PR People: Please Stop Pissing Off Journalists (or How To Pitch The Media)

slap high fiveLately, I’ve been coming across some pretty embarrassing tweets from journalists about PR people that are simply giving PR a bad name.

Today, there are way too many tools and resources available for PR folks to still be making these mistakes. Bottom line: Every writer is different. Do the research required to get to know them.

Simple Google and Twitter searches will tell you exactly what they’re interested in writing about and how they like to be pitched.

I’ve been collecting tweets for the past 90 days or so with journalists’ preferences to assist in this research (and to hopefully start making a better name for ourselves!)…

Advertising Age: Maureen Morrison (@maureenmorrison)

PR people, for the 9 millionth time: if you pitch my coworkers and they say no, do not waste my time by pitching me the same bullshit story.

AllThingsD: Arik Hesseldahl (@ahess24710)

Dear PR people: Before pitching, do a smattering of research or risk wasting your client’s money. Google exists. Use it.

American Banker: Maria Aspan (@mariaaspan)

Can’t believe some PR people STILL call “just to make sure you received the press release I emailed.” Don’t we all have better things to do?

Ars Technica: Jon Brodkin (@jbrodkin)

I set an especially high bar for PR people, almost never follow them unless they’re stalking me and I need to protect myself. [*Note: The real Jon Brodkin would like all readers to know that this was not a general statement, but part of a conversation, and an inside joke to a PR friend.]

Engadget: Dana Wollman (@danawollman)

I don’t like it when PR people put “question” or “quick question” in the subject line. Mostly because I fall for it every time. [In other words, I always read pitches with the subject “quick question.” So, it’s actually quite effective!]

Entrepreneur: Carol Tice (@ticewrites)

#PR people seem to think I’m an editor. Or in NY. Or LA. Just a lowly freelance here, folks! Stop sending me pre-written guest posts.

Investor’s Business Daily: Brian Deagon (@BrianDeagon)

Advice to PR people: Keep your initial pitch clean, simple, powerful. Too much clutter overwhelms a person in a hurry.

Macworld: Joel Mathis (@joelmmathis)

Downside of using Twitter as more than your personal RSS feed: When PR people send you pitches filled with details about your life. Blocked.

National Post: Barry Hertz (@hertzbarry)

Note to PR people: Please don’t send 10MB emails. My waiting-to-be-euthanized computer thanks you in advanced.

Reuters: Emily Kaiser (@EKaiserReuters)

PR firm wants me to tweet their press release with suggested hashtags….Wow. Oh, and the hashtags are 33 characters long. Um, no.

TechCrunch: Anthony Ha (@anthonyha)

Ugh. The tedious obsession with exclusives has driven PR people to tie themselves into knots: “Tech exclusive!” “Semi-exclusive!”

to which @ryanlawler responded…

“exclusive for the next 10 minutes!”

TNW: Brad McCarty (@bradmccarty)

PR people – STOP FREAKING EMAILING ME AT 2 OR 3 ADDRESSES.

to which ‏@CandaceMcCarty

PR people. I’ll be answering Brads phone from now on. Did you email him? Yeah, he got it. I just saved you a phone call.

US News & World Report: Menachem Wecker (@mwecker)

LOVE RT @tylergreendc: New rule: PR people who send me ALL CAPS emails/subject lines will get ALL CAPS emails in reply.

Vanity Fair: Michael Carl (@carlscrush)

Dear PR firm that I have never heard of that clogs up my inbox with mass emails, does your client actually pay you? Do you own a phone?

WSJ/Smart Money: wishes to remain anonymous

What’s worse than getting a stale story pitch? Getting it from multiple people at the same PR firm. Grrr.

Wired: Kim Zetter (@kimzetter)

Time for periodic note to pr people – pls. don’t call on phone to pitch a story; use email, and don’t follow up with phone call.

Xconomy: Luke Timmerman (@ldtimmerman)

Too many PR people calling and leaving VMs ‘just to follow up’ on whether I saw your e-mail release. I did, and skipped it. Pls stop. #PRfail

AND just so you don’t leave this post totally depressed (like I did), here are a few tweets about smart PRs out there (TG!)…

Associated Press: Lou Kesten (@lkesten)

Lots of grumpy game writers today. So thanks to all the good PR people out there who bust it to get us review copies in a timelier fashion.

Biz Journals: Urvaksh Karkaria (@Urvaksh)

Once in a while, PR people surprise me. In an absolutely awesome way.

Business Insider: Steve Kovach (@stevekovach)

Rephrase: Drinking with my favorite PR people in the world tonight, rawr.

