During media training sessions, I share examples of easy ways to completely tick off a reporter — not as a tutorial — but as a cheeky way to say DO NOT do these things ever if you want to maintain any kind of healthy relationship with media.
Below you will find the ones that bothered me when I worked as a journalist.
Do any of these things, and you’re in for a world of fun.
1. Tell a reporter how to do their job – They love that. Criticize the subjective tone or focus of a story while you’re at it. Bonus points if you can do this while never mentioning that the story was technically 100% accurate.
2. Ask them why they didn’t cover your story – Reporters love justifying how they do their job and the decisions they’ve made — to PR people. If you ask with a little bit of attitude, all the better. They dig that.
3. Only be helpful when you want something from them – Reporters can’t tell when they have an artificial one-way relationship with a PR person. No need to invest a little time in getting to know them and THEIR needs a bit better.
4. Send them a media advisory right before an event – They will never guess that you don’t really want them there so you made it logistically impossible to get there on time without being able to say they weren’t invited.
5. Only communicate with them by email or text – Reporters love nothing more than a controlled message via email with no chance to ask a question. Sometimes (legal implications) you have no choice — but we’re talking about the other 99% of the time. An email is great for communicating tone, too.
6. Send out a media release with a contact who’s not available – It’s a great tactic. Send out a media release and put the person’s name at the bottom for media to contact. But, that person is not available. This screams “credible”.
7. Promise a scoop then hold a news conference – Nothing says “I love you” like a broken promise. And, chances are they communicated the promised scoop to their editor, too, so you now have double the fans in that newsroom.
8. Ban them from anything – If there’s one thing reporters truly love, it’s being punished for doing their jobs. So, ban them from news conferences or events. Lord knows they’d never tell anyone, especially on social media.
9. Tell them how lucky they are to get what they got – It certainly works with spouses — so why wouldn’t it work with reporters, right?
10. Make them go through access to Information – They understand that there is some information that will require access to information — but the true joy comes in having to go through the red tape to get something simple and easy.
11. Ask them if they’d ever come work for you in PR – Nothing says manipulation like false flattery and dangling a carrot. You better be serious.
12. Make them watch other people eat – What is more enjoyable than attending a Chamber luncheon or keynote address and watching people eat while you stand in the corner waiting for the speaker. No need for a media table at all.
13. Hold a news conference with inadequate audio/visual facilities – Today’s reporter has to listen to the speaker, ask questions, video, tweet, etc. all at the same time. Would an audio board and camera riser help? Sure. But, what’s one more thing for them to do at this point?
14. Call their boss to complain about them – This was one of my favourites — when the PR person would go over my head. I can assure you I didn’t hold a grudge and didn’t dig into your organization with a little more rigour.
15. Return their call at 4 p.m. – You’re busy so reporters completely understand if it took you 6 hours to get back to them just to say you can’t help. I’m sure the next time YOU want something, they’ll be equally as gracious.
There are others. There are many others. Feel free to share the ones you know of and perhaps we’ll compile another list in a few months.
Peter Evans Co-Founder & CEO
Recognized speaker on expertise marketing, technology and innovation