How not to approach the media…

Approaching the media is no mean feat and involves a great deal of time and effort if you are to succeed in generating coverage. Whilst we could have listed our top tips for creating the perfect media pitch, we thought giving you an insight into what not to do would be much more useful!

1. Never start an email with ‘Dear Journalist.’
If in doubt, leave it out. Just push out the press release, starting with an introduction and a summary to explain the news in a couple of sentences. Avoid mass emails though! Better still, personalise the email using the journalists name. But whatever you do, do not misspell a journalist’s name. If you can’t get their name right, your email is unlikely to make it past the delete button.

2. Don’t pitch a journalist without knowing your audience
Not targeting your pitch correctly can be the worst PR mistake you can make. Do your research to ensure the journalists you approach cover the subject of the press release or pitch. It’s far better to take time to send your pitch to a smaller number of targeted journalists than to “spray and pray” to a huge, unqualified list.

3. ‘Leading’ , ‘world class’, and ‘synergies’ won’t cut it
Don’t overload your announcement with buzzwords. Describing a company as a ‘global leader’ or a service as ‘world class’ can be PR speak overkill for journalists who are likely to doubt the validity of such claims.

4. Don’t send PDFs or massive file attachments
It is best to paste the press release into the body of the email. Make it quick and easy for journalists to read.

5. Never provide conditions to journalists for coverage of your story (and do not provide ‘suggested tweets’ either for that matter.)
‘Telling’ journos what to write will never end well.

In 2014, The PR agency working on MasterCard’s sponsorship of the Brit Awards suffered backlash from key journalists after it was claimed to have demanded media coverage in exchange for being officially allowed to cover the Brit Awards. Journalists took to twitter to express their disgust appealing to other journalists not to agree to the conditions for covering the event and objecting to being told what they should tweet. This resulted in the sabotage of the brand’s #PricelessSurprises push on Twitter.

6. Never argue with a journalist
If someone doesn’t like your pitch, or says no, thank them for their time and move on gracefully. Don’t burn your bridges, and never try to argue with a journalist. Remember: the people you are approaching have large audiences (that’s the very reason you are pitching to them). So it’s not a good idea to pick a fight with someone who can expose you to public ridicule, ruining your hard-earned reputation.

7. Don’t run for cover once the press release has been sent.
Be prepared for questions, if you email press releases to journalists. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you (and your team). Work to develop and harbour a two-way communication and once you receive coverage, keep that relationship going. Journalists are approached all day everyday with opportunities, so make an effort to build ongoing relationships by offering to meet in person to discuss how you can help each other.

8. Don’t use an untrained spokesperson.
The CEO of a company might seem like an ideal spokesperson, however this is not always the case. The spokesperson must be adequately trained to deal with the media and should communicate the key brand messages and handle difficult questions with ease.

One of the most famous examples of how not to talk to journalists came from the former CEO of BP, Tony Hayward. While apologising for a devastating oil rig explosion which claimed the lives of 11 men and caused the worst oil spill in American history, Mr Hayward stated on TV, “I’d like my life back”. This comment portrayed gross insensitivity, and hugely underestimated public opinion around the disaster. By responding in this manner, Mr Hayward not only ruined his own reputation but crippled the image of BP throughout the world.