Now that I’ve been regularly confessing my intimate, journalist secrets to you all, I figured it was time to finally open up and share the dark stuff. This is the stuff that makes me (and probably every other journalist) outraged.
Please keep in mind that there are naturally many aspects of being a journalist, most of which do not cause my blood to boil. But here are the things you should most definitely avoid.
1. I said “email me”, not “poke me on Facebook”.
It’s funny, a lot of journalists make it very clear how they want to be contacted – yet people consistently ignore this info and seek out utterly annoying ways to get in touch, usually with the hopes of “making a statement.”
People figure journalists are bombarded with press releases and info (which they are) via email, phone, Twitter and whathaveyou, so by finding a different way to get in touch they’ll probably get the journalist’s attention. Well, this method definitely gets attention – though typically not the right kind.
All journalists are different. I have public profiles on a lot of social sites but I have always made it very clear that people should get in touch with me via email, Twitter and Linkedin. I dislike using the telephone, Skype and Facebook for people I have never met, yet many people somehow ignore this. I’ve had people do everything from Facebook poke me to call my parents in California for an article. I definitely makes me wonder why people go to such extensive lengths when my email address is very visible and I am (generally) pretty good at reading and responding.
In short, most journalists make it very clear how they want to be contacted. Why not just try one of those?
2. As it turns out, I don’t blog about mattresses.
One of the problems with my email being so available to everyone on the Internet is that sometimes people who have no idea on what I write about contact me with their completely irrelevant press releases. I get press releases about trucks, wine – even mattresses. Clearly, none of this really appeals to a French tech/startup blogger…
There are also times when the line gets a little blurry. I write about tech – but for the most part, I cover Europe and French-related news and companies. Therefore, I have more difficulty writing about companies in China or Australia if there isn’t a direct relationship to France or Europe. It can be done – but usually I would prefer that these startups actually have a relevant story for my audience before pitching to me.
So, before contacting a journalist, it’s definitely good to check and make sure that what you are sending them is relevant to their readers.
3. Yes, you DO have competitors.
This is my biggest journalist pet peeve of all time: whenever someone I am interviewing tells me that their company does not have competitors. Every time this happens, there is an explosion inside my head. And a part of me dies.
I am a strong advocate of openly talking about competition for several reasons:
First, you help the journalist understand your business better. If you ignore talking about other people in your industry, there is a chance that the journalist may not fully understand the market you are in.
Second, I always think it’s beneficial to be seen as part of a movement – alongside big, dominant players, if possible – than as a lone star. And plus, if you are competing with the likes of Amazon or Apple (in even the smallest of ways), wouldn’t it be nice for your name to appear next to theirs?
And finally, you risk taking the journalist for an idiot – and then you’ll get a not-so-friendly surprise if they actually publish an article. If the journalist does their homework, they’ll end up finding out who your competitors are and publishing them anyway. So why not just talk about them openly and avoid looking like a bit of a scoundrel?
4. No, my question cannot wait 48 hours.
Perhaps this applies more to bloggers than any other type of journalist – but do not forget that journalists are on incredibly tight schedules. Embargoes are not very fun to play with and usually journalists are working on multiple stories at the same time and trying to get them out as fast as they can.
Therefore, when you or your communication/PR team gets a question from a journalist, try to respond ASAP. I cannot tell you how helpful it is when someone is able to get an answer to you right away – it also helps drive the momentum for finishing the article and getting it published.
There have been times when PR teams or communication people have not responded right away, have dragged their feet a little and gotten me the answer to my question after my article had been published. Well, needless to say, it ends up making my question and the answer absolutely pointless.
5. Yes, we had a conversation. I did not sign a contract.
Perhaps one of the worst assumptions that someone can make is that a conversation equals an article. I’ve had many conversations with startups and discovered afterwards that there just simply wasn’t a story. And explaining this can be difficult.
Some journalists have enough integrity to come out and just say clearly that they will or will not publish. But on the whole, it’s best to assume that a conversation doesn’t necessarily equal an article – and not harass the journalist to bits just because you had a conversation.
Now, if there are any other journalists or bloggers out there who would like to share the things that annoy them the most, by all means – feel free!