Thursday, 7 January 2016

How to annoy a journalist

“And I sent a press release to the newspaper but they didn’t use it”….if I had a pound every time I heard this phrase…

The problem is this….the newspaper is under no obligation to use your release. The paper isn’t there to promote your business. Can you imagine what the newspapers would look like if they simply printed all the press releases they received, word for word?

Put yourself in the shoes of the journalist on the receiving end of your release. The key to getting them to use your press release is to offer them something that gives reader value. Papers want stories that are useful, that reflect what the community is talking about, things that are controversial. Think about what you would like to read in the paper, or conversely, what you don’t want to read.
Here are some more sure-fire ways of annoying a journalist:

1. Sending a release that requires the journalist to spend valuable time going through it changing it.

You wouldn’t believe the number of people who send releases in capital letters, or use exclamation marks excessively. People love to cap up their job titles only for the reporter to have to spend time changing it back to lower case. While “Operational Director of Corporate Internal Widgets Department” sounds great, it is often meaningless to everyone else. Pick up your nearest newspaper and have a look. You’ll see that even ‘prime minister’ remains in lower case.

2. Sending a release that sounds like an advert.

Don’t use words such as “unique”, “world-leading”, “exciting” or “FREE!”

3. Sending a release full of industry jargon and acronyms.

You might be comfortable with these, but other people are unlikely to be experts in the same field as you and will have to look all of these up. Keep things simple and readable – explain each acronym the first time you refer to it.

4. Not sending a photo or sending a bad one.

A photo enhances your press release and even if it doesn’t get used, it will draw an editor’s eye to your story. Make sure your photos are in focus, are relevant and are high quality.

5. Sending the same press release to 100 different journalists.
In the days when I was on the receiving end of press releases, I would simply delete any where my name was one among lots, particularly when these included our rival publications! Journalists want exclusivity, not to print the same things as everyone else.

6. Phoning on deadline

Know when the paper comes out and what the deadlines are. Or simply ask if it’s a convenient moment when you call.

7. Phoning without introducing yourself and saying “did you receive my press release”

Remember journalists can receive hundreds if not thousands of emails. They are unlikely to remember your press release.

8. Moaning that your competitors have been in the paper
Phoning a journalist and saying things like: “you NEED to include this” or “you need to do some PR for us” or “you never write about us”. Yes, people actually do this….

9. Leaving out contact information:

Include your name and mobile number so that the journalist can contact you if they need to follow up. Needless to say, many people forget to do this.

10. Cancelling interviews
I have worked with a couple of clients who have asked me to write a press release about them. We’ve sold the story in and a journalist has shown interest and asked for an interview; the client has then cancelled – sometimes without explanation. Journalists are highly unlikely to use your stories again if you let them down in this way.

11. And the last one. When a journalist has covered your story, instead of encouraging people to buy the paper, you simply put a photo of the piece up on social media. Sometimes this is accompanied by a rant about how they got a minor detail wrong and a line such as “typical newspapers”!

Good luck!

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