It’s a two-way street, journalists need PR pros to get access and information from clients, and PR pros need journalists to get the story published. Ideally, everyone is working together to achieve the same end goal but PR pros do express frustration regularly over behaviors that make the working relationship more difficult. With that in mind, the following are a few key things that savvy reporters will consider when working with PR pros:
No response to a pitch.
Assuming the pitch is on-target for the reporter’s respective beat, a simple “Not interested” is appreciated. It’s difficult for a PR pro to go back to a client without any kind of feedback. Client’s expect a yes or no, and would rather hear the reporter wasn’t interested than the PR pro couldn’t get him/her to respond. It’s also extremely frustrating to not receive feedback to numerous pitches and then a reporter comes out of the woodwork when he/she needs a resource. PR pros are less likely to work with reporters that haven’t been responsive.
Responding “yes” to a pitch, then going radio silent.
PR pros understand editorial plans change and reporters are frequently at the mercy of their editor’s decision to move forward on a story. If an interview needs to be put on hold or is nixed altogether, it’s best to be upfront about it. This also avoids unnecessary and bothersome follow-up calls/emails to the reporter to get an update.
Saying NEVER call me (or sounding angry when answering the phone).
We all agree email is a useful introductory tool but can’t replace a phone call to build working relationships and fully explain a pitch. Many reporters have stated they are inundated with email pitches, some up to 100 pitches per day. A follow-up phone call can quickly determine interest in a story and circumvent even more emails flooding an inbox. PR pros understand reporters may be on deadline and if this is expressed with a better time to call back, true pros will be respectful.
Act annoyed about receiving a pitch even though it’s on target for the respective beat.
PR pros have a job to do just like reporters have a job to do. Being annoyed that PR pros are pitching a story is a bit mystifying. If there is a specific reason the pitch isn’t well received, i.e. recently wrote a story on the same topic, sharing that with the PR pro can go a long way and hopefully avoids the same situation from happening in the future. If the PR pro is clueless as to why the reporter is annoyed, it’s likely he/she will continue to pitch/follow-up until some clarity is provided.
Not taking the time to read background information in advance of the interview.
PR pros understand a reporter’s time is at a minimum but clients assume their PR rep has provided this information to the reporter prior to the interview. A reporter asking basic background questions makes it look as if the PR pro didn’t do their job and also requires more time of the (also busy) client to address these questions rather than getting straight to the heart of the story.
Don’t give a time frame or heads up when the story will run.
One of the worst things that can happen for a PR pro, is for the client to forward a Google alert link to the published story. PR pros understand reporters often don’t know when a story is slated to run but appreciate as much advance notice as possible. If it hasn’t been determined at the time of the interview, a quick email (even the morning of) is better than no notice. This allows the PR pro to review the story in advance and address any potential concerns with the client when sharing the article, or request typo corrections with the reporter before sending to the client. Which leads us to….
Misspelling a client’s name in the story.
Typos happen, PR pros know this. The frustrating part is seeing the client’s disappointment when their name or company name is misspelled throughout a story. It looks unprofessional on the part of the reporter and since most outlets (understandably) won’t let PR pros review and approve a story before it’s published, rely on the reporter and editorial staff to catch typos. If it’s an online story and a quick fix, PR pros do appreciate corrections being made.
Setting unrealistic expectations about the reason for the interview.
If the interview is truly an introductory discussion, let the PR pro know so they can set realistic expectations with the client. This avoids the PR pro unnecessarily following up to ask when a story will run.