How NOT to Approach a Journalist

altThere are ways to absolutely guarantee that your story pitches and news releases will be ignored by editors.

Here’s an email from an editor describing “how NOT to approach editors.” A real-world case, believe it or not: “This PR consultant is demanding, condescending and clueless about what we’re looking for and how many releases we receive. Every time we see this person’s name in our inbox we shudder and delete.”

This is an extreme case of a woefully unprofessional PR person, but it’s real.

Whether you are pitching a story for your own business or working as a PR pro on behalf of a client, consider these tips for dealing with professional journalists:

1. Be courteous. Respect the editor’s time and workload. Know his or her deadlines and don’t expect rapid response. Do not hound an editor with phone calls and don’t harass them for not picking up your story. By the same token, if it’s breaking news and you don’t want the editor to lose access to the story, an email followed by a phone call is just fine.

2. Be thorough. Save the editor time by providing complete, yet concise, information. A news release or advisory should provide the who, what, when and where, but most of all the why-should-I-care. Add your contact info and a hyperlink to more information.

3. Be accessible. It’s obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how often people send out a release and then are traveling on an airplane all day instead of being available by phone.

4. Be generous. If a reporter picks up on your story, suggest additional sources that might make the piece more complete or relevant to an industry trend. The journalist may not have time or space to follow up on your ideas, but you’ll earn a reputation as a reliable source, not just a publicity seeker.

5. Be polite. When a journalist covers your story, send an email thank-you note. Reporters and editors receive very little external affirmation in their jobs, so your courtesy will be remembered. Keep it brief and don’t gush.

Journalists aren’t required to cover your story. If you provide the right information in the right way, and if you’re pleasant to deal with, you can avoid the “shudder and delete” response that will kill your story before it has a chance to be told.

 

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