The Top 10 PR Mistakes Journalists Hate Most

This is a guest post by Angus Wood, assistant account executive at Citypress.

This is a guest post by Angus Wood, assistant account executive at Citypress.

The relationship between PRs and journalists is important, and things go smoothly the vast majority of the time. But poor practice can strain things – you only need to look at @SmugJourno on Twitter to see that. The account retweets the complaints of irate journalists who have had frustrating encounters with PRs. It’s like a free, if angry, advice board on things that journalists don’t like you to do.

There are a few common mistakes PRs make that can easily be avoided, which would keep the PR-press relationship as productive as possible. To get an idea of what these mistakes are, I took a random sample of 191 retweets from @SmugJourno (roughly 10 percent of the account’s tweets at the time of writing), categorized the complaints and worked out which ones were the most common.

1. Bad timing

With 18 percent of the complaints, bad timing has the unenviable position of number 1 on the list of PR mistakes. A lot of things fall under this category, but the most common ones are sending out press release too late, too early, with too long of an embargo or during a big news event that isn’t related to the story.

2. Irrelevance

Irrelevance came a close second, with 17.8 percent of complaints. It’s a very common mistake, and it can be easily avoided with some research into the publication. A lot of journalists complained that they were receiving pitches for things which were way outside their area of expertise or only tenuously connected to it. A few even complained that they had received pitches about companies or events that were in other countries.

3. Repetition

This came in third, taking up 13 percent of complaints. Many journalists complained that PRs had phoned them to check if they’d received their press release. But repetition is not the same as a follow-up, because a proper, useful follow-up will offer something extra that could help the journalist. For example, I sold in a story contained stats for regions in the U.K. After I issued this, I went through the stats again and created versions of the release that focused on individual cities, which offered journalists interested in the story something extra.

4. Wrong name

With 12 percent, this mistake is common enough to warrant its own category. Most commonly, PRs spell the name of the journalist wrong, get completely the wrong name or, even worse, leave a name template in place when sending mass emails. It shows carelessness and disrespect and, accordingly, it really annoys journalists.