20 common PR habits that drive journalists bonkers

Public relations pros know better, but somehow these worst practices worm their way into the course of a workweek. So to review, here are peeves, taboos and no-nos to avoid at all costs.

How to stop annoying journalists

We are rerunning the most-viewed articles of 2019. This was one of the top five most-popular public relations articles of the year.

Interacting with journalists is a lot like dating.

You have to play it cool, wait three days before you call (or better yet, call never) and stop the digital stalking.

From our journalist friends and acquaintances, we’ve heard it all from their pet peeves to their horror stories about PR professionals.

Here’s what not to do—in no particular order, as they’re all important:

  • Mass email your press release with no pitch or an impersonal pitch.
  • Get the journalist’s name wrong or misspell it.
  • Use Random Capitalization and other stupid writing mistakes. Unsurprisingly, most journalists are sticklers for grammar, punctuation and spelling.
  • Load up your email with attachments. If you can’t paste it in the body of the email, don’t send it.
  • Call to ask whether they got your mass emailed press release.
  • Email the same press release multiple times if you don’t get a response.
  • Send lengthy pitches, maundering rather than quickly saying why they should care.
  • Use loads of jargon.
  • Pitch them without ever reading any of their work.
  • Pitch a story they would never write.
  • Keep calling or emailing to follow up on a story. (If they’re interested, they’ll reply.)
  • Use tragic events to get a client’s product into a story.
  • Bombard them with texts, emails or calls to their personal accounts or phones.
  • Use journalists’ nicknames, signing off with something inappropriate or affectionate.
  • Pretend you know them at an event to initiate a conversation. (They know they’ve never met you before, and now they think you’re creepy.)
  • Invite them to an event, only to show them the same offering from the year before.
  • Take ages to respond to a question. Even if they’re writing for a long-lead publication, they still have deadlines.
  • Provide inaccurate information.
  • Set up an interview with an unprepared and/or rude client spokesperson.
  • Ask to review an article before it’s published. It’s one thing if they offer, but never

Shalon Roth is the founder of PR-it, a global community of communications experts delivering 24/7 on-demand work for agencies and curated project teams for brands. She’s also co-authored How to Succeed in a PR Agency: Real Talk to Grow Your Career & Become Indispensable (Routledge 2019). A version of this post first appeared on the PR-it blog.


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