Ways to make an editor mad
It’s so quiet in the office that I can actually hear crickets chirping and I swear, I just saw tumbleweed roll in front of my cubicle. With so much peace and quiet, I began thinking of what I’ve learned from working in Cision’s research department. The lessons below are consistent and haven’t changed despite the emergence of social media in the worlds of journalism and public relations.
Here are a few ways to get in bad (and good) with journalists:
- Ignoring what they cover: Nothing annoys an editor more than receiving a pitch that clearly demonstrates no knowledge of his or her coverage area. Sending a local crime reporter a press release about a new resort in Barbados is a good way to get added to a spam list.
- Following up on a phone call: Editors commonly complain about receiving phone calls shortly after getting an e-mail. With many editors’ inboxes overflowing with week-old, unread messages, following up by phone is especially useless. The best rule of thumb is if you hear from an editor, he or she is interested. If not, move on.
- Pitching the same story to a competitor: Let a contact know when pitching an exclusive story or if the story is being shopped around to various contacts. It’s a good way to maintain transparency and also spark interest. Journalists are competitive and want to scoop their peers so a story is more likely to get traction if an editor knows they’ll be the only one covering it.
- Sending a mass e-mail with zero familiarity or personalization: Editors want pitches tailored to them personally. Mention a recent story specifically or say something like, “I’ve noticed you shifted your focus from luxury travel to budget travel and I think I have a great idea for you.” Nothing is more impressive than immediately proving you know someone’s history and at the same time, nothing is less impressive than sending out a blanket press release with zero introduction.
- Not taking “no” for an answer: Develop a thick skin when the chips don’t fall your way. Not every pitch will get used and knowing when to gather up your marbles and go home is actually a good thing. Editors often keep valuable PR contacts on file so while one pitch may not work, it may work in the future.
Long story short, developing a relationship with an editor is the best way to score coverage. It’s very unlikely that an editor will get a press release in their inbox and cover it the next day. It takes time to develop these relationships and build trust. Although the ways these relationships are built might change, the basic idea of “give and take” between journalism and PR remains the same.
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