on April 8, 2010

Here is a list of 10 ways that PR people can drive journalists crazy with ways to prevent these things from happening.

1) Poorly written material by PR due to being unfamiliar with journalists editorial format

The PR person should research this. Learn what journalists want and how they write. The closer that you can get to writing like a journalist the less work they have to do in editing. You will have a better chance at getting your material published. PR people should research each news sources editorial requirements before submitting their work.

Cited: Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

2) The PR person mentioning that he or she advertises with a publication to a journalist

“Journalists aren’t responsible for advertising and vice-versa.” Don’t try to squeeze into a paper on the back of the fact that you have advertising. The PR person should go through the ad department and get them to apply the pressure to the reporters.

Cited:  Defending PR:  Why Journalists Need to Stop Making Lists Telling PRs How to Do Their Job

3) Gimmicks that PR people send with their news releases and media kits

Items such as T-shirts, coasters, caps, paperweights, pens, and mugs are usually the most popular items to send, but they are dull and overused. These items are referred to by journalists as “trash and trinkets.” These items are supposed to make a media kit stand out, but journalists say they are a waste of time because they don’t help tell the story. Do not send these. 

If you do decided to send promotional items with a media kit or news release you should make sure that they are things that the journalists can use. Otherwise they are an annoyance. There should be a clear connection between the news you are announcing and the promotional item. Send just one item instead of a basket full. Another idea is to use creative packaging instead of a promotional item. This will grab the journalists’ attention.

Cite: Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

4) Repeated calls and follow-ups from PR people

Do not make repeated follow-up phone calls. This is annoying to journalists. One phone call is enough. A good point made in chapter 6 in Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) is that you should keep the ball and the responsibility for follow-ups in your court, but do it in a polite way. A great approach is one used by Julie Schweigert of Edelman Worldwide. At the end of one of her pitch letters she took initiative in a nice way by writing “I will contact you nest week to follow-up, but in the meantime you can reach me at 312/233-1380 with any questions.”

5) Calling a journalist to ask why a press release was not published

Never do this. This only starts controversy. Just let it go. Perhaps try using a different news source next time or communicating better with this one. Make sure you know their editorial requirements before submitting their work.

Cite:  Defending PR:  Why Journalists Need to Stop Making Lists Telling PRs How to Do Their Job

6) Excess hype words used in news releases

Journalists hate words such as “unique” and “state of the art. Journalists see these as poorly written. “Journalists, dulled by the constant flow of news releases that sound like commercials, generally conclude that the majority of publicists are incompetent.” Do not use hype words. Be as objective as possible.

Cite: Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) 

7) Not meeting deadlines

A PR person should meet the deadline for his news release. There is no question about that. Journalists have deadline too that we must consider. If a journalist calls to ask for more information or asks this during your follow-up phone call provide that within 24 hours. If something has come up dealing with the deadline and news release, communicate with the journalist. Let him know that it can’t be met and for what reasons. This should rarely happen. Always strive to be punctual.

Cite:  Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

8 ) Making mistakes in news releases that are not factual, accurate, or objective

If it is just the tone that the journalist does not like there is not much that can be done. “If the error is significant, contact the reporter to discuss the incorrect facts or references. You should politely provide the correct facts with documentation. Avoid confrontations; the reporter no doubt will be writing future stories about your organization, so it’s wise to maintain a good relationship.” You can also contact the editor if the mistake is a major one. Try to negotiate with him. Other ways to handle the situation if these don’t work would be to go to the public or file a lawsuit. These should not be used unless necessary to avoid confrontation. In the mean time strive to be factual and objective in your news releases to prevent mistakes.

Cite:  Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

9) Miscommunication with PR people

PR people and journalists need to learn to respect each other’s work. Communication is the key here and both sides should feel updated on all information. One definition of public relations is that it is the building of relationships between the organization and its various publics, including journalists. “Press interviews, news conferences, media tours, and other kinds of gatherings provide excellent opportunities to build these working relationships. They are more personal than just sending written materials and helping reporters get direct answers from news sources.” Keep regular one-on-one contact with journalists to reduce miscommunication. It also “helps the organization accomplish the objectives of increasing visibility, consumer awareness, and sales of services or products.”

Cite:  Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

10) A press release more than two sides long 

Brevity counts. Never make a press release too long. “Even though we are digital now, this is a fair point. Two sides long is roughly 800 words which is a page lead for most. And make sure your first three paragraphs can be lifted and used as a complete story on their own.”

Cite:  Defending PR:  Why Journalists Need to Stop Making Lists Telling PRs How to Do Their Job

The information retrieved from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) comes from chapter 11 in the textbook unless otherwise indicated.

Just some stuff the PR Girl thought you should know 🙂


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