What do journalists do that annoy PRs?
New year, new collection of ‘things PRs do that annoy journalists’ lists circulating on Twitter. It’s not that I don’t think that they (sometimes) share valuable tips, or that I don’t recognize that PR people can be a bit annoying, it’s just the debate does seem a little bit one-sided. So, in recognition of the symbiotic journalist-PR person relationship, here’s a very rarely seen list of ‘things journalists do that annoy people in PR’ (based on a highly unscientific survey of me and some people I know). It of course comes with the usual massive caveats that most journalists are very pleasant professionals – but then most PR people aren’t guilty of the horror stories you see circulated either…..
– Generally, manners cost nothing. We know journalists are busy and important. We know we sometimes call with something you’re not interested in or at a bad time (though we really do try our best to avoid it). But there’s no excuse for being really rude. There are a lot of truly busy and important journalists out there who never behave like that.
– That said, being nice just to spare our feelings is also not necessarily a good thing. PR people are optimists – if a journalist tells us they’re interested in our story or going to run it, we believe you. Often we tell our clients. Honesty is usually the best policy – PRs are fairly hard to offend (largely thanks to point 1) and it will also mean that we send stuff more suited next time. The same principle works for accepting event invites, then not turning up – especially if it’s a charity event, or something that has cost the client money.
– Getting client’s names or organizations wrong happens surprisingly often, given that you can pretty much guarantee they were in the correct form in the original press release or email. I have some clients, with not especially complex names, where I’d say there’s only a 50/50 chance of it being right, even when we especially point it out beforehand. That said, everyone makes mistakes, but being helpful, rather than bad tempered, when asked to use the accurate version is generally considered good form.
– We know deadlines can be tight. But when a journalist comes to us at no notice, with a massive list of very specific things they need, it is nice to least appreciate that we might not be able to get you them all. If we can’t find a filming venue in a 3 mile radius of a studio in the next 25 minutes (when we never said we could in the first place), it’s not really fair to blame us. Also, unclear and vague requests can waste a lot of time – if there’s one thing that can be said about PRs, they’re always happy to chat to journalists who aren’t quite sure what they want, so try giving us the chance to work out what’s possible with you.
– And, probably the top one – breaking embargoes. Especially when there’s no real argument for it, or someone just forgot. The thing about trust-based systems is both sides need to stick to them. Embargoes can be a useful tool for both parties, and I’d hate to see the principle undermined.
Very open to your thoughts on this – there’s nothing healthier than a bit of debate….And happy symbiotic working in 2013!