Ten things PRs do that really annoy journalists: part three

Back in June I began this series with number one – expecting us to be a free media monitoring service – then in July number two was – failing to follow up on face-to-face meetings. After a summer break in August I’m resuming with number three – sending us irrelevant press release after irrelevant press release.

This isn’t going to come as a revelation to anyone who works in PR. Almost every PR professional I’ve spoken to about this knows that journalists get annoyed by irrelevant press releases. Most of them explain to me that this is either a problem with the media lists they buy in not being as accurate or up to date as they should be, or the fault of PR agencies that work on the principle that if you fling enough mud at a wall some of it will stick. Some of them use a more pungent word than mud.

I agree that these two problems contribute significantly to the problem. However, they are not all of it. There are hundreds and hundreds of PR professionals who work for reputable companies and invest in good, well-researched media lists, who are sending out irrelevant press releases. These PRs are not bad at their jobs – most of them have qualifications from universities or an industry bodies, many have received training on how to write a press release, a good number have been in the industry for years producing press releases to the same professional standard, and almost all of them are producing pointless press releases that serve only to damage their company or their client in the eyes of the media.

These are intelligent people who work hard doing what they believe is a professional job. But they’re failing to connect with the journalists they’re paid to influence because they’re not making their press releases relevant.

In most cases the problem is they forget that the journalist isn’t interested in their company or client; the journalist is only interested in his or her readers and what will inform or entertain them. So, a press release that talks about how a company has won a major new client, boosted sales, hired a new Chief Executive or begun expanding into a new sector is entirely irrelevant to the journalist.

It may well be that there’s plenty in the press release that would interest those readrs, but that isn’t explained in the press release. All the journalists see is another press release talking about how great the company is. It’s the PR equivalent of the bloke trying to impress a girl by talking all night about himself, his great job, his fast car, and so on and on. How often does that ever work?

The very best PRs in the business understand this. They go that extra step to make their press releases relevant to different segments of their media list. And they get results. Journalists read their press releases, follow up on them, write about their companies and clients in the way the PR wants, and then go back to that PR for more news and views. All because they know that PR understands what they want.

Doing this isn’t easy. Achieving the balance between conveying the achievements of the company and giving the journalist something interesting is difficult. Furthermore, as anyone who works in PR knows, you have a short space of time to produce a press release, usually about a fairly uninteresting subject, and you’ve got clients and/or marketing departments breathing down your neck, insisting you talk up their latest achievements.

In my half-day course “Press Releases That Get Results” I give delegates a methodology they can use again and again to make their press releases count. People who’ve worked in PR for 20 years have found it a really useful eye opener. People who’ve just started out in PR have found it gives them the best possible start to their press release writing careers. To find out more, click here: http://www.alex-blyth.co.uk/training_details.php?id=5

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3 Responses to “Ten things PRs do that really annoy journalists: part three”

  1. Celia Dixon Says:

    Do you know what – I find this hugely interesting. Largely because the idea of pitching a press release for the sake of it and sending press releases to magazines because you are told to is one of the reasons I had to get out of agency life. Even at a junior position I was aware that this prestigous journalist was not going to be interested in my incredibly uninteresting tech development – and yet I still had to pick up the phone. It really made pitching a story an uncomfortable task. (You’ll notice a lot of PR’s in agencies go into a room to use the telephone for this very task – not because it’s noisy but because they have a list of awkward calls to make). I took the other route and went in-house instead, where you need to build up relationships with key journalists instead. But I agree that the tone and direction still needs to have the right audience focus and that will always be an client vs PR battle…

  2. Diana Soltmann Says:

    Interesting comment from Celia. I think that press releases are a bit like CV’s. People tend to cram the most tedious and totally irrelevant things onto their CV’s and expect prospective employers to be enchanted by up to 4 pages on the fact that they are ‘driven individuals who enjoy a challenge’. Or that they are press officers who ‘have managed media relations at a high level organised press conferences and written press releases’ Maybe a theme for the next article?

  3. Nick Bowman Says:

    lol. I hope we don’t do that! In fact I’m sure we don’t, as we’re quite tough on who we do/do not send a release too. But then we were set up on the premise that we had to understand the media and journalist needs. As someone who writes a blog, I now find myself at the receiving end of PRs that have clearly never read the blog.

    Anyway Alex, about that release I sent you on widgets from Smartarse Industries plc…..

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