When I was a Junior Account Executive just starting out in public relations, I once made the mistake of asking a journalist when they would be publishing my client’s interview. Side note: there are two issues with this. First, never assume any interview will convert to coverage. The second is do your homework and monitor the publications you are interfacing with. With a sigh, the world-weary scribe patiently informed me that if I had read the latest issue I would know the piece in question was already out.
Fair enough. This was back in the days of print. The clippings service had yet to come through with the cutting and I hadn’t checked to see if the magazine arrived on the rack.
Looking back, I got off lightly. Today, with many publications sharing content in print and online, there really is no excuse. Yet here we are a couple of decades later and, if press feedback like this is anything to go by, PR rookies are still making the same mistakes.
Journalists are constantly calling out PR professionals for poor judgement and laziness on social media. Occasionally, there is even praise for those who get things right.
Perhaps this is why the industry is often not taken seriously. It’s easier to laugh, dismiss it as someone having a bad day at the office, and carry on as before.
As PR professionals, we engage with editors every day. The reasons for doing so are many and varied. Among the most frequent ones are the story pitch, the follow-up, the commentary, and the interview.
Done well, they can help build solid relations between clients and media.
But it’s a delicate balance and it doesn’t take a lot to upset things. Here are some of the things journalists complain about most when PRs try to engage with them in the wrong way.
1. The Pitch
One of the most basic errors in public relations is to approach a journalist without first doing some brief background reading to find out who they are and what areas they write about.
Rule #1 of PR, right? Amazingly it’s all too often forgotten, as these examples show: