As a public-relations professional, you talk to your client, you research your press release, you consult your list of news contacts and then you send out your release to the media. And nothing happens. No response. Nada!
You thought you did everything right. Now, you must go back to your client and explain… If you don’t lose the account, you may certainly get an upbraiding or maybe even a threat that if you don’t do better the next time, there won’t be a time after that. How can you avoid this type of scenario?
HJMT has been in the PR and marketing business for more than two decades. We know tons of reporters and editors and we have gotten both our reprimands and Atta-boys. So what makes a reporter read your release and consider your news?
We consulted with our newsroom contacts, and here are the ten worst things a public relations professional can do to: a.) turn off a reporter; b.) fail to get a response, or c.) get a rude reply that is also forwarded to the client.
- Being demanding. Tell a reporter something along the lines of, “This must run on Page One of tomorrow’s paper.” That may sound like an unbelievable line, but according to our media contacts, it’s happened, and more than once too. You are not the reporter’s boss. You may suggest or request. You may never demand.
- Lying to a reporter. Telling a reporter you are giving him or her an ‘exclusive’ when you have already given it to some other media outlet not only destroys your credibility, but puts you in the dog house for a long, long time.
- Hiding news. If, say, you are writing a release for a company that plans to lay off a thousand people, and you start out with the CEO saying how wonderful the company is and what great things it is doing, you have attempted to bury the lede, and the reporter will spot it in a moment and think little of you or the company. Many companies will try to do this, and it’s your job to explain to them what a bad idea that is.
- Providing incorrect facts. The good reporter or editor will check each and every fact in your release. Make sure they are all accurate. If not, the reporter will think you are lazy or ignorant or both. Your release will also suffer from a credibility gap.
- Writing puffy quotes from the CEO. The reporter can see right through these and won’t use them anyway. If you need a quote from the CEO, it will certainly be a positive quote. But try to make it more factual than anything else. Facts are very much appreciated by the media.
- Leaving out a call-back number. According to our sources, there are few things more annoying to a reporter on deadline than to look for a phone number in a release and find no one there. The other cardinal sin is putting in a number and not having anyone available to answer the call. When the reporter calls the number, he or she expects to get a live person on the phone that is able to answer questions. If you say you are going to be available, be available.
- Leaving out boilerplate. You may think no one reads this stuff, but they do. A reporter in a rush will scan the boilerplate for some key details or dates that otherwise might take more time to look up. So while you may think boilerplate is boring and unimportant, it’s not. It’s necessary.
- Waiting until the last minute. When sending out a media alert, you need to send late in the day before the event. Then you need to follow up with a phone call the next morning to make sure the message was received and that someone from the newsroom will attend. The day’s plans for the neMake sure your event is on the list of things to be covered that day.
- Harassing with follow up calls. Calling half dozen or more times to ask if your release has been received is a giant no-no. One call is all it should take. Two gets annoying and three is likely to be met with a hang-up.
- Writing more than one page of a release. Few reporters or editors have the time to go through two or three pages of a press release. Cut, cut, cut out all but the essentials, and make sure to include, time, date, place, contact number, and email address.
None of this guarantees you success on the field. But it may save you some time, embarrassment and disappointment in dealing with extraordinarily busy media contacts. Following these simple rules will make you more friends in the newsroom than enemies.