We spend a lot of time talking to journalists, editors and bloggers about what PRs should and shouldn’t do. Our interviews often produce the same sort of answers to the question: ‘What do PRs do that’s bad?’
A lack of research is probably the most common answer. Journalists don’t want you to be word perfect on their last six articles but an idea of what they cover and whether a press release is relevant to them is a good start.
SoGlos’s publisher James Fyrne said: ‘We’re online, it only takes 30 seconds to have a quick look.’
Sarah Marshall is the technology editor at Journalism.co.uk but that doesn’t mean she’s interested in all tech: ‘The ones [PRs] that don’t do so well think: “She’s a technology journalist she must be interested in writing about the new Galaxy tablet or whatever”, but I’m not because I’m writing about a very niche area of technology that journalists can use’.
Kate Webster, author of thelittleloaf, responded to the question, ‘What do PRs do that’s bad?’ with the answer: ‘Making suggestions completely out of keeping with a blog’s ethos’.
Some research should be about the story the PR is providing; Green Futures magazine editor Anna Simpson said: ‘I get frustrated with PRs who don’t understand their story and can’t discuss the topic; that’s the worst case scenario’.
Take a couple of minutes to research the outlet, profiles of which are available in CisionPoint, before deciding whether to include it on your distribution list.
This is a particular frustration for bloggers. Getting names wrong or addressing recipients, ‘Dear blogger/editor’, seems to happen all too often. As a general rule people like the personal touch.
This Mummy Loves author Sonia Thorpe mostly gets on well with PRs: ‘On the whole PRs are a lovely bunch – except when they address me “dear blogger”’.
The issue is something More Than Toast blogger Alice Harold feels quite strongly about: ‘“Dear Blogger…” or “Dear Kate…” (my name’s not Kate). If you can’t be arsed to learn my name, I can’t be arsed to read about your client. Sorry!’
Rosalind Jana blogs at Clothes, Cameras and Coffee: ‘The worst interactions with PRs arise from emails starting “dear blogger” or “dear sir/madam”’.
Finding out someone’s name shouldn’t take very long at all and getting it wrong is unforgiveable. I don’t particularly like emails starting, ‘Dear Jack’, or ‘Dear Joke’ (more than you’d think). If you can’t find their name, or if they’re anonymous, don’t put a salutation at all.
This should really be a given but it also seems worth repeating: don’t give journalists follow-up phone calls. Journalists are inundated with PR contact and if they took the time to respond to each email and phone call they received then our magazines, newspapers and blogs would be empty.
Freelance journalist and fitness professional Julia Buckley told Cision: ‘Sometimes I think some people don’t realise the huge volume of emails I get every day – I’m not fond of being pestered – that said, I do understand it’s their job to chase me for a reply’.
I Am Fabulicious blogger Sarah Berryman answered the question: ‘Send you products that you have not requested, or do not fit in with your blog, and then chase you to find out if and when you have posted about them!’
Putting it very clearly is Glamour.com’s editor and EasLiving.co.uk’s executive editor Natasha McNamara: ‘I think the PR phone calls are kind of annoying. If people send us a press release and we’re interested we’ll go back to them; we really don’t need the follow up phone call.’
The answer to, ‘How do you feel about follow-up phone calls?’ is nearly always not good. If you’re desperate for a response or think the journalist may have missed your email then email again. If you still don’t get a response take it as a sign that they are not interested.
These examples are hopefully stand-out and rare; most PRs should know how not to annoy journalists and the best PRs work hard on building solid relationships that last. As the worlds of communication and media continue to overlap more PRs are aware of what they shouldn’t do and more journalists appreciate the direction PRs are coming from. As freelance travel writer Max Wooldridge said: ‘There’s not a lot of difference between a good PR and a journalist’.
See also What do PRs do that’s good?