Thursday, May 1, 2008

5 Fun Ways to Annoy a Reporter

I know a lot of excellent publicists but I haven't worked with many of them lately. Instead, I've encountered some who either need more training, a hefty dose of common sense, or a brain transplant.

But let's not dwell on whether these people should explore a different career. Let's focus instead on what we can learn from their mistakes so that those of us who need to promote our organizations, products or services but don't have a PR education or training can succeed without making the same mistakes as some of the "pros."

Here are five really fun ways to annoy a journalist:
  1. Pitch her on an interview with your client for a story that needs your client's expertise. After the reporter agrees to an interview, say, "I'll check his availability," then do nothing. When the journalist follows up with "Are we doing this interview?" say, "My expert is passing on this opportunity." And make sure you don't apologize for your silence or the outcome.
  2. Send an article pitch letter claiming that your program is the only one of its kind in the country when a quick Internet search reveals there are several just like it.
  3. Invite a trade magazine to write a case study that involves your client and one of its customers, promising interviews with key individuals in the customer organization. But don't -- and this is real important -- don't tell the American writer assigned to the story that the sources only speak Spanish.
  4. Convince an editor to profile your program by promising to provide contact information for clients who can comment on how they use what they learned from your program in their jobs. Then deliver nobody. Nada. Zip. Make sure you discover you have no customers who will talk to a journalist after you've promised that you do and only after the reporter has done the rest of the interviews for the story, which now can't be completed.
  5. Follow-up with the reporter one week after an interview for a monthly magazine to ask if the article "has appeared yet." When the reporter explains that articles don't appear in magazines for at least three months because of the publication cycle, get all huffy and say, "Of course I know that."
Have you tortured a journalist lately? Writers, what have publicists done to make you want to pull your -- or their! -- hair out? Tell us!


Marcia Layton Turner said...

I think I may have a sixth fun way for your consideration, Sandy: Respond to a ProfNet posting that clearly states that I do not - I repeat, do not - need experts, with a recommended expert who would be perfect for my article. Yes, she probably would be, if I needed experts, that is.


Anonymous said...

95 percent of the PR people I work with are outstanding professionals. But the 5 percent, oy! There was one overbearing PR rep who represented an author I'd interviewed. My article, for a national pub, didn't have a publication date. She would send me these e-mails: "My client would like an answer this week when we can expect coverage in X magazine." I'd patiently explain the process, she's send a huffy note back, lather, rinse, repeat. She treated me like I was her (rhymes with witch). Then I found out she called the magazine and complained when she reached my editor. OK, gloves off. I'm friendly with my editor, so when she asked me to cut a few words on final edit, I snipped the title of the author's book out of the article. We both approved of the cut.

Anonymous said...

I agree, many are great professionals. But some are also experts at aggravating writers. I absolutely have seen most of the ways you mentioned above (especially love the "has the article appeared yet" a week after an interview). Some of my favorite tricks and tips:
1.)Respond to Profnet postings with nothing more than a "This sounds interesting" or some other equally vague and annoying reply. I don't have time to ferret out your qualifications or expertise if you're not going to give them to me. Besides, that kinda makes me think you (or your unfortunate client) won't be that enlightening of an interview anyway.
2.)I just got this today, exact email: "What else do you write for? Are you in New York?" Um, how does that help with my story?
3.) Send me a press release and then follow up with a phone call ONE hour later. Do you actually expect I'll be able to act on it by then? Please! That's a good way to get your release trashed. Better yet, don't call me unless we've at least had email exchanges before.

Okay, I guess I've vented enough for now. Thanks for a great post!

Anonymous said...

One more: Pitch a story that sounds like you rep a doctor or medical center, then once I place it, tell me you actually rep a medical device maker and would like to see them mentioned in the piece. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Here's another: Spam every reporter in the known universe with the all important news that your company has appointed a new vice president of its widget manufacturing division. And?

First, I'm a science writer, not a business writer, and I never cover personnel changes at companies. It's not my beat. And, this may be news inside your company, but I doubt anyone else really cares. Be selective and publicize only real news--don't throw anything and everything at a wall to see what will stick. If you do, I will quickly alter my filtering system to automatically route emails from your company to the trash. Not because I dislike you personally, but because reading your emails wastes my time, and I don't have time to spare.