With newsrooms downsizing and the subsequent workload being shouldered by journalists lucky enough to retain their job, knowing a reporter's pet peeve could mean the difference between your news being covered or disregarded.
Here are a few journo pet peeves that you’ll want to be conscious of.
Sending a press release as an email attachment
As a PR professional, you have to assume every pitch you send is just one of over 250 emails a reporter receives per day. With this volume of emails, the two seconds it takes to open the attachment is two seconds too long and you can bet the house your email will be deleted. What’s more, attachments are known vehicles for viruses and phishing scams. They pose a real threat to everyone, but especially journalists. To increase the odds that your press release will get read, take the minute and a half to copy the text of your press release into the body of an email and format the accompanying image; it’s the golden rule when pitching.
Typos happen. However, make sure they don’t happen when initiating dialogue with literary professionals. These people spent countless hours, and big bucks, studying and perfecting their use of the English language. Overlooking simple rules – using “then” instead of “than” or mixing up “there” and “they’re,” for example – can be interpreted as careless. If you don’t care enough to get your press release right, why should a journo care to read it? Try thinking of all journalists as the fictional author Hank Moody from Californication, an individual whose personal mission it is to protect the written word. Proofread after you proofread.
Lengthy subject lines
Crafting your subject line can be a real balancing act. The key is to grab a reporter’s attention without your subject line getting cut off in their inbox by their email server. Typically, subject lines should be about 40 characters, including spaces. Write subject lines using the inverted pyramid model, placing less meaningful words, which may be cut off, toward the end. Emphasize the most important information, the attention-grabber, at the beginning of the subject line.
Late Friday pitching
Some argue that there is no best day to pitch journalists. With that said, journalists are people, too, and unless they’re weekend assignment editors for a news station, their weekend starts Friday at 5:01 p.m. It’s easy for journalists to disregard information over the weekend and when they’re cleaning up their inbox Monday morning, including your pitch in the list of highlighted emails destined for the trash folder is even easier. Unless you’re sending your news to a weekend assignment editor or a nightclub’s VIP manager, pitching on a late Friday afternoon should be reserved for breaking news necessitating an immediate release. Do yourself and your client a favor: get the news out earlier in the week and in the morning whenever possible.
Acknowledging these pet peeves won’t guarantee your press releases will get read, but ignoring them pretty much guarantees they won’t.