When it comes to PR, your reputation is everything.
Think of it as the high school of the media world. One look at the cafeteria and you will find journalists and PR pros dispersed across the room at their respective tables. Some will be the center of attention while others will be banished to the bathroom stalls to eat alone.
In the PR world, it takes a lot of time, effort, patience, and hard work to get yourself to the top. To be a respected PR professional, is an accomplishment many will spend their entire careers chasing. It is far easier to ruin your reputation than it is to build it.
Looking to avoid the blacklist?
Avoid these five foolproof ways to royally tarnish your reputation in PR.
1. You’re a Chatty Cathy
You work in PR. Words are kind of your thing. But there’s a time and place for chit chat and it’s not in your pitch. Next time you’re tempted to quote your media release verbatim in your email to that journalist: don’t.
Secret? My most successful pitch emails only contain two to three strong sentences. A hello, a thank you and goodbye, with a strong positioning statement sandwiched in between. A journalist will know if they’re interested based on a few words alone: it’s that easy. A click-through to the website will likely seal the deal.
Time is of the essence if you’re a journalist. The moment you stop respecting that is the same moment your reputation is starting to stink.
2. Overly Attached Girlfriend Much?
Remember the cool kids in high school? You can’t help but admire them and want to be their friend, but friendships aren’t born overnight. You can’t creep someone on Facebook or Twitter and pretend to know everything about them with the hope of impressing them.
Journalists respond the same way. Just because you and that Inc. editor flailed over the new Game of Thrones episode together on Twitter, that doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to pitch them out of the blue because you’re now “palsies.” Journalists can spot a fake. Get to know them the acceptable way–introduce yourself, ask for nothing in return, and share their stuff.
With time, a genuine and mutually beneficial relationship will be born and you’ll be thankful you took the long road to get there.
3. You’re Geographically Challenged
There’s this thing called time zones? Be conscious of them. While no one expects you to know them all by heart, being aware of how your timezone relates to EST or PST time is extremely helpful if you’re dealing with North American outlets.
If you’re on the East Coast, don’t start pitching West Coast editors journalists upon arrival at the office. Have your coffee, tackle some to-do’s and wait a few hours. Watch for journalists to be active on Twitter. Then fire off that email or pick up the phone.
This rule is even more important with regards to phone calls. A surefire way to get a one-way ticket to the blacklist is to disrespect their time zone and call them at all hours of the day.
4. They’re Just Not That Into You
Pro tip? Stalking is never OK. It doesn’t matter if your launch is tomorrow. Harassing journalists at all hours of the day is just not cool. Yet every other day, I hear another story of how a journalist was mistreated with late night calls, far too many email follow-ups, and hate mail when stories fall through.
The reality? Yes, sometimes your story will get bumped. Your startup may not make the final cut in that round-up. And brace yourself — sometimes, the journalist just isn’t that into your story. That’s OK. Instead of putting energy into taking it out on them, focus on finding a journalist who will care about your story. I promise, there is one out there.
5. You Giveth and Taketh Away
If embargoes and exclusives exist to help the media, why do journalists hate them so? Because despite our best intentions, things happen, plans change and sometimes we need to take these things away. Of course, offering someone something of value, only to request it be returned: not so kosher in this industry.
If you need to push your launch or change an embargo, be as sincere and understanding as possible when relaying these changes to the journalists you’re working with. Understand that this may very well put a kink in their plans and it could change the outcome of your piece. It’s the price you pay.
While embargoes are an easier fix, never, ever, should you offer an exclusive, only to take it away.
In conclusion, while one shady attempt to get media coverage may seem worth the imminent induction onto that journalist’s blacklist — think before you commit a PR crime.
Journalists talk. Don’t make yourself their topic of conversation.
What are your tips for building relationships with journalists? Let us know in the comments.