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Grumpy Old Journos – Part Two

In the second part of our Grumpy Old Journos blog we take a look at some of the gripes journalists have with regards to the PR material they receive. Having spoken with some of our best media contacts, we have gained some useful insight to help you avoid some of the pitfalls when creating and distributing content.

Poor writing

Splash Point
Splash Point

Clear, concise and accurately-written press releases will always be preferred to one using excessive jargon, subjective comments and fatuous superlatives. Make sure you write proper prose and make it sound objective – if your material is full of marketing language the only place it is like to end up is the recycle bin. Also, do not allow for any poor punctuation or spelling as this will only distract from what could be an interesting story.

“A sloppy, juvenile press release full of elementary mistakes gives the impression it came from a sloppy juvenile company. Spell check, sense check and then make sure someone literate gives your release a onceover.”

“What I do not like is an excessive use of superlatives such as amazing, unique, ground-breaking and unbelievable. Accompany these words with any use of an exclamation mark and the story is immediately spiked. Multiple exclamation marks lead to instant death.”

Supporting Images

Attaching a high resolution, professionally taken photo is a well-known way of increasing the chance of coverage. Sending a poor quality image or making it difficult to obtain one will most probably have a negative effect and could lead to a story being dumped, regardless of how interesting it is.

“If you are providing a picture with a press release, attach it or provide a direct link. Do not put ‘ring for a picture’ or request some kind of login. If you create an obstacle for journalists, many will not bother to navigate it.”

“Don’t supply tiny images – if a picture takes up less than six inches of your screen, it is only good enough for a single column in print. Be aware that print is MUCH more demanding than a screen in terms of resolution. If your picture size is under 500K, it is too small.”

Pointless press releases and irrelevant material

Make sure any PR material is both interesting and appropriate. Sending press releases that are pointless with no news will have limited impact and gain you an unwanted reputation. Moreover, bombarding the press with unsuitable story-or feature-ideas will be far less effective than taking your time to understand the media landscape and targeting relevant titles.   

“If you are scraping around to compile vacuous stories that no self-respecting publication would use, something is wrong. Either you are not getting the right PR leads, or you are trying to achieve a frequency that just cannot be sustained.”

“Generally, publications do not mind being on blanket mailing lists for subjects of marginal interest, but if you send a one-off proposal, take the trouble to check that it is squarely on target for the publication. Failure to do this can seem insulting.”

Access to the story or additional information

This may seem obvious, but make it as easy as possible for journalists to find a recently published story or access additional company information. Always upload press releases online and provide a web address or relevant link with any media communication.

“A remarkable number of PR firms seem to bend over backwards to avoid providing any direct link to the client in their emails. It seems like a transparent attempt to deflect journalists’ feedback to them, and it simply causes annoyance because we then have to waste time finding out company details ourselves.”

“Suppose we see a story in some newsfeed. We realise it came from a press release, and check the company’s website for the source, but it is not there. We might not have time to follow up directly and just want the original text.”

To provide feedback:

Jonathan Symons
+44 (0)20 8654 7618