The Devil Wears Prada

15 things PRs do that really annoy journalists

The Devil Wears Prada

This post, as the title neatly suggests, is all about the things fashion PRs do that journalists find really, REALLY  bothersome – and I’m talking about digital writers mostly. The main thrust of the matter being that online journalists are a) very busy (busier than YOU), b) very impatient and as a result have c) no time for pleasantries. Oh.

And, like my rant about the blogosphere going bad, I expect to ruffle a few feathers with this post BUT! In my defence, following a lifetime (well, long time) of being on the receiving end of constant press day invites and press releases ‘celebrating’ the release of an yet another new product or range, I find myself in an unfamiliar position. In my current role, I actually now sit within the PR + Comms team, and so not only overhear things from but can empathise deeply with The Dark Other Side.

This means I will certainly be writing the ‘things jorunos do that REALLY piss off PRs’ counterpart to this, in the interest of balance – so PRs; make sure you leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Without further fanfare, here, to be taken with a healthy dose of sarcasm and with no offence intended *gulps nervously* here are the 15 things (I narrowed it down… jokes!) PRs do that REALLY annoy journalists…

1. Ask for a story to be ‘popped up’ online

No, no it bloody well can’t be ‘popped up’. And that’s not just a digital journo diva tantrum (they happen mainly when no one knows the wifi password or event hashtag or when Kate Middleton makes an unexpected appearance, wearing some clothes, at the weekend). It’s because most publishing houses have not invested in updating the Content Management Systems powering their websites since 1875 and, ergo, NOTHING can be just popped up in a matter of minutes. Five sentences takes FIVE HOURS(ish) to upload. Images don’t crop themselves, y’know!

2. Phoning first thing in the morning

This might seem like a good plan and a little bit sneaky – ‘ooh, catch ’em before they’ve had a chance to take their coat off’ but as any digital journalist will testify, mornings are bloody busy. This is when you’re going through all the breaking news and attempting to churn out 84384 stories before lunchtime/going for a wee. Time spent exchanging pleasantries on the phone is just not conducive to this and will only make the journo in question ANGRY *cross face emoji*

3. Phoning and asking ‘what are you working on at the moment?’


4. Phoning to ask if you can send an email

Just send the email already. The journo will see it, don’t worry. And if they need more info, they will call you. But they won’t email you to tell you they’ve read YOUR email. Can you say ‘EMAIL’?

See also: getting the intern to call round to confirm contact details to ‘update the database’. That’s what Fashion Monitor is for, innit.

5. Phoning to see if the aforementioned email has been received

Especially if you sent the email within the last hour. I used to receive around 400 emails a day (mostly irrelevant press releases – no exaggeration). Once, I went to the loo and when I returned, I had 27 new emails. (And no; I wasn’t gone that long). It’s safe to say, the email has been received. Along with twenty trillion others.

BTW, the one sure-fire way to make sure someone reads your email? Sending a RECALL message. That draws more attention to your email than writing it in bright red 80 pt Comic Sans.

6. Phoning in general

Do you detect a theme here? basically, avoid calling in general UNLESS you have an amazing exclusive to offer, or a an exciting launch/event that is super relevant to the area they cover.

Digital journos are busy churning out story after story, and phone calls are pretty darn disruptive in terms of work flow. I ended up having to put my phone on silent as it would LITERALLY not stop ringing all day. Instead, it used to flash angrily at me, like the Bat Phone on acid.

Any phone conversation that started with “have you got a minute to talk about a story you might find of interest…” always ended up being precious minutes of my life I will never get back. Or could have busted out an extra news story in.

Clueless girls on phones

7. Sending a press release without hi-res images

I understand that this might be a nifty way to keep tabs on potential coverage, but trust me, it’s just really fucking annoying on the receiving end, not to mention time consuming.

See also: Sending press releases in PDF format. While no good journo should EVER be copying and pasting an entire press release, it is usual to want to grab important bits and add them straight into the CMS to save time. Sending PDFs does not save time, but may give the journo in question a slight hernia.

Oh, and: Sending press releases as attachments in general. Ain’t no one got time for that.

