5 Journalist Pet Peeves To Avoid

I met Jeremy Seth Davis approximately five years ago. Well, technically I “e-met” him when he shot me a very kind, never-before-experienced, email applauding a news release headline I had recently written. He had caught a glimpse of it when breezing through his hundreds of daily, oft irrelevant, emails and actually took the time to write me, providing me with what at that time was a very much-needed boost of confidence.

We were insta-friends. While he spent his days in the maddening world of mergers and acquisitions writing for a big New York outlet (which I cannot disclose), I slaved away in my L.A. apartment quietly building my [tech PR] firm from scratch. It was a match made in PR/Journo heaven.

Since then, we’ve exchanged an array of emails with subject lines ranging from “OMG is the world falling apart?” (Circa 2008) to “How the heck do I get that journalist to write me back?”

Roughly once a year, we rendezvous in New York for a slice of pizza or everyone’s other favorite, Starbucks coffee. I look forward to these meetings for no other reason than when all else fails, and after having been rejected by approximately 6.2 thousand reporters, editors, and writers, I know I have at least one, solid, important relationship in the world of journalism.

But I digress.

ATJ (according to Jeremy) here are some extremely invaluable insights that will shed some light on the fastest way to getting ink…whether you have hired a PR Pro or you are having a go on your own.

In no particular order, here are Jeremy’s (and no doubt other journalists) top 5 pet peeves to avoid, along with some “what to do” advice:

DON’T: Send me pitches that aren’t relevant or are only marginally relevant to the subject that I write about. I know that most of the time this isn’t intentional; it’s just that if a PR professional covers a lot of different industries, there is a tendency to try too hard to find a way to make the pitch fit with a journalist you’ve just met. But if you’re stretching to find a way that it fits in with my previous articles, that isn’t a good sign. It should be a natural, organic fit for my beat. Otherwise, I’ll know that the story idea is disingenuous, and – more importantly – so will my readers.

DON’T: Send me spam mail that has no relevance to my beat. This is the fastest way to never have access to that journo again. Most often, they move the email directly to a spam folder, and you are suddenly irrelevant. Thankfully, it is very rarely done anymore, but those who do it very quickly find that it not only doesn’t help them, it impairs them significantly.

DON’T: Ask if you can see the quotes before the article is written.

DON’T: Follow up to find out if the article has been published yet.

DON’T: Ask for a list of questions that I will ask ahead of time.

The common denominator: Many of these are not unreasonable requests, but they make my already very busy day more crazed if I have to start sending quotes and articles to each source and publicist.

The takeaway: The next time I’m working on an article, I’m likely to use a PR Pro who hasn’t asked me to send them quotes or let them know when the article has been published.

Solutions to make you stand out: At the end of a conversation, ask if there is anything else that you can help me with. Then follow through. If I say yes, consider it your chance to prove yourself by going above and beyond the call of duty. If I tell you I’m working on a story where I need to talk to a source about “X”, introduce me to anyone who can help me with that: if you don’t have any clients who specialize in this, make an introduction to friends, colleagues, even competitors. The best solution here is to introduce me to a source who isn’t yet a client of yours. That way, I’ll remember that you were the person who introduced us, and your friend will be so appreciative for the introduction that they may eventually become a client!

So there you have it. Keep these things in mind as you navigate the wild wild west of media and public relations. And remember – the devil is in the details. Be thorough, do your research, and do what you can to make a journalist’s life easier!