Victoria Song, a consumer tech reporter at Gizmodo, joined us on the Coffee with a…
Recently, I joined Beck Bamberger, co-founder of OnePitch, on Coffee with a Journalist and we talked about things PR people do that annoy the crap out of me. I thought it would be helpful for everyone involved (mainly me) if I threw together a quick list of do’s, don’t’s, and tips! Here it goes:
Always include date, time and TIME ZONE in embargo time
If you’re sending an embargoed press release, please remember that we are a global workforce. I’m based in New Zealand, but I’m from New York. My editor is in Arizona and the companies I write about are literally all over the world. My brain is constantly in math mode trying to coordinate interviews with your company or investors, writing up a draft and delivering it to my editor during her working hours so we can have it all set to pub by the embargo time. Knowing exactly when that embargo is is super important.
Give me enough lead time
While we’re on the topic of time zones, please try to keep in mind where in the world we all are. Late last night, at nearly 10pm NZST, I received a press release that would be going out at 1am NZST, a mere three hours later. I had been given a heads up about some news a couple days before and offered an exclusive, but with no notion of what that exclusive news would be. Needless to say, the promise of an exclusive was empty given the fact that I woke up six hours after the news had been released.
I am assuming the PR person didn’t want to send me the release before it had been signed off for whatever legal or ass-covering reasons, but this is when you send a draft to the journalist with a caveat that there might be some changes. Not receiving any information in advance not only means that it is hard to cover it in time with the news cycle, but also that I don’t have time to get in touch with your executives or engineers to ask follow ups before the embargo time.
Yes, I accept the embargo terms
Sometimes PR people trust you and send an embargoed press release right to your inbox, and sometimes you get people asking you to accept the embargo first. Why? Yes, I accept! Please let’s not waste time and mince time zones. Just send me the release.
Not everything is an exclusive
I know you’re just trying to get my attention, but save it for when it counts. Look up what we write about. Do you see us doing standalone stories about a small startup’s new CEO? No? Then it’s not something we care about having an exclusive on.
Fact check yourself. If you’re not the first, don’t say you are
This one is pretty specific. I had a company recently say that it was the first to pilot a particular technology at scale, when I knew for a fact that it was not. Many publications just took this statement at face value and republished it, and I assume the company to some extent was hoping they would. But, honestly, is that how you want to win? Now you look like a fool when I call you out for stretching the truth and claiming a victory that wasn’t yours.
Cut out some of the jargon and PR-speak please
A “press release” suggests that these statements are for the press, who will do their due diligence on your company or your bit of news. We are not here to do your PR for you, and we do not care about statements that call your company “world leading” or “best in the industry.” We will probably cut the quotes that say things like, “We’re thrilled to be partnering with so-and-so…” We just want to know the facts.
Obviously, when you write about tech, there’s a good chance the PR people don’t have the expertise to break it all down coherently, and I understand we’re all just doing our best. Do yourselves and everyone a favor and reach out to the CEO, the engineers, anybody who can explain to you in plain language what is being achieved, and put that in your press release.
If I ask follow up questions, please don’t just copy and paste the press release
Truly don’t understand why this one happens. I get a press release, I read it, I have questions because the press release doesn’t provide all the answers. And then, every once in a while (but far too often in my opinion) someone answers my questions via email by COPYING AND PASTING PARTS OF THE PRESS RELEASE UNDERNEATH MY QUESTIONS. Incredibly unhelpful. Thanks for nothin’!
Don’t flood my inbox with your own follow ups
Sometimes I can really tell when PR people have that plug-in that lets them know if an email has been opened or read because they send me a follow up within minutes of my opening it. It’s really creepy, so please don’t do that. I need some time to read through my emails and prioritize.
If I haven’t gotten back to you after your second email, consider the story a pass. Please don’t send it again as a new thread. It’s confusing and annoying.
If you’re pitching to multiple writers on the same team, do it in the same email
This helps us stay organized and know who’s been pitched what and who can take what.
Don’t email my personal inbox…or slide into my DMs
It’s right there on my Twitter page. My email, with instructions to send tips there. There’s a special place in hell for people who infiltrate your personal life with pitches. Stay away from my personal email, please. Don’t hit me up on Twitter. And for goodness sake, definitely don’t pitch me on my OBVIOUSLY personal and not-at-all professional Instagram. Someone did that just last week, and the worst part was that they were pitching me on some FinTech startup, when I write about transportation.
Look up what I write about before pitching me
I don’t write about NFTs, healthcare, beauty regimes or cybersecurity. Please take a minute to see what my beat is (it’s transportation) before pitching me.
Include photos in your pitch
If I end up writing about your company, I will likely need a featured image. Anticipate this need, and send photo options, preferably in landscape mode.
A quick word on subject lines
Get to the point of the news. Don’t use my name to catch my eye. Don’t say it’s an intro to some CEO/expert because I probably don’t have time to open an email on the promise of casual shop talk. And why the all caps? There’s no need to shout.
Ok, that’s about it! Happy pitching!