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How to annoy journalists and never ever get your business in the news

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PR and coverage from journalists can be just the boon a fledgling business needs. The opportunity to explain your products and getting you precious time with potential new customers should be what your business aims for.

So it begs the question, why do so many people get it so wrong?

Whether you are doing your own media relations or are using a PR agency to do it for you, it is important that journalists are not annoyed by you or your business.

However, somewhere along the line it seems getting right up the nose of your intended new media ally has become the advice du jour. So much so that if you decide you don’t want to be the like nails down the PR chalkboard, you stand out from a very annoying crowd.

So what are the most common ways you can enter the danger zone?  Here’s your official guide on how to annoy a journalist and obliterate your PR chances.

Pitch things that are not newsworthy

If you want to waste your time and a journalist’s time, then join the large group of businesses that pitch them things that are not newsworthy.

The idea that everything new is news and should be brought to the press’ attention is a fallacy. Many businesses confuse something new with something newsworthy.

If your message is something that you would normally use an advertisement to say, for example, announcing that your business is having a stocktake sale or that you are better than your competitors, then this is not newsworthy.

Your business holding a Christmas sale is not newsworthy. Nor is your press release about a hot new trend without any research to back it up. And forget bleating about your marketing campaign that was breakthrough back when the Kardashians were novel.

Journalists are trusted by their readers to provide interesting, up-to-date and accurate material. They too have a personal brand to protect. If what you are suggesting does not fit in with their ethos and style, then you are wasting their time- and yours.

Fail to research your target

Pitching to a journalist is a lot like asking for a favour. In order for it to have a positive outcome, you need to know the kind of person you are dealing with. You need to balance your request for their time with courtesy and consideration. A sure-fire way to frustrate a journalist and potentially rule out any future media coverage is to fail to do your research.

It isn’t rocket science. Make sure you know what kinds of stories they cover, who the audience is, how often the publication runs, what sections are included and what the tone of voice is.

Check your target’s recent stories so that you aren’t pitching something similar to what they’ve recently covered or something that represents a conflicting opinion. 

And unless you want to rule out any opportunity for media coverage, always make sure that what you send is the sort of thing you expect to read in your target media outlet.

In short, do your homework.

Be unavailable

Nothing annoys a journalist more than being stuck between a deadline and the dead silence of an unreturned call.

Unlike dating, playing hard to get with a journalist doesn’t win you points. Actually, playing hard to get only gets you replaced with another business that is willing to return the calls, emails and be available for comment.

If you want to maximise your chances of receiving press coverage this time and the next, make sure you are available. For extra brownie points, also make available photos, bios, website links and anything else that saves your journalist any additional correspondence.

Ignore deadlines

Did you just let the sound of a media deadline whoosh past your ear? It’s OK though. I mean, there are other editions, right? And journalists can afford to wait, right?

Wrong.

Don’t be foolish enough to think that a media outlet with booked advertisers and other stories to run will stop the presses to work around your tardiness.

If you are late, you’re out. And you’ll probably have one less journalist to contact in future as a result.

Provide low quality images

A picture is worth a thousand words. Except when it’s barely visible and pre-dates the Bee Gees.

Blurry, irrelevant and criminally small images not only send your journalist and their designer around the twist, they also look downright abysmal to your intended audience.

Nobody will use them. If you want a better chance of getting media coverage and impressing a journalist, invest in decent photography and logos. It matters. A lot.

Get your facts wrong

Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story! I mean, who needs verifiable sources and proven information when you’re trying to be credible and trustworthy?

As extreme as that attitude may seem, many a business has fallen foul of the temptation to create or massage facts.

Your journalist and your readers will judge you on the factual content of your statements. And anything that isn’t correct can and will come back to haunt.

So always stick to the facts.

Don’t try to be clever

“We’re a solution-orientated company with a green ethos that prides ourselves on customised experiences for our bespoke community,”

I’m sorry, what did you just say?  Speak in plain English. And leave the buzzwords out of it.

Annoying journalists is an art-form

Think about the situation from a journalist’s perspective and show a little empathy. Journalists have hefty deadlines, a lot of pressure and are usually juggling multiple stories at once.

Every step you make to being a bountiful resource of knowledge and a helpful person who has all your ducks in a row is a step in the right direction. Being pleasant about it and fostering an open door policy is the icing on the cake.

The easier you make it for a journalist to get what they need for a story, the more likely you are to be that story.

Phoebe Netto is the founder and Managing Director of Good Business Consulting, a boutique agency specialising in public relations, marketing and business advice for small and medium sized business and not-for-profits. She has led public relations and marketing programs for a diverse range of clients and industries, large and small.

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