Building great relationships with journalists and bloggers is crucial to any successful PR strategy, but this is often easier said than done. Journalists are very busy and they deal with a barrage of pitches a day – so if you can avoid annoying them or taking up more of their time than necessary, you're going to be off to a good start!
While there are a number of ways you can impress when you're pitching journalists your story, there are also a few strategies and behaviours that will almost certainly irritate the hell out of them. And of course, the last thing you want to do is annoy the very person you're trying to impress, but it's easy to make the mistake without even realising it.
Here are 10 common things that annoy journalists and bloggers. (Tip: DON'T do these things!)
It's important to research the journalist and publication before you send your pitch. Look at their target audience – are they going to be interested in what you have to say? For example, if you're pitching a story about an exciting new tooth whitening treatment, don't send it to a hunting and shooting mag.
It's natural that you're going to be excited about a new development in your business or industry, but a new product release is not necessarily going to be news in the eyes of the media. Read up on what makes a newsworthy story (see 'WHAT DOES NEWSWORTHY MEAN, AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?') and make sure you have an angle that is going to spark their interest before you write that media release.
It's a good idea to be aware of file size whenever you send an email. Avoid uncompressed images and don’t send your press release as an attachment if you can avoid it. You're not going to get on anyone's good side if you crash their email server.
While there's nothing wrong with a polite follow up, it's a good idea to leave it a few days first. Phoning or emailing an hour after you sent the press release can make you look pushy and it may irritate a busy journalist who might be on a deadline.
Is your story really the most exciting thing ever? Be careful when you are creating those pitches that you don’t over hype your story. It's far better to present the evidence and main facts and let them speak for themselves than fill your press release with superlatives and exclamation marks.
When pitching your story it's essential that you include data and facts that back up what you're saying. It's equally important to make sure these facts are from reliable sources. Remember, the journalist's credibility is at stake here, and they aren't going to publish a story without making sure it's verified first.
In an era where personalisation is more important than ever before, most bloggers and journalists are not going to take kindly to being bcc’d into your mass distributed press release. Given the volume of emails that most journalists receive on a daily basis, you are far better writing a personalised email to each specific person and publication. It may take a few more minutes, but you’ll have a far better chance of actually getting it read.
Journalists usually work on very tight timeframes, which means if they do get in touch with you regarding a potential story, you should respond as quickly as possible. Dragging your heels could not only cause stress for the journalist, it may mean being passed over for a competitor who returns calls promptly.
You might want to think carefully before sending the elaborate, quirky press kit you created for your client, especially if it involves bulky packaging. Journalists' offices are not known for their spacious layout, and a big press kit could be more of a hindrance than a help.
Unless you actually know them, don't add the journalist who published your story as a Facebook friend. In the vast majority of cases, it's best to keep things on a professional footing and stick with LinkedIn and Twitter.
Building sustainable relationships with journalists and bloggers takes time, but it's a strategy that can really pay off for your clients and business. If you can avoid many of the usual mistakes that drive them insane, you can increase the chances of staying on a positive footing with the journalists you pitch to, and creating a positive relationship that benefits you both.