7 questions that drive journalists bonkers

Seasoned PR pros should know to avoid these queries and requests, yet somehow at least one or two will creep into the exchange. Print them out and post them so you never utter them.

PR pros do certain things that turn reporters off completely.

Yes, reporters can get cranky with us—but sometimes we deserve it. Though everyone makes mistakes, we should learn from others’ experience and avoid those same missteps.

With that in mind, here are some questions reporters don’t want to hear:

1. Did you get my email?

Assume that, unless your message bounced back to you, the reporter received your message. If you want to follow up, try this: “I’m following up re: X. Please let me know should you have any questions or need anything further.”

2. Something came up—can we reschedule our meeting/call?

The answer is no.

You were lucky to get a meeting in the first place, so the last thing you want to do is to ask to reschedule. Reporters are busy—and their time is extremely valuable—so do whatever you must to make it work. Just make sure your client is there, on time and ready to go.

3. Can we review the story before it goes to print?

Again, no. That isn’t the way PR works.

If you want control over the content, buy an ad. With PR, the story is in the reporter’s hands. If you and your client are nervous about what the story might say, remember that journalists are trained to write news and feature articles and that they have editors who review their work.

4. Will you publish the press release exactly as it reads?

The press release is information you provide so a reporter can write a story. If the publication prints it verbatim, congratulations—you’ve hit the jackpot. However, that isn’t the norm. You should expect the reporter to write a story based on the information you’ve provided. Again, what the story might say is not up to you.

5. Can you wait for us to get you that customer reference/product sample/image you requested?

No—no, they can’t. If a reporter has asked for something, drop everything and do your best to get it to him or her—fast.

Media opportunities should take priority over almost anything else you’re doing. Provide what journalists need before they even ask for it. Anticipate what they may want, and prepare it far in advance. That way, it’s easy to send over that additional piece of information as soon as it’s requested.

6. Can you use this previously published material?

Generally, no. They want fresh material, especially if you’re writing a contributed article. Don’t try to pass off something that’s already seen the light of day, unless you’ve made significant changes—or unless you’ve made it crystal clear that it has been published elsewhere.

7. Can you get back to me by Tuesday? Otherwise, I’ll assume you’re not interested.

This sounds more like a threat than a deadline—and generally speaking, reporters set the deadlines for us (and their editors set the deadlines for them)—not the other way around. If a reporter is interested, he or she will respond when ready. Many times, if they like a story pitch, it will be sooner rather than later. Remember, though, they set the timeframe.

So, ditch the annoying questions above to help you build a relationship based on trust and respect with your media contacts. Be the kind of PR pro they look forward to hearing from.

Michelle Messenger Garrett is a public relations consultant, speaker and award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, startup and Silicon Valley experience. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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Topics: PR


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