The pet peeves of journalists

When you’re pitching a news story to a journalist, it pays not to peeve them off.

It sounds obvious but unless you’ve been a news journalist, you’re unlikely to know all the things that can irritate them.

And when you are pitching, it’s important to keep the journalist you want to run your story on-side. Annoy them and they won’t cover your story, even if it is compelling. Period.

The Bespoken team is full of former journalists – and many of us are friends or even married to people working in the media – so we are well-versed with their pet peeves.

Here is a list of dos and don’ts that we all agree should be followed to ensure you don’t peeve them off when pitching.

Know who their audience is

Journalists receive dozens of emails a day, so you can imagine their frustration when they find their inbox full of press releases that are not even slightly related to the types of stories they cover.

In fact, most journalists (68%) surveyed last year for Medianet’s Media Landscape Report said receiving pitches for stories not relevant to their field or audience was one of their greatest pet peeves.

To be clear, a finance journalist doesn’t want to receive a press release about the latest health trend. A journalist at a parenting magazine doesn’t want to see a press release about aged care. You get the picture.

In many cases, a journalist receives an irrelevant press release when the sender has fired off their pitch to a list of media outlets. This is one of the reasons why mass emailing to media outlets is rarely a good idea. We will give you another reason later.

Make sure your story is newsworthy

When you’re a journalist reporting on the news, it is really irritating when you receive a press release that has zero news value. In other words, what you’ve written and pitched is of no interest to their audience.

Newsflash! Launching a new product or hiring a new manager is generally not newsworthy. For either of these events to be considered interesting or impactful enough to feature in the news, your product would have to do something amazing (like reverse the ageing process), or your new hire would have to be someone pretty impressive.

Before you even start writing your press release, make sure you ask yourself ‘will people who aren’t familiar with our business find this story interesting? Will it impact their lives?’ If the answer is no, then the story is one for your own platforms.

Include usable visual assets

When a journalist does receive a newsworthy press release, it’s incredibly frustrating when there are no usable visual assets accompanying it. By usable, we mean a high-resolution photo or video. Print journalists, for instance, get annoyed when they open a photo to find the file is tiny (generally they need a file size of at least 1MB). Or, even worse, there is no photo attached to the email. With most newsrooms stretched for resources nowadays, most of the time it’s not possible to send out a photographer or video crew to shoot your story. When you have great visual assets, your story is more likely to get a run.

Don’t do a bulk mail out

When you’re pitching a story, it may be tempting to fire it off to every media outlet in your region at the same time. Surely if you send your press release to 20 journalists then at least one of them will run it, right? Wrong! Journalists hate seeing their email address appear in an email pitch alongside those of several other rival reporters. Even if your story is compelling, they are going to see you’ve given it multiple media outlets to run so are unlikely to bother to follow it up themselves.

Don’t call them!

You know when you are super busy and get a call from a completely random person talking about something you have no idea about? Pretty annoying, isn’t it? Now imagine being a journalist trying to meet a deadline and you receive a call from someone who sent one of the 100-odd email pitches you received during the week. Yep, chances are the journalist will have little or no recollection of reading your pitch or press release. And it’s also likely they will be annoyed you called. For the record, 8 in 10 journalists surveyed last year for Medianet’s Media Landscape Report said they do not appreciate receiving a follow-up email or phone call about a pitch or a press release.

Keep it brief

Journalists are time-poor and accustomed to summing up swathes of complex information to create clear and succinct stories. They appreciate brevity. What they don’t appreciate is long-winded pitches that don’t get to the point. When a journalist sees a lengthy pitch, they will likely sigh and stop reading. Make sure your press release and pitch are compelling.

Want to take the guesswork out of pitching? Our team is full of former journalists who are experts in delivering compelling pitches that don’t peeve off reporters. Get in touch with us, here.

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