Avoid These 10 Things That Annoy Journalists to Help Get the Press Coverage You Want
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Have you ever wondered why you’re just not getting the coverage you desire despite sending out press material frequently? Are you seeing all of your competitors being featured and feel ignored despite employing the services of a PR agency or working hard on PR yourself?
This isn’t at all uncommon. Luckily, by understanding what the barriers could be, it’s pretty easy to turn this around and start to reap the huge benefits media exposure can provide. Here are 10 key reasons journalists don't use what you send them and how you can achieve the coverage you want.
1. Sending information that’s irrelevant.
Here's an example: I am an editor for a number of luxury lifestyle and entrepreneurship titles and a particular PR company keeps sending me press releases about ranges of inexpensive make-up, stressing how affordable it is. Thing is, my readers are high-net-worth individuals who would only buy premium or luxury brand cosmetics. There is no way this would be of interest to them. The particular media title even has the word "Luxury" in its name so it’s pretty obvious bargain-bucket items are not going to work.
It really pays to research the media you would love to be in. Read the "About" page, see if you can get hold of their media pack, and look at examples of content they carry. If you gain a reputation with a journalist for consistently sending them useless stuff, you could find yourself relegated to their junk box for good.
2. Using We-Transfer to send images.
We-Transfer is great. It’s super handy. But, unless you pay for their premium service, any links you send will expire in seven days. This often means the links are dead before the journalist or photo editor even has a chance to download them. In this case, they'd be hassled trying to chase you to have the link to re-sent.
Even small publications get inundated with emails and article submissions and it’s not uncommon for journalists to receive a couple hundred emails or more a day. This means it’s not always possible to open and deal with all of them quickly. If you don't opt for We-Transfer's premium service which keeps the links live until you choose to delete them, it’s much better to attach two or three images in an email with the actual press release or article, keeping them to a manageable size. For print, aim for no lower than 1MB jpgs and not above 5MB, and online under 1MB pngs or jpgs. It’s best to avoid sending massive We-Transfer files, too — clicking to download only to find it's a whopping 900MB and will take forever when you only want a small headshot can raise the blood pressure of even the most patient journalist.
3. Chasing quickly and frequently to see if covered.
If you’ve sent a press release or article pitch and not heard anything back, but are absolutely sure the content is highly relevant to that particular title, a gentle email nudge a week later is acceptable to many journalists. And, actually, most probably wouldn’t even mind another prod in a month or so.
What is guaranteed to annoy is chasing a journalist within a day or two, and then persistently after. It’s not because journalists are precious and short-tempered (well.. OK some are), but they're already working their way through hundreds of emails and submissions and getting through their inbox in a week, let alone a day is a challenge.
If what you send is right for the publication, is relevant for publication to use now, and packaged in the right way, the journalist will come back to you. Don’t be a nuisance. Many journalists (yep, me included) have a blacklist of serial PR stalkers who now go automatically into Junk.
4. Asking journalists to send links and cuttings.
It’s easy to set up Google Alerts for mentions, and if you use a PR agency, as part of their service they should be using a cuttings service for their clients anyway. Plus, you can simply pop onto the website or look at their magazine and see if you were featured.
5. Not captioning images.
Following on from the point above about We-Transfer and optimal sizes of images to send to the media, another major frustration for journalists is to receive uncaptioned images. Not only does this mean the journalist has to take the time to track you down, contact you, and wait for a response which is frustrating, but it risks your image either not being used, or captioned incorrectly.
6. Sending and retracting invites.
Imagine if you receive an invite, and it’s to something you’d love to go to, and you reply to say you’d be delighted to accept — then, you receive a response to say thank you for your interest, and they will let you know if you can actually come. Wouldn’t that annoy you? This is what some PRs do — send an invite to a journalist, wait for them to accept, and then retract it if they can’t then deliver the coverage they want.
It’s much better to research the media title, and the journalist’s writing and typical coverage they offer first and only send an invite when confident of an appropriate return than to send invites which you then retract. You could be up front and approach the journalist and say how you've a press event coming up, and would be love to include them, but the client is asking for x amount of coverage. If that is OK then great, the invite will be in its way.
7. Sending information too late.
It’s well worth understanding the editorial lead times different types of publication have. For example, major monthly print magazines often work three to four months ahead of publication date. This means if your company sells lingerie and you desperately want to be included in a Valentine’s Day round up, you’ll need to ensure your information and images are with the journalist at least three to four months before this.
For digital magazines or websites, the lead times are most often much shorter. In theory, even the same day is possible, but it is far better to still allow several weeks or a month. If you are targeting influencers, again almost immediate coverage is feasible but most will want time with the product to review it properly, take photographs and video and edit this before posting, so again allowing several weeks is best.
8. Not responding quickly or heeding deadlines.
Even journalists working for quarterly media titles have deadlines to meet. Newsrooms can become frantic places close to publication dates and incredibly stressful. Because of this, if you are given a deadline to submit an article or information and images, it's vital you meet this. If you don’t, your product is likely to be left out, and substituted for one from another company — possibly your arch rival.
You want to be known as being reliable, able to meet deadlines, and someone who responds super quickly. PR contacts with this reputation are far more likely to gain coverage.
9. Making assets hard to access.
Some brands, particularly luxury ones, like to guard their assets like the Crown Jewels. By assets I mean product imagery and videos. They require you to register, send them cuttings, and reams and reams of data — in some cases everything apart from your inside leg measurement it seems. And.. you then have to wait… and wait... for them to approve you — which when you are running close to a deadline this is frustrating.
Not only is this totally poncy, it means most journalists will simply get the huff and cover other products from other brands instead.
10. Sending lousy press releases and pitches.
Time is precious for all of us — and certainly journalists working in a world of deadlines. They simply don’t have the spare hours to read countless War & Peace-length press releases each day. The best releases have fewer than 500 words, bullet points are used, they have short titles, and follow the hallowed five or six Ws of journalism — WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY (and HOW).
It’s also vital to make your email subject copy as interesting and compelling as possible, as, I hate to admit, many emails won’t even be opened by those journalists who regularly get inundated.
Understanding and responding to a journalist’s pain points and the job they do really makes a difference in whether you will be at the top of the list when they want to cover something, or whether you’ll be featured at all. None of the above is difficult. It just takes a little care and effort.
Journalists can be incredibly loyal to those they enjoy working with, and when ever a chance comes for coverage, they will be right at the top of the list, and their products given more favourable positions and space. When choosing a PR agency, or employing a PR in house, it's wise idea to choose someone who has actually worked as a journalist and therefore understands this first hand.