How not to annoy journalists

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Relationship-building is crucial, and it takes time. Avoid these missteps that will mar your credibility—and cost you access.

By Kevin J. Allen | Posted: July 24, 2014

The relationship between reporters and PR pros is just like any volatile relationship: When it’s good, it’s great; when it’s bad—watch out.

Though we fully acknowledge that a mirror story could easily be written, Huffington Post recently published a piece titled, “How to stop pissing off reporters.” They focus on tech writer Nick Kolakowski of Slashdot.

Like any reporter, Kolakowski has had his share of frustrations in working with PR pros. He sums up what ticks him off:

“Either the PR person doesn’t understand what I cover, is pitching a story that no reporter would ever take, or does something even more egregious—like misspells my name or gets my publication wrong.”

Yep, that’ll do it. Here are five more tips from Kolakowski:

  1. Know what type of stories the publication covers.
  2. Research recent articles from the reporter.
  3. Check spelling of reporter’s name and that you have the right publication.
  4. Don’t pitch stories without any news value just because the client asks.
  5. Look at the long-term relationships over the short-term coverage opportunity.

Based on my own reporting experience, I concur. Nos. 1-4 are pretty much PR 101-level suggestions, but No. 5 is by far the most crucial.

The most memorable interactions I had with PR pros were with those who took the time to understand what I was looking for in stories, and the type of thing I wanted to write—rather than what they wanted me to write.

[For a comprehensive look at “What Journalists Want,” download this free white paper.]

Understanding a reporter’s voice and pitching targeted, relevant content are essential. Kolakowski reminds us of an important characteristic of the PR profession: It’s a relationship business.

So, how have you found success in cultivating relationships with reporters? 

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