Understanding how to approach journalists can be tricky when it comes to bringing attention to your company. Free press is always the best press. But sometimes free press comes at a cost. If you burn bridges by annoying journalists, you may not get the coverage you want when it counts.

So before you send out that press release, take a look at these things that drive journalists crazy.


Not Knowing Your Audience

It’s very tempting to send a press release to every single reporter you can find and hope a small fraction of them will respond. Don’t! There’s nothing worse than wasting a journalist’s time on something that doesn’t matter to her.

For example, a reporter for Scientific American probably won’t be interested in a pitch about things to do with your kids this summer vacation. It’s the wrong audience.

If you spend too much time telling journalists about the stories they don’t want to cover, they’ll likely trash your email when you send them a story they do want to cover.


Mass Email

No one likes to feel like they’re one of a hundred other people that you have emailed, even journalists. If you’re reaching out to a publication, you want to make it look like you took time and care to select that publication. You want to address the journalist by name when possible and point out why this story is ideal to his publication.

Take the time to make your email personal and you’re more likely to receive a response.


Selling Your Company

It drives journalists crazy when your pitch is simply an advertisement for your company. You need to find a way to tie your story into current events or something new that you’re offering that’s going to benefit the reader. It’s very important that the information you provide is helpful to the audience and not just a giant sales pitch.

If it’s a sales pitch, you’ll get very few responses. Journalists can sniff out a sales pitch a mile away and they avoid them at all costs.


Too Many Follow-Ups

The website Fractl did some seriously extensive research into this issue and came up with an in-depth look at the time of day journalists prefer to receive a pitch (41% said anytime), the day of the week (43% said any day) and how they like to receive follow-ups.

60.61% said they like just one follow up email once a press release is sent. 57.14% said the ideal time for a follow up is 3–7 days after the first email was sent. If you don’t get a bite by then, stop! There’s a fine line between being persistent and annoying.


Too Much Information

For journalists, it’s all about making it as easy as possible to read. Paste the press release directly in the email so there are no PDFs or Word files to open. Make sure that the email includes hyperlinks, so the journalist can just click and go.

And most importantly, make it short. No one wants to read 1,000 words on your company. Get to the point quickly and concisely. A 100 to 200-word story pitch is ideal, usually something you toss into the email before your press release. If she wants to know more, she’ll read on. For some more helpful tips on getting attention, check out this previous post How to Improve Your Writing.


Written by Erika Towne