8. Expecting coverage to be sent over when live

In an ideal world, this would be THE DREAM. But in world full of thousands of emails, another story to write, a phone that doesn’t stop ringing and an event that you’re already late for, sending across a URL to the PR ain’t top priority, soz. There are plenty of media monitoring tools to keep tabs on your brand mentions – and if you do this AND send the journo an unsolicited thank you email or tweet for their coverage, they will KISS YOU ON THE FACE. Or be more likely to answer your call… *ahem*

9. Not being familiar with the website

I had a conversation once with a PR who INSISTED we had a cocktails section on the website I was working on at the time (First World probs, eh?) and proceeded to peddle her crazy alcoholic concoctions. When I finally managed to get a word in edgeways, I explained that she was sadly looking at the US, not the UK version of the website.

I also had similar exchanges with PRs promoting kidswear, and even hardware (garden sheds, lawnmowers, charcoal).

For the love of God, just glance at the website before you fire off your press release into the abyss. Check out the latest stories and site categories. If your story doesn’t fit, then don’t waste your time trying to convince the journo to shoehorn it in. They won’t.

10. Sending hard copies of your look books to the whole team

ESPECIALLY to an online journo who very rarely (depending on the publication, mind) needs to call product in to shoot. Send one hard copy of your look book to the fashion team’s intern or coordinator and they will keep it on file. Don’t worry, they’ll play nice and share, and we’ll ALL be saving the planet. Hi fives all round.

11. Getting names wrong

Be it the publication name and/or that of the writer. Look, we all know you’re using a mail merge to send the same email to your humungous database, but no one likes to be addressed as ‘Dear First Name’, do they? Seriously, keep your databases er, up-to-date. But, as per the earlier point, do NOT phone up to make this so. You get me?

12. Requesting coverage of an event the journo wasn’t invited to

That’s just bad darts, and mildly offensive. Similarly, when inviting editors to an event, it’s best to outline your expectations for coverage – do you want a social media mention or a full length feature? Be clear from the start to avoid awkward convos about coverage post soiree.

13. Expecting coverage because you’ve sent a(n unrequested) freebie

That’s just not how it works, and is also a bit illegal. This also results in piles of needless crap (sorrynotsorry) in the office that goes to waste (or worse). I’m not saying you shouldn’t send thank you gifts of an item a journo has covered *ahem* probs also a bit illegal, but have you seen the paltry salaries in editorial?! Well. But just bear in mind, LOTS of PRs send in LOTS of things to publishing house EVERY. DAMN. DAY.

Note: Cupcakes are also over now. You’d be surprised at how many journos are actually CRYING OUT for a healthy snack. Basically, send journos a juice and they will be like putty in your hands. Thank me later.

14. Saying ‘hope your well?’

This is just mean, I know. But committing grammatical errors to a person wot writes words for a living pretty much ensures you’re your story won’t be taken seriously and will land in the bin.

Also, sorry to say, but don’t call me ‘hon’ or be too overfamiliar – especially if we’ve never met. It just makes your press release sound frivolous and makes me feel like a child. God, I sound like an angry old bint. No wonder I got so stressed out though, eh?

15. Not appreciating the difference between print Vs online

This sounds obvious, and maybe I need to wrap this post up as I’m clearly nit-picking now, but I used to get SO many emails asking if I’d like to feature something on my ‘pages’. Or if I’d like to call samples in. Or asking about Christmas features in August. No, no and no. Instead of sending blanket press releases, tailor them to who you’re pitching to accordingly.

OK, now *I’m* sounding patronising (didn’t I just identify that as a pet peeve?) so I’m going to breathe and sign off. But interested to hear thoughts from both journos and PRs (you can stay anon!) – or any casual observers. Comment below or hit me up on the Twitter @NatWallers!

  • Comments

  • avatar
    Ondo Lady

    I run a beauty website so I send links to PRs as soon as the post goes live. I do that as I get a lot of samples and frankly I don’t want to be sent a load of chasing emails. I have no time for that. My pet peeves with PR in dealing with digital journalists is that they don’t understand how we work and our leads times. First of all I keep hearing that a lot of PRs can’t tell the difference between blogs and online magazines. Really???? That amazes me as the two are very different. Also in terms of lead times, PRs need to realise that we work in advance of publishing dates. For instance I plan my editorial two or three months ahead so right now I have all the posts for January all in and I am working on February. So it annoys me when a PR only contacts you about a product launch a week or days before it happens. Do they think I am going to go back and alter my editorial plan?

    • avatar
      Natalie Wall

      Ha ha! it’s crazy in this day and age that the world of online editorial is still so puzzling to PRs, right? I shared this post on my (personal) Facebook page, and ALL of my journo friends had something similar to say – there’s a real opportunity for a god PR agency to swoop in and get it oh-so right!

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