Posted by Phil Hall
Thou Shalt Not Ask After the Receipt of Press Releases
The scene is my office. It is morning and I am in the midst of my day job as the editor of a mortgage banking magazine. I am receiving a telephone call from a PR person who wants to know if I received a press release that she sent via e-mail earlier in the week. I am not happy.
Why am I not happy? Because I still cannot believe that the PR world is full of people who waste time, money and goodwill in calling journalists asking if they received a particular press release. This is not unique to newbie account executives that are still feeling their way in the media world. Senior level PR executives have also pestered me in regard to “information” sent my way.
As a public service, I’d like to offer this brief explanation of why such calls are a waste of time.
First, the average journalist receives dozens of press releases per week. Some journalists at the higher-profile media outlets receive hundreds of press releases per day. It is highly unlikely for the average journalist (or even the above-average journalist) to remember every single press release that comes in.
Second, unless your press release is returned to you (either via a Mailer-Daemon e-mail bounceback or a Return to Sender sticker on snail mail, you should assume that the press release was received. The likelihood of the press release getting lost in the digital ether or the bowels of the USPS is highly unlikely. Assume it was received if it doesn’t come back.
Third, just want is so important about the press release that demands this kind of a follow-up? If it is a new product announcement, a personnel announcement, or an item for a calendar listing, don’t even think of following up after it. Because to be perfectly cruel, the journalist doesn’t see that as news – he sees it as filler. Don’t waste your contact time with journalists chasing filler.
Fourth, this may be a surprise to many PR people but journalists actually work for a living. And many of these journalists are often trying to complete something called a “deadline.” If I had a dollar for every PR person calling a deadline-chasing journalist to inquire about the receipt of a press release…well, let’s just say I’d have problems closing my wallet thanks to all of those dollars!
Fifth, and perhaps most important, no journalist enjoys getting such calls. If you want to piss off a media person, make such a call and see for yourself.
If you are going to call a journalist, do something that is useful for the journalist. Offer the journalist exclusive interviews, provide original articles or op-ed pieces carrying the bylines of top-tier leaders, arrange super-secret peeks at the latest groundbreaking products. But don’t – please, DON’T – ask them if they received your press release!
(Phil Hall is the former president of Open City Communications, a New York PR agency, and former editor of PR News. His latest book "The New PR" will be released later this year from Larstan Publishing.)
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It's amazing that this keeps having to be said. Thanks, Phil.
To take it one step further-- why email a press release at all? The wire service should be taking care of distribution. If I email or call you, it should be with a story idea in mind-- something that may actually help you. If there is info within a press release that illustrates the point (yes, I am till trying to include the news in my pitch somehow) then I will include it, or post the press release below my sign-off for you to peruse, if my real story pitch is at all intriguing.
Wow, i so disagree it's amazing.
The fact that so many PR people are sending mis-guided and irrelevant releases is exactly why you need to follow-up.
Twice this week, with major titles, the editor thanked me because my information sent a few days before was lost in the shuffle of the other 100 emails they received.
If your news is relevant, if not ground breaking, then it's worth following up.
I don't think Phil speaks for all journalists. Not the good ones at least.
Hmmm -- I never heard of editors thanking a PR person for doing a follow-up. Obvious Bill isn't speaking for all journalists (and certainly not the good ones!).
Phil acts as if journalists are a monolothic lot, and, more importantly, as if he embraces how the entire media community works. How smug! In fact, many an editor has thanked me for following through on a release so that they could retrieve it from an over zealous junk filter. Ah, and maybe there are one or two reporters out there whose job it is to cover new products. What a concept? It reminds me of a media panel I witnessed early on in my career when the reporters were shocked to discover that their compatriots preferred to be contacted in different ways. Some still liked faxes. Some preferred calls. Some were avid email readers. Some were not. Ah, for diversity. The problem is, journalists like Phil believe they are the center of the universe and expect publicists to be mind readers.
I have to disagree. I've had numerous reporters thank me for calling them to "follow up".
The scene is my living room. I'm trying to enjoy my downtime when I come across an article that I believe is meant to help publicists. The writer bills himself as a journalist. I am not happy.
Why am I not happy? See, I confused "journalist" with "writer." My mistake. If you had a dollar, Phil? You couldn't come up with something better? Perhaps a flack called you in the middle of writing that sentence.
I won't call to ask you.