Juggling two bosses - the client and the media, is never easy. Having spent a short eight months in public relations before joining Marketing, PR friends – I totally know how tough you have it. But while you are stretched for time, there are some mistakes that should absolutely be no-no’s. In fact, when I was in PR I wished I had commandments to how to speak to journalists.
So print this list and memorise it, ingest it, do what you must to remember these seven PR mistakes that all executives get wrong from time to time – and stay away from it.
- Thou shalt know thy journalist's name
We hate when you call us by our competitor’s name. I know some publications covering the same beat tend to sound a little similar, but this is one mistake you should not be making unless you wish to kill your chances of even being heard by the grumpy journalist. This will not only shed light poorly on you, but also your firm and your client. Also, please do know your journalist’s name. My editor adds, her name is Rezwana and not RezwanaM. That’s just her email ID. Feel free to say hi to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Thou shalt use BCC
What this does is prevent the mistake of informing all the journalists who exactly you pitched to, especially journalists from competing publications. We are already competitive by nature and this just makes us even more fidgety about getting the story out first. Not a great feeling. In some cases, I have had PR friends who had a diva journalist hit “Reply All” to the email thread and typing a snarky remark – publicly humiliating said PR person. Ouch.
- Thou shalt state embargo times clearly
We take embargos seriously. At least at Marketing, we do. What an embargo does is request that a journalist does not to publish the contents of a release or story until a certain time or date. So if your client or company is not ready to release the news to the public due sensitivities or simply due to the home base being in a different country (hence different time zone), please do not forget to inform the journalist/editor by simply placing the word “EMBARGOED UNTIL [DATE] [TIME]”.
Even better – place it in the subject line of your email, body of email and bold it in red for extra emphasis.
Also, when you put out an embargo, please ensure our competitors are also sticking to it. It’s really annoying to respect an embargo only to find our competitors happily publicising it.
- Know thy angle
PR agency friends, I know this point can be difficult especially if you are new and handling multiple accounts. But when time is tight and journalists are trying to get the news out, you are the main touch point between us and your client, so at bare minimum have the angle and the campaign you are pitching at your finger tips. If you go on with a simple “let me check and get back to you” and take more than an hour to respond when we want an immediate answer to a simple question, its stressful for everyone.
So know the right people to call, or connect us with someone who can help – just communicate!
- Know thy client
Expanding on that point, at least know what your client does and how the publication has reported the brand in the past. Knowing a journalist’s beat and how your client relates to the publication that helps too. They say content is king, but it is nothing without the right context. In the case of Marketing, unless you tell us how your brand’s new vacuum cleaner is being marketed, we will not be interested in a running a story about how powerful it is – even if it grows wings to fly.
- Thou shalt not send huge files that crash our emails
Unless we are expecting large, high resolution files from you for print purposes or video hosting, please do not send us large files without warning. We get tonnes of emails on the daily, most of which come with images and files we do not usually need, hence large files are likely to clog our incoming mail and slow down the system. Instead, insert a download link to your images so we can take it from there should we be interested in running the story.
- Thou shalt not spam
I know having multiple media lists is unavoidable, so when it comes to sending out email blasts, please ensure that you are not sending four press releases to the same publication or journalist. On top of that, we often send each other emails with your press releases to ensure coverage. We once had 7 copies of the same press release! This can be annoying so help us, help you!
All said and done, PR folks, we can’t imagine what work life would be like without you. Thank you for all your stories, your idea pitches and your forgiveness to our grumpy ways. We love you!