A guest post by Caroline Hayes, freelance technology journalist
Here is a simple plan guaranteed to annoy or frustrate editors. Follow these simple rules and you will be assured that every editor you come into contact with rolls their eyes heavenward*
- Send press releases that are not relevant. I recently received one about how long someone has worked in a company’s accounts department. (Should I have run it as a news item or expanded it into a feature?)
- Be unimaginative and send unsolicited comment on recent news events. The editor will insist that if they want comment they will contact you, but you can’t take that risk, can you?
- Mask the content of an email with a generic subject line. Something like “News from A N Other Company” works well or” A N Other Company releases new widget” is another good one that means no-one will be able to guess if it is worth opening the email.
- If the editor gets past this and opens the email, make sure they cannot fathom what it is about by putting as much non-descript text in the first paragraph. The object is defy the journalist convention of answering the questions: “what, why, how and/or when” in the opening paragraph. Do not – at all costs – reveal what the item is, why it is special and what need it meets in today’s market, or suggest useful ways to use it.
- If this fails, and the editor reads further than the first paragraph, make sure that the text has plenty of unsubstantiated claims. (Tip: there is no such thing as too many!) Replace: “The part-number1234 is the industry’s smallest at 2x2mm, saving 80% real estate compared to the company’s last generation” with “The ground-breaking part-number1234 is much better than the competition’s offering. It is small and neat and everyone should have one.”
- Pictures are another great tool that PR companies can exploit. If the editor persists and wants to use the story, make sure that pictures are not readily available. There are many ways to achieve this. For example, a link to a press area where the material is hidden or listed as obscurely, is one option. (Having to register to access the site each time, increases the time required to retrieve a mediocre image.) Another tip is do not include a graphic representation of the image at all so the editor does not know if the image is worth considering before following these routes away from the press release. A short-cut would be to attach one or more large picture files so that the editor’s mailbox gets clogged up. A benefit of this is that the editor spends time clearing their email inbox rather than editing material. One other tip is to make sure the company logo, brand and name are prominently placed and as large as possible so that the editor won’t know if this is editorial or an advert.D
- Don’t ask if the editor has any preferences as they may respond with requests. If they should express particular requirements, e.g. Word document attached / press release embedded in an email, continue to send a mass-email in your company’s chosen format regardless.
- Pitch articles that are not relevant to the readership. Bonus marks can be earned if you are able to send a completely irrelevant article saying it is for a particular feature (e.g. one about electric vehicles in response to a mil/hi-rel call for copy).
- At one-to-one meetings that you have requested on behalf of your client, always open the discussion by asking the editor : “So, what do you want to know?”
- Any tricky questions, NEVER respond with “I’ll look into that and get back to you”. Instead reply “I cannot share that information”.
- Always include a graph that shows absolutely nothing, with no explanation of the X and Y axis. Ideally one illustrating how the technology has developed in an unspecified way over an unspecified period of time.
- Never have less than 12 foils in a PowerPoint presentation. Ideally each of these should have exactly the same material as the verbal presentation. That way you can read out what is being projected, rather than use the text or image as a starting point that the speaker and audience can expand upon. Here too, plenty of non-descript graphs add to the experience.
- If you can work on the PowerPoint between printing it out for the meeting and presenting it, it is much more entertaining to see the editor’s flipping between pages to find the vital, missing page currently under discussion.
- Never research too thoroughly before pitching an idea to an editor. Be assured an editor will never ask “What is the meeting about?” “What does the client do” or “Why is this news?”
- Remember deadlines are fluid and commutable. A magazine team will hold up print or digital production schedules for you if you want more time to make sure the article is “just right”.
- If an editor asks for 12 points, always supply more!
* We would like to point out that Pinnacle is not guilty of any of the faux pas mentioned here!