Working in PR is undoubtedly an exhausting, stressful job. As a journalist, I do my best to respond to people who reach out to me to pitch stories, even if it is just to say “I am too busy,” or “This is a topic I’d never cover—thanks anyway.”
There are a few things (well, about 10) that make the delete key look far more appealing than the reply button. A few even warrant taking the time to route anything from the sender directly to my spam folder.
Hopefully this list of 10 things that send me darting for the delete key can help a few of your emails dodge the trash folder:
1. Addressing me as Mr. Natalie, Ms. Navel, or Cindy. (I go by Natalie. Even “Hey there!” is a better option.) It takes time to go through emails. Though I try to respond to everyone who contacts me, it’s really hard to want to take time out of my day when you clearly didn’t take time out of yours.
2. Pitching an unrelated story immediately after (or during) a national crisis, mass shooting or enormous storm. It’s challenging to go from spending all day talking to victims about tragic losses and then getting hit with two emails about a new company’s latest financial gain and the CEO’s new book. When someone is insensitive to devastating news, it’s really hard to want to circle back to them to hear about why theirs is the best company ever.
3. Pegging an unrelated story to something devastating. One day after the Newtown Elementary School shooting I got a pitch for an iPhone app that claimed, if used in some ways, it could have helped grieving families. It couldn’t have helped. Nothing could help—particularly not your app that isn’t even intended for the purpose you are pitching. I couldn’t even muster the strength to respond.
4. Telling me about a survey that your company conducted that proves something in your favor. See: bias.
5. When the fonts, sizes, and colors of the words in your email pitch are mixed and matched like some kind of quilting nightmare. Some email clients change the color or font of text when it is copy and pasted. Take the time to clear formatting. If the sender isn’t thorough enough to notice a red, purple, and blue email, their information isn’t thorough enough to even try to wade through. Also: Don’t write anything in all caps. Ever. It just feels like you are yelling at me, especially when it’s in a subject line. Exclamation points can be scary, too.
6. If I wrote a story on one business and how they use social media on Tuesday, chances are I am not looking to write an identical story on your business and how you use social media on Wednesday. What are you doing that’s different? I don’t need to know why your company is a perfect fit for a deadline (and print date) that already passed.
7. If every email you send me has a subject starting with “New!” “Breaking!” “Please read” or “Once-in-a-lifetime story if you just click” I might start to think you exaggerate about your story’s newsworthiness. The delete key looks awfully tasty after a half-dozen of these a week.
8. You can’t write a “news article” promoting your company and then ask me to run it as is—or run it at all.
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9. When I tell you I never cover a certain topic, you can take me off your list. When I ask you twice to please take me off your list because I will absolutely never write on that topic, I am serious and not lying to you. When I’ve asked you four times to stop sending me pitches on the topic I will never cover, I will route you to my spam box.
10. No, you can’t read the story before it goes to print “just to check.” Also, I can’t guarantee a run date. I am not in charge of when news does or doesn’t break. Please don’t send me mean emails about how we aren’t featuring your story in the middle of a huge breaking news event.
Journalists, let’s hear it: What are some of your pet peeves that get a PR professional’s email deleted immediately?
Natalie DiBlasio is a breaking news reporter at USA TODAY and a broadcast host of the Web segment USA NOW. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service for building relationships with journalists using social media.