As a Sunday Times travel journalist, I deal with PRs every day. So I know a bit about how PR works - which strategies are effective, and which suck. Here are my suggestions on how to deal with journalists. It’s not a rant. Think of it as constructive criticism.
1. If your email opens with the words “Hi there”, it’s junk.
Call me picky, but I prefer to receive ideas that aren’t being simultaneously touted to 200 other journalists. If you can’t be bothered to write me an individual email, then I can’t be bothered to read it.
2. Read the papers.
I know it’s tiresome and nobody reads everything these days, but at least get the work experience boy to do a Monday morning cuttings job for you. There’s nothing more toe-curling than having a PR pitch me an idea that appeared in the Times the previous day.
3. Don’t resend an email , just to make sure.
And don’t phone to check if I got your email.
4. If you want me to meet your client, make it worth my while.
Yes, I know clients like to meet journalists (and I also know you get paid handsomely for making introductions). But please bear in mind that for me the experience can be a little tedious. At least bring along some great ideas. Better still, book a box at Lord’s or Stamford Bridge.
5. Don’t be scared.
Some PRs seem to be intimidated by journalists. Don’t be. Yes, we can seem brusque at times, but underneath that prickly veneer, we’re pussy cats. We like to laugh and drink and gossip (especially gossip). So if you want a good relationship with a journalist, relax. Not everything is on the record.
6. Learn how to resize pictures.
You can do it on Photoshop. It’s very easy, and it will mean you can attach small images to your emails and press releases, so I can see how nice the new hotel looks, without you crashing my browser (remember: I may be accessing my email from Bolivia or Bhutan, and a 3MB photo can spell disaster - for both of us).
7. Don’t ask when the piece will be published.
Chances are, I don’t know either. I’m the writer, remember, not the editor. If you’re really desperate to know, ask my editor. Good luck.
8. Make sure your contact details appear on all your emails.
I get a lot of emails from PRs and think, “Yes, that could work. I just need to know X.” But there’s no phone number on the email. I fire back an email, but now they’re out of the office or not responding. Slowly, I become less and less interested…
9. Learn to spell.
Most journalists are quite old-fashioned. We still value correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Spellcheck only works up to a point. It won't tell you when to use "there", "their", or "they're".
10. Never sign me up to a client’s email newsletter.
Now read the 10 Top Tips for Travel Writers, written by two leading PRs, who wish to remain anonymous.