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Why your press releases are treated like spam [Five ways to alienate a journalist]


Having run free PR and media leads service SourceBottle for just over a 18 months, I have gathered some rare insights into the minds of journalists.

I know what works, what doesn’t and what will lead to a figurative black mark against your name.

Let’s cut to the chase: journalists only want to hear from you if you’ve got something newsworthy for them.

Save the bland, untargeted announcements.

To journalists, these are the PR equivalent to the penis enlargement emails that clog up your junk folder.

The average journalist will receive from 20 to 200 PR news releases per day. And, as a result, most are treated like spam. (Delete. Delete. Delete.)

Here are five tips to avoid being black-listed as the person who cried ‘news’:

1. Being unavailable when deadlines loom

I know your time is valuable and you can’t be at the beck and call of a journalist in the hope you might get your story published. However, you need to appreciate that journalists’ deadlines are critical.

If they don’t have your contribution by deadline-time, they can’t quote you. Simple. Of course, this also means that being available and happy to comment gets you a big tick from a journalist on deadline.

2. Pitching something off-topic or irrelevant

If you went to an obstetrician looking for advice on your ingrown toenail, you’d expect to be thrown out of the surgery.

So, why blindly pitch a beauty product to a technology reporter? If a journalist is in your sights, take the time to read some of their recent published material before making this grave mistake.

Likewise, if you’re responding to a call out, don’t attach an irrelevant or generic press release. Worse still (and it happens), don’t pitch them another story saying it’s better that the one they’ve come up with.

3. Calling them ‘Sue’, when their name’s ‘Elizabeth’

Enough said.

4. Sending the same press release to multiple colleagues at the same media outlet

Few things annoy journalists more than following up a story only to find it’s already being covered by a colleague.

Not only will you alienate at least one journalist, often neither will end up running with the story.

5. Peppering your pitch with clichéd phrases

Journalists often receive hundreds of pitches a day. Most contain at least a dozen of the following phrases/terms:

leading, award-winning, innovative, largest, top, unique, exclusive, cutting-edge, dynamic, state of the art, best practice, leverage, revolutionary, user friendly etc.

Remember, the goal is to achieve ‘cut through’ (a hackneyed phrase in itself). Including words and phrases that are overused and abused will ensure an early retirement for your media release or pitch.

Avoid these mistakes and your next email won’t be treated like your average plea from a Nigerian prince.

Rebecca Derrington runs SourceBottle, a free global media and PR leads service that emails ‘call outs’ for sources from journalists, reporters, writers and bloggers. Helps the media find expert sources. Helps businesses, PRs and publicists get publicity.