Ten things PRs do that really annoy journalists – part five

So, here we are halfway through the series. Just to recap for those who may not have followed it from the beginning this is a list of ten things that PRs do that really annoy journalists. I’ve put it together after speaking to many other journalists and also drawing on my own experiences over the years. It is worth noting that I work with a great many excellent PR professionals, and I like to think that I put more effort than most journalists do into building mutually productive relationships with those PR folk. I’m also very well aware that those who work in PR could very well write a list of ten things that journalists do to annoy them, or even ten things that Alex Blyth does to annoy them!

So, with those caveats in place, here’s what I have so far:

1) Expect journalists to operate as an unpaid media montoring service
2) Going oddly silent/AWOL
3) Sending irrelevant press releases
4) Writing like a PR, not a real person

Number five is: Pitching like they’re selling timeshare properties

Sometimes I get a call from someone who works in PR. They ask if I’ve got a minute to talk. Then they tell me that they have some news that will interest readers of a title I write for. Or they tell me they’ve got an idea for a article that will fit nicely into a particular title. Then they briefly outline the story, tell me who will be interested and why, and ask me what I think of it.

Other times I get a call from someone who works in PR. They tell me about their company, or their client. They go on to tell me all about the great products or services that company has. Then they tell me about the exciting new hire the company’s made, or about the revolutionary new product or service it’s just launched, or about the company’s five-year growth strategy, or about the latest office move, or about what the Chairman had for breakfast that morning, or something, whatever, I’ve stopped listening, and am just hoping this person will stop talking soon. Or at least at some point before next year’s World Cup kicks off.

You see what I mean?

When in life are we ever interested in a conversation with someone who just talks at us? Never. People need to be engaged in a dialogue or they just switch off. So, it amazes me how often I get these sort of phone pitches.

As I’ve noted previously on this blog it’s crazy that PR agencies tend to get their most junior person to do the media ring-round, and yes I do feel sorry for the person having to make these calls. But at the same time my first proper job, when I was 21, involved picking up the phone and pitching to marketing directors of blue chip companies. I figured out pretty quickly that if I just talked at them they’d end the call. So I learnt to ask questions, to listen to the answers, to ask further questions, to draw links between what they were saying and what they were saying, to build some sort of rapport.

It’s really not that hard to do, and I’m sure everyone in the world of journalism and PR would be much happier if the people making these calls figured it out, or, failing that, if the people ordering those PR execs to make those calls at least gave them a few hours of training on how to do it well. Surely that’s not asking too much?

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