12 ways journalists p*ss off PR people

A few grievances from the PR side of the table, relayed by Qurate Retail’s Ian Bailey.

Believe it or not, journalists can be annoying, too. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

For as long as I’ve been in the PR business, there have been “to don’t” lists published periodically, detailing the many ways in which PR pros irritate, annoy or anger journalists. I can assure you it’s not deliberate…

These lists can be helpful for anyone starting out in the industry, and nearly all the points PRWeek associate news editor Diana Bradley raised are entirely reasonable to find irritating. As an early Festivus celebration, I’ll air a few grievances from the PR side of the table, while echoing Diana’s sentiments as to intent; I know some of the following offenses may be out of journalists’ control. Here goes: 

1. Canceling an interview with our CEO and then ghosting us.

It sometimes takes a lot of effort to get a member of the C-suite just to agree to the interview, let alone prepare for it. So, this makes us look bad in front of our boss, or our boss’s boss. It’s also harder to convince them in the future. 

2. Bringing up topics in an interview we agreed were “off the table.” 

See 1: making us look bad. 

3. Stories with basic factual inaccuracies when the information is publicly available...

... or we’ve provided the details in advance. If the CEO’s name is misspelled, or they are misgendered, I guarantee they won’t be focused on all the other great stuff you may have written about them and the company. 

4. Artificially urgent requests and deadlines, particularly on Friday before a holiday weekend.

Every career communications professional I know, and their spouse, can list almost every major holiday over their career spent corresponding to a media inquiry “fire drill.” Are you really on deadline? Or are you just trying to wrap something up early before you head out, too? No judgment. 

5. Writing something that’s factually accurate...

... but grossly misleading, such as quotes taken out of context, because it fits a narrative. 

6. Declining to correct something...

... that’s factually inaccurate or grossly misleading because it has run in another outlet. 

7. Calling us after you’ve written your story and are about to file...

... when the story is all about our company. I’m begging you, please call us early. We’re here to help. And per No. 4, ideally don’t wait until Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend. 

8. Quoting us when we agreed to a conversation on background. 

9. Breaking embargos...

... although noting Diana’s point on unreasonable timing or moving embargoes at short notice.

10. Not being prepared for an interview.

Particularly with our CEO. 

11. Not letting us know if a story is being shelved...

... if we’ve worked with you for weeks on it, providing interview access, follow-up information, etc. We’ll understand, please just don’t leave us hanging. 

12. And finally, sometimes we can only do an email interview.

They may not be as good as a phone or in-person interview, but sometimes that’s just the best we can do for you due to schedules or C-suite availability. And yes, that’ll take more time and effort to put together, but that’s our job. 

We each have our roles to play. 

Ian Bailey is SVP of communications and community at Qurate Retail.


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