If you follow enough of your fellow PR people on social media, you’ve probably seen the occasional gripe about rude responses they’ve received from journalists. If you follow journalists, complaints about irrelevant emails they’ve received from PRs might have shown up on your feed a time or two.
Nobody wants to be on either side of those media vs comms clashes, so how can you make sure yours is a name any journalist will be happy to see in their inbox?
Signing up the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service to receive media requests straight to your inbox is a good starting point, naturally, but for guidance on the next steps, we asked three more journalists regularly using the service what makes a good PR.
Rob Waugh, freelance journalist regularly writing for outlets including The Daily Telegraph, Metro and the Daily Mail
‘Ensure the name of your expert is kept very close to their comment if you’re sending text. Journalists using this service are often dealing with large amounts of text, and if the name isn’t right next to the comment, it’s easy to misattribute.
‘The best way to reply is in plain text NOT in a document headed with company logos. This just adds another stage to the work of a journalist who’s probably dealing with dozens, or even hundreds of comments and means that your comment is less likely to be used in any finished piece.’
Nick Booth, freelance writer currently covering mobile networking infrastructure for Mobile Europe
‘Keep your response short. The shorter your email, the easier it is to deal with! If it’s really short and sweet, the other person will act on it right away.
‘Try to make every technology-related contribution about one thing: how is this going to save anyone any time or money? After all, the only reason we use computers at work is to save time or money. So how does it do that?
‘Always use your own words when describing what your client does. Use short simple words. If you use jargon you don’t understand, it just sounds like you’re copying someone’s homework. Don’t assume the other person knows what all these acronyms mean!
‘And if you’re responding to Nick Booth, send him some sort of bribe…’
‘Another tip I have that is quite controversial (but is the way I run my business on the PR and marketing side of things, due to having insight from a journalist perspective) is DON’T copy and paste press releases, emails, etc. The journalist knows you’re doing this. They want someone to take the time to respond – to read the entire journalist alert and to construct a bespoke reply. Pasting may seem like a good idea, and a way to respond to many at a time, but for the bigger newspapers and magazines, it’ll just come across as a little insulting. I like to construct a bespoke pitch for every journalist I talk to. I know most of them now, and usually have conversations with them about life and events anyhow, so a copy paste affair would seem a little strange, too.
‘Always offer more, my one rule – go beyond the book. They’d like images, offer a sample, too.
‘Always be grateful. It astounds me how many PR companies will cut contact with the journalist once they have their client featured. Don’t have an attitude or think you have the power in this situation, as you don’t. The journalist holds all the cards and should be treated as such. They are the ones that will make sure you get paid and will make sure you get results. You don’t have to brown nose, but you do have to appreciate this fact. I once had a PR company who scolded me for writing just two lines about their product and for it being at the end of an article. I wasn’t even keen on the product but included it as she badgered. She saw the article then sent an email to say. “It’s not worth it, forget it, you just added it at the end.” I blocked her email, blocked the company and anyone she represented and made a point of never ever recommending them again.
‘I’d like to say try not to nag, but in all seriousness, I receive so many responses to journalist alerts, hundreds at a time, that sometimes I need a good nagging. The phone can ring while I’m reading a pitch and it’s lost forever, so do follow up with me; do ask.
‘If I can name names of great PRs, I’d like to say that those representing Ritter Sport (who sent me the most wonderful Christmas gift and didn’t expect anything in return), Haribo (who keep us stocked on their latest releases) and Lush do it right.’
Sign up for a demo of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service here.
For more on forming lasting connections with the UK media, here is more advice on responding to enquiries, reasons to give the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service a try before delving into #JournoRequest on Twitter, and even more tips from journalists.