Reporters Sometimes Hate PR People, And Maybe They Should?

Gus Noda PicBy Gus Nodal, SAE at LCI
Why would a reporter dread reading an email or picking up a phone call from a PR professional? The answer is simple: some PR pros only focus on their self-interests and completely ignore the basic idea of relating to the media.
In an effort to help our blog readers get to know the media better, LCI continuously invites members of the media to answer questions in our “Meet the Media” blog. In my opinion, the most interesting question is: “What is your PR pet peeve?”
The following summarizes a few reporter PR pet peeves (actual quotes) and my advice on how to handle such situations.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
“Having a person contact me without doing any research on me. I have a radio program, which means your suggested guest must be available to be… on the radio. Simple? You would be surprised.”Joel Riddell, host of “Dining Around” on Newstalk 910
“It annoys me when a PR person pitches a story and then doesn’t have any of the needed elements for TV lined up. For example, the person attached to the story doesn’t want to go on camera. Or, the visuals associated aren’t available.” Reggie Aqui, news anchor at ABC7 (San Francisco)
“As a reporter for a daily publication, it’s always refreshing to work with PR teams who can manage my strict deadlines and quickly connect me with appropriate sources or experts.” Samantha Weigel, reporter at the San Mateo Daily Journal
TAKEAWAY: Be as helpful as you can. The best way to move your PR goals forward is to find out what journalists want and provide it. It helps to know the reporters at your local paper, the assignment editors at your local TV news desk and the producers at your local radio station. It will benefit PR professionals greatly to grab coffee or lunch with a reporter and ask them to describe their process so that next time you contact said reporter, the pitch is backed up with all the elements necessary to create a magical story.
DO NOT LIE
“It’s certainly a bummer when you’re promised an exclusive story or interview, only to find out it’s been handed out to another publication.”Tessa Love, reporter at San Francisco Business Times
“Thankfully, this has only happened once. But my ultimate peeve is being flat-out lied to by a publicist. I was on deadline trying to reach a chef. I was told that the chef was on vacation. I found out on my own that the chef quit, and the restaurant was trying to keep that hushed. That was the epitome of unprofessionalism.”Carolyn Jung, food writer and Editor of Food Gal
“I don’t like being sold a bill of goods. It doesn’t happen often, but there are times when we’ve shown up to a live shoot only to find that the story was not as advertised.”Bob Redell, reporter at NBC Bay Area
TAKEAWAY: Tell the truth. PR professionals definitely aid reporters by providing access to sources and, in most cases, suggesting ideas for stories. These points aside, it’s pretty obvious when a PR professional only cares about the interest of his/her client but has little interest in the reporter. As human beings, we tend to respond negatively when we feel like we’re being used or misled. As PR professionals, the last thing we want is to be thrown in the same category as lawyers and car salespeople. For this reason, we should never lie and never promise what we can’t deliver.
LEARN TO PITCH
“Folks who call and say, ‘Did you get my email?’”Carolyn Said, business reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle
“Pitches promoting a destination that we’ve just covered and E-mails that pretend to be follow-ups to earlier conversations.”Christopher Reynolds, travel writer at the Los Angeles Times
“Thinly veiled product placements and pitching something because it’s “fill-in-the-blank awareness month.” Writers don’t care about made-up holidays!”Meredith May, reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle
TAKEAWAY: PR is not a complex mystery that needs unraveling. It’s mostly just common sense mixed with knowledge. However, writing a pitch requires dedication and interest. First, make sure your pitch sounds like it came from a human being and not copied from a company’s brand positioning statement. You get one shot if you’re lucky enough to even get your email opened, and if they’re reading your pitch and it sounds like a commercial, they’ll delete it. And then you’re gone forever. Also, be honest with your follow-up pitch and never assume a reporter has read your email. Finally, nothing hurts the credibility of a pitch like sloppy mistakes. Read and re-read your pitch, ask someone to proof read, and then again re-read your pitch.
What tips have you picked up for working with the media? Leave a comment below or tweet us @LandisComm.
Gus Nodal is a public relations senior executive at Landis Communications Inc. with over a decade of media relations and political strategy experience. 

3 thoughts on “Reporters Sometimes Hate PR People, And Maybe They Should?

  1. Gus, couldn’t agree more. These are great tips for all PR pros. And thank you Joel, Reggie, Samantha, Tessa, both Carolyns, Bob, Christopher and Meredith for your insights. Remember as PR pros our job is both to serve our clients as well as the media. That means know what a good story is, what real news is and making sure we do the research before we pitch. Cheers, David

  2. Gus, thanks for the great takeaways. I appreciate Meredith May’s comment about pitches surrounding awareness months. I can see how reporters would become exhausted reading emails about made-up holidays. Probably best to tie your client to a larger trend rather than force the news.

  3. Gus, your advice and comments are so spot on! I agree with you – so much of this is common sense, and yet, there are PR professionals who seem to be lacking in that area (or, even worse, they just don’t care) – and we don’t want them to make a bad rap for the rest of us who are working honestly and trying to be a reliable source of information and story ideas. Thanks for the great insights.

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