Bad PR practice highlighted in new guide

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The love-hate relationship between public relations and journalists is once again being highlighted by Twelve Thirty PR - the same agency which told us that reporters really don’t like that follow-up call.

Now they’ve heard from senior journalists working in print and broadcast, who are warning PR folk what words and phrases are likely to send their press releases straight into the spam box.

First up, the initial phone call… “‘Have I been put through to the consumer desk?’ ‘It isn’t a desk, it’s just ME,’” snarled one particular journalist who, when referred to as a piece of furniture hangs up.

Should you manage to negotiate that first stumbling block, it’s probably best not to hit the (possibly) grumpy hack with the utter excitement about your current client, particularly if you stray into US terminology and “hipsterisation.”  It appears that however, “awesome” the product is, or however “super-excited” you are, the journalist may not be quite so overcome, particular if you “outreach to them.”

“I’m all for a pleasant chat, but there are probably two things in the average life that deserve being referred to as ‘awesome’ or ‘super-exciting’.  Cauliflowers and biscuits aren’t amongst them,” wrote one journo.

Over at The Sun newspaper, their journalists, who are used to the odd exclusive are now being offered “demi/semi exclusives.”

“This tends to be the preserve of a few big agencies but it is always met with howls of laughter and derision in newsrooms. An exclusive means it is in ONE publication.  Offering it to two or more is not in any way exclusive.”

He added: “And the dreaded: "the client wants it to appear like this?" - Oh really? Then book an advert…”

A further national journalist admitted that there was a blacklist of words and phrases pinned beside his monitor:

(1) "reaching out"

(2) "attached is an article which would be good to feature in your..."

(3) "Pleased to announce an exciting new client" [this is not news]

(4) "Hi, I hope you are well"

(5) “Delivery footprint”

(6) Any footprint - unless it is a yeti's

A Telegraph journalist added his own pet hates:

“(1) "Scoop" (they never are), (2) ANY pun of any description, (3) Phone calls that start "Hi is that xxxx? How are you? I am just giving you a quick call to see if you have a minute to listen to a story idea that I have that you might find of interest...".  That is 20 seconds that I will never get back.

“PS - And no-one has used the word "scoop" since Evelyn Waugh.”

Over on the television side, the phone call just ahead of transmission about an event next week doesn’t seem to go down too well either. Nor, as one producer stated, does this particular “scam”:

“‘Hi, I spoke to one of your colleagues last week and they said you would be coming to film today so an you let me know what time the reporter's arriving?’. Of course no such conversation took place. So please can PR people ditch cheap stunts?”

And of course, there are rather a lot of gripes about pitching stories about “your patch” only to find that patch is 300 miles away because the PR isn’t quite sure about their geography.

Twelve 38 managing director, Hamish Thompson said he’s based the research on feedback from more than 100 journalists and if you want to read more, you can visit the agency’s blog.