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The Top 10: Why Journalists Hate PR Peeps
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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I have been fortunate in my career of flackdom in that I have been on the other side. Yes, my peeps, I worked in the news for 12 years in radio. They were great times, namely the countless moments I learned, "If I ever go to the dark side, I will not do these inane things that PR people to do me." I was having lunch with a friend of mine on TV and we were talking about some of these half-witted tactics used to get the media's attention. 

Amazing what a bad lunch and good company inspires, eh? Consider this my PSA to you: Here's the Top 10 things you should NOT be doing in PR...and if you are, consider quitting your job immediately because I'll be damned if you are not making this gig downright impossible for the rest of us. I could have said that nicer, but the lunch was Cajun food so I have a little angst. 

1. Deadlines. In case you haven't noticed, kids, news happens in real time. And if you only happen from 9 to 5, you may want to pick up an application the next time you deposit your check at your bank. News is 24/7. You should be as well. 

2. Flattery. "I have just heard the most amazing story..." Yeah, and your client thinks that pitch sucks too. Flattery has really gotten better PR pros than you or I nowhere. In the words of someone probably too old for most of you to even Google, "Just the facts, ma'am." Stick with those when pitching, okay?

3. Same Ol'. Same Ol'. If your client has a familiar story or a product with the same tired angle, you may want to consider being real with said client or get inventive. In short, if it's the same ol' story, give the reporter a new reason to care. 

4. Cold Pitches. Quick Quiz: How much do you enjoy telemarketers? What about junk mail? SPAM, anyone? Yeah, I didn't think so. That said, what makes you think a reporter enjoys getting some BCC email from you? Nothing says, "I could give a crap less" than seeing an email from you addressed to...you. (That's what happens with BCC emails. Just a hint.) 

5. Desksides. There are successful ways to invite a reporter to lunch and be professional about it. And then there are these instances: "Our CEO is in town this week. You want to make time to meet?" Translation: "Damn, the big man is in town and I need to look like we are doing our job. Help a brother out please?" 

6. Embargos. Personally, this is a form a bullying. However, if you represent a monster brand, you MAY get away with that slimy tactic. You know, "Um, agree to this media embargo and I'll slip you a release." Why not have a relationship with a reporter and offer a scoop on the down low? That's called respect; you will earn it and they will show it. 

7. Research. Amazing what five minutes on Google will do for you. That reporter who you asked to turn your story in two days? Check to see if he or she works for a dot com versus a monthly publication. And that heavy tech piece? Discover if your target just contributed to a story but has a beat in the local crime department. Your client may thank you for it later. 

8. Be there or be square. Although clients can be a pain in the tuckus, it's your reputation on the line, so represent. If you pitch a reporter to speak with your CEO, and said executive is too busy on the back nine at the range with meetings on that day, guess who just got screwed? The brand will be fine, but you just lost a source. And what's worse: a client that can fire you or a reporter that holds a grudge?

9. Relationships. Do you know the reporter? I don't mean in that "I saw you on the news last night and you couldn't pick me out on a milk carton" know you way. I mean, you go to lunch with this person, you have discussed something other than work with this person, or even you know the person's cell phone number. If that is how you "know" them, then it's okay to ask "How are you doing?" Otherwise, try to...you know...meet them first. 

10. Hooked on Phonics Did Not Work For You. For the love of everything that is sacred in this gig, know how to spell the person's name. I understand many of you personalize a form letter pitch. They do too, but that is no excuse for not getting the reporter's name right, and if he or she has viewers...er, listeners...I mean, readers. Oh, you know what I mean. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to a happy hour. I suppose my next Top 10 should be very interesting. 


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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