‘They just want a quote to back up their agenda’: The 10 things PR people hate most about working with reporters

Last week we asked journalists to share their biggest pet peeves about PR pros. Thanks to the ease of modern communication, reporters feel besieged by pitches, many of them ill-researched. But what if — just consider — reporters can be just as bad? To find out, in the spirit of equal time and Fridays in July, we asked PR pros what most drives them nuts about working with reporters. Here’s what they had to say:

Not owning up to mistakes
“Refusing to correct a clear error. A reporter for a national newspaper wrote a story that he’s acknowledged was based on a false anonymous tip, but despite his acknowledgement that the story is entirely false, he’s refused to run a correction. Compounding his improper conduct, he had on-the-record statements at the time that he chose to ignore in favor of the erroneous information he soon admitted was incorrect.” — agency PR

Fishing for clickbait
“What really bothers me about today’s journalists is the knee-jerk decisions rooted in the number of clicks a story may/may not receive. While there are understandably pressures to reach the largest audiences, this mindset forces a lot of PR people to rethink what they share with journalists. Ultimately, it’s why many brands are turning to their own platforms to tell their own stories. Why risk a damaging narrative caused by a salacious headline created for the express purpose of reaching the masses?” — sports news PR

Spelling errors
“Spelling and grammatical flubs seem to be more and more prominent in online stories. Names and titles are most common, but we also see very simple company names messed up. And this happens no matter the reputation of the publication. What may seem like a tremendous media placement in the eyes of the PR person despite a small spelling error, can be a blight in the eyes of our clients and senior leadership. We dread sending a reporter a follow-up note pointing out a sloppy error. But we need our CEO’s name spelled correctly ASAP! Our lives depend on it.” — ad agency PR

The agenda
“When a reporter comes to you with a point of view and a story mostly written, they just want a quote to back up their agenda/angle. The more experience you have, the easier it is to sniff these out. However, junior people get burned by this all of the time.” — tech PR

The last-minute call
“Nothing is more frustrating than seeing ‘XX did not respond to my inquiry in time for this article.’ Lobbing an e-mail at 5:53 p.m. and publishing at 6 p.m. is just shady. Email, text, call, DM — I’m incredibly reachable. If you really want to reach me, you can.” — media company PR

The blow off
“Everyone’s schedules are jam packed these days so I like to try to book face-to-face meetings or at least introduce myself to target journalists over quick coffee. It’s frustrating when a journalist says, ‘Sure, text me and we’ll set something up’ and then doesn’t reply to messages when you try to follow through. Even if he/she can’t end up making time for it, I’d rather someone tell me that versus simply not replying and having to give that type of status update to a superior.” — digital media PR

Ignoring company verbiage
“It’s incredibly annoying that so many members of the media refuse to use the provided straplines and company descriptors from communications teams, instead opting to use incorrect, completely made-up versions of their own. It almost seems like it’s a scarlet letter to use the company verbiage provided by a PR person. Given the core tenants of the profession, you’d think the media would just want to get it right.” — agency PR

Wasting our time
“What’s great is when I get a senior executive to free up 30 minutes in a busy day to talk to you, on the record, a conversation which then goes 40 minutes and the result is a throw away line or worse, no quote at all. Yeah, that’s awesome, let’s do that again.” — media company PR

Sucking up to big brands
“It’s infuriating to see how some media people stump for large, market-leading brands. I’ve literally seen a major newspaper offer up a ‘what if’ scenario for how a Google client could use a new product. Any other company would be forced to put a client on the phone to explain and/or corroborate a product’s value and use, but sometimes the media give the bigger players an unfair pass. Everybody else has to provide third-party corroboration around what they’re doing, but Google doesn’t have to play by those rules. It’s anti-competitive.” — agency PR

The mystery of the killed story
“I can’t stand when stories get killed and there’s no reason given (or you never hear back from the reporter after the interview was conducted). As publicists we understand that these things happen, but it would be helpful to get a response so we can report back internally.” — magazine PR


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