This week, our Press Office Manager, Daniel Lynch is talking PR sins. As a former ITV journalist he knows a thing or two about common PR sins committed on a daily basis. Here's Dan's guide on how to keep pitches relevant and build great working relationships with reporters.
As a former journalist who has made the move in to public relations, I have seen both sides of when it goes well and when it doesn't. There's little more annoying to be neck deep in the day's news and then have to negotiate bad PR. These, in no particular order, are some of the worst sins you can commit in PR when dealing with the media.
1) Lack of detail
Journalists always want more detail. They will read a press release and no matter how comprehensive it is they will think of something to ask. Be prepared for follow up questions. When you send out a press release know even more about what you are pitching and be prepared for the phone calls.
2) Not knowing the audience
Working in Leeds for an outlet covering news in Yorkshire I would receive calls on a weekly basis from PRs in London (usually) pitching stories in Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham or even further afield. Do your research before you lift the phone or hit send on the email. Make sure the journalist you are contacting covers the relevant subject or geographical area and that your pitch suits the style of their publication.
3) Ringing close to publishing/broadcast deadlines
Be aware of when the outlet you are contacting goes to print or goes on air. You will get short change from a journalist about to go into an hourly radio bulletin if you call at ten to the hour or just after the hour. Similarly regional TV usually goes on air around 6pm or 6.30pm and will often have lunchtime bulletins. Know those times and try to avoid calling too close to them.
4) Changing or recalling releases
Sometimes it is unavoidable and journalists will generally understand that. When a client updates factual details that have already been released an apologetic phone call will usually be enough. Last minute changes to invitations or events and requests for minor changes to a story which has already been published will be looked upon less kindly though. Get it right the first time, check and double check the facts. Then check again.
5) Not responding to media requests
If a journalist makes a media request relating to one of your clients, respond to acknowledge receipt of the request and find out what the journalist's deadline is. Then get back to them as long before that deadline as you can. Journalists wanting a response from a company often struggle to get in contact with the correct person or PR agency and when they do it is likely to be a generic email address or website contact form. A swift response will go a long way to improving their perception of your client.
6) Wrong tone in contact
If you do not know a journalist do not act like you do. Over friendly communication through emails or phone calls will only annoy the journalist you are dealing with. When a relationship has been built up over time it can become more casual, but jumping the gun will only put a journalist off you and the stories you pitch. Keep it formal and professional to start.