What Do Reporters Hate? Don’t Commit These 5 PR Sins
Whatever you do, dear PR pro, don’t commit these 5 PR sins.
If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’re looking for ways to get media coverage for your business or organization. And while we could share lots of great tips about what steps you should take, we wanted to turn this post on its head and tell you which PR sins not to commit.
We reached out to a few of our friends in the media — representing roles in broadcast journalism, newspaper reporting, and online news reporting — and they and they opened up to share the things that annoy them the most so that you can avoid these media missteps.
So, without further ado, here’s what not to do when attempting to secure media coverage:
PR Sins #1: Asking to review a story before it’s published
Unless you’re financially backing your coverage in a pay-to-play outlet or sponsored post, you can’t expect to see your story before it goes live. In fact, asking to see a news story prior to publication isn’t just inappropriate, it also indicates a lack of understanding of the news media at best, and implies that you’re encouraging the media member to disregard their journalistic integrity at worst.
“[My job is] not to PLEASE the PR person,” one of our contacts told us. “Obviously there’s overlap and hopefully my stories do happen to please the person I’m working with… but they aren’t my employer and I’m not obligated to do what they say, and not understanding that can make things weird.”
PR Sins #2: Pitching outside a reporter’s coverage area
Let’s say you’re an electrician, and a prospective customer calls you asking about plumbing services. You don’t do plumbing (duh, you’re an electrician, right?), but this customer continues to contact you and seems peeved that you won’t take on their project. This is exactly how reporters feel when people pitch stories outside of their coverage areas.
“I recently had a woman reach out three times asking me to write a story about a student who was accepted into a national STEM program from Alabama,” one of our reporter friends told us. “[This story had] no connection to [our] area. I barely have time to cover what is happening IN my coverage area, let alone what is happening outside of it.”
And we should note that the media blunder above actually includes a third issue…
PR Sins #3: Overdoing the outreach
Sure, it can take some perseverance and intentionality to achieve your desired outcome, but incessantly contacting media members doesn’t just not help, but it may actually even hurt your chances of getting your story picked up. Media members are people, too, and if you’re bugging them to death, they’re not going to want to engage you in further conversation.
“It’s unnecessary and feels a little inconsiderate […] when someone emails me and IMMEDIATELY calls me and asks me if I received it,” one of our sources said. “It’s assuming that I saw the email the second you sent it and it’s demanding a response right away. And it’s doubling up… If it’s so important, just call. Or email and give me a reasonable amount of time to respond.”
PR Sins #4: Using complicated messaging
Did you know that reporters in some mid-market newsrooms receive at least 100 press releases every day? Now imagine what kind of press release avalanche happens to most inboxes in major markets. That means you need to hook a reporter quickly. So, if your recipient can’t easily digest your message, they won’t spend time trying to decode your company jargon — and they certainly won’t want to publish a story about it.
If you work in an industry with lots of complicated messaging and lingo, have a friend or loved one take a look at what you’ve prepared and see if they are able to comprehend the story. If they can’t, don’t explain away their feedback. Rework your message.
PR Sins #5: Pitching a broadcast story with no visuals
This one seems simple, but according to our friends in the media, people often don’t understand the importance of this particular issue.
“If you want a broadcast journalist to take interest in your story, there has to be something visual that you can show in your pitch,” we heard from our TV contacts. “There’s not much we can do with a story if there’s nothing we can film.”
If you’ve made some of the PR sins listed above, don’t sweat it — making mistakes is often a necessary part of the learning process. Just update your strategy and keep on pitching.
If you’re looking for help pitching your business or organization, send us a message and we’d be happy to discuss how we may be able to assist.