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Prim Pointers: Dos and Don’ts of PR: A Journalist’s Perspective

Working in the world of lifestyle journalism for over a decade has both inundated me in the finer things in life and introduced me to a whole lot of public relations professionals. Some have become colleagues who continue to help me craft great stories, who remain sources for information and are a real boon to my work. Others I avoid, don’t know very well and have found unhelpful. Of the hundreds of emails I get from publicists, only a handful fit into the former category. The reason so many PR people fail to create this important connection doesn’t make sense given that a little extra work goes a long way. That said, there are things to avoid and to do to help cultivate strong journalist/PR relationships that benefit both sides.

DO Research the Person You’re Pitching

No busy writer, or person for that matter, likes to be bothered for no reason. If you’re pitching a food client, make sure that journalist writes about food. Often I receive emails and multiple follow up notes about subjects outside my area; the person is obviously impersonal, lazy and doesn’t care about my time. A little research about the people/person you’re selling an idea to can go a long way to demonstrate respect for the job, their time and your own ingenuity.

DON’T Be Too Pushy

There’s no reason to follow up on a pitch within 24 hours unless it’s so timely you can’t wait, and you know it’s something the journalist will want to write about because of your personal relationship. We understand clients are calling for immediate action but alienating potential story sources won’t help them or you in the future.

DO Follow Up          

Even though pushing your pitch too much gets bothersome, it’s important to follow up three days to a week after. Just as you are, we’re busy and it’s possible the email got overlooked, accidentally went to spam, or was opened and pegged for a reply but it just never happened. Gentle notes along with the follow up are helpful too; don’t just forward your old email without anything added.

DON’T Forget the Details

When crafting a press release, it’s important to have as much information as possible. Often I get detailed pitches that forget to mention basics such as where the place or person is, a website, hours and the names of the owners and/or founders. Also, don’t assume the person you’re pitching lives in the same area as the subject. I get many national pitches and sometimes have no idea where the source is. I may discover the pitch came from a bar in Florida! In the end, if I have to work too hard to get those details, I just might not.

DO Know Your Stuff

I can’t tell you how many people pitch me a good product or idea and have no further information when I ask for details. Expect journalists to have a lot of questions, and it’s your job to help answer them. While a writer will delve into the subject, PR should know the basics.

DON’T Neglect the Subject Line

First, if you’re sending out a press release, there’s no reason to put the subject line in all caps; I don’t like to be yelled at! Second, journalists respect punctuation, grammar and spelling; check these things not only in the body of the email but also in the subject line. This tiny space is your first intro to the person and should be perfect. If the subject line is too aggressive, boring, annoying or weak, the email may never be opened.

DO Provide Photos

In this journalistic climate many writers must take or source their own photos. Each publication is different and it’s great to have a cache of horizontal, high-res and good pictures on hand. If you must source a picture for the writer, find out how they need the picture formatted. For many clients I must use horizontal photos; for them, vertical simply doesn’t work. Also, figure out what high-res means in a photo. Often I request a high-res picture and what I get is tiny, grainy and useless.

DON’T Forget to Check Names

Nothing says “you aren’t important” like sending out emails with the wrong name or a [Name here] in the greeting line. It’s a small thing, but we should all try to remember there’s a human at both ends. Also, if the writer you’re emailing is a freelancer, putting in a line about sending one of your “team” to an event is sloppy. Make sure you know who you’re sending the pitch to and what they do.

By Linnea Covington

Linnea is a freelance writer who specializes in food, lifestyle, travel and wellness content.