Business Insider: Laura Stampler (@laurastampler)

Meet The 25 Most Influential PR People Behind The Scenes Of Corporate America http://t.co/MqEPQVzm

Network Computing (@slfisher)

We love PR people when they help us do our job, not obstruct us.

PC Mag: Sascha Segan (@saschasegan)

Good PR people act like expediters in a restaurant, making sure the flow of info goes smoothly.

The Record: Danielle Sanzone (@daniellesanzone)

Kudos to ALL the PR people I’ve worked with today regarding the storm. Everyone has gotten back to me quickly and given me good info. #thanks

And to sum this up with a great quote from IBD journo Brian Deagon… “a pitch should be smooth as silk, but powerful as scotch whisky.” Amen sir. Good luck to all my PR peers out there!

14 Comments »

  1. So. here’s the problem with these rants. you do your research and you find out that X reporter likes to be pitched via email. Fine. You send an email and another and nothing. I get it, they get 1000 emails. They see the news break elsewhere and call and chew you out for not sending them the news, to which you reply, I did send it. They give you an alternate email address. next time you use it, they chew you out for using personal email. this is a no win situation and it amazes me they can’t see it. If they want you to know all their nuances they they better respond so you can let it go. Sending one email and not trying a 2nd path is not acceptable to our clients so we have to keep trying. Assuming that if one reporter is not interested at a pub you should give up is also ridiculous. Of course you should try someone else. I have many reporters who appreciate that I track them down to get them info I know they need for their beat. The PR people I know do their best but this is a terrible system. its no ones fault so stop spreading blame. it is what it is. HARO is not a bad solution because at least it manages it, but it doesn’t help with news announcements. That should be the next big thing! Thanks for the post.

    • I could not agree more – damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I don’t think ANY PR pro wakes up in the morning and says “gee, I want to piss off my valuable reporter contacts today!” How about this – journalists become as responsible as they want PR pros to become – by RESPONDING to emails. A one word response “no” (or better yet a two word response “no thanks”) does wonders – once a responsible PR pro knows the pitch has been received but that it’s not of interest, they move on. We’re used to rejection folks, we get it every day we trot into our offices. And guess what – it makes us better PR pros because we begin to learn what you want. As wonderful as Google is, all the research in the world won’t help us read your minds. And that’s a good thing – because the minds of most journalists are a dark and twisted thing. Why else would they do it for a living? (I kid because I love.)

      • “…because the minds of most journalists are a dark and twisted thing. Why else would they do it for a living?” Great line! (I don’t believe that by the way, I just think it’s clever.)

  2. It’s true. You’re not going to make everyone happy all of the time. It’s impossible, and thanks for pointing this out. But I did want to make the chances of success greater the next time around (at least for the folks above). I hear you though and do wish you luck!

  3. In a lot of ways P.R. people do the legwork for journalists — feeding them stories and sources, and doing research. Hypocrites. And the P.R. people that defend the Hacks are just spineless, brown-nosing trolls. (aka Peter Shankman) Who cares what some stupid lazy editor thinks, give the exclusive to someone that matters.

  4. I think that journalists are just bitter because PR folks tend to get paid more 😉

    But on a more serious note… there are many PR folks out there who got their start in journalism and genuinely know the components of a good feature article or news story. I think that journalists automatically assume that a PR pitch is a sales pitch; I do non-profit PR and lots of the stories I want to pitch tie directly into current events and what local organizations are doing to combat them. Yes, great, thank you newspaper for reporting on the prostitution ring that was busted over the weekend. Do you (or your constituents) know there’s a local non-profit org. on the ground fighting the same crime? We can bring some hope to all the gloom and doom. It’s not always about products, money, or donations.

    Journalists forget that the “P” stands for “public”–you all write for the public, and so do we.

  5. I’ve worked as both a journalist and a PR rep. I think the best way to pitch is to write a brief email to the reporter with basics of the story idea and ask them if you could setup a time to talk more. If they’re interested they will setup a time to talk when they aren’t busy.

    Journalists have some very hectic days, and PR people need to realize that. You aren’t at the top of anyone’s list. But if you have an interesting story, journalists will listen.

    But journalists need to be more open to the PR people’s ideas, even if it’s a busy time. Be courteous to them, because like you, they are just doing their job. If you don’t think a story fits your publication or needs, a simple email back to them goes a long way….because you never know when you might need them in the future.

    So remember, as journalists PR people can be annoying at time, but they can also be your best friends when you NEED them. If PR and journalists worked better together the flow of news would be much easier and more efficient.

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