Dealing with the media is a necessary evil if you want to get yourself noticed. I’m a tech journalist and freelance writer. I talk to hundreds of SMEs, start-ups, fortune 500 companies, investors and industry experts every year. I receive thousands of press releases and invitations to events. Unfortunately, I find that many businesses, especially those just starting out, make the same mistakes again and again. Here are the most common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Don’t crush us with your enthusiasm

You have something you want to get promoted It might be, for example, a recent achievement, a new product or upcoming event. You send a five-page press release via pdf with lots of photos then proceed to email every day asking for an interview. It’s too much and unless your product or service is truly disruptive and amazing, it’s a huge turn off.

Help us tell your story

A journalist is a story teller. We strive to write compelling text that engages our readers. What we need from you is clear and concise information with the option to find out more if we choose to.

I know one editor who told me she only reads each email pitch or press release down to where she is required to scroll page down. Seriously, if we’re interested, we’ll reach out for more. Think about answering these questions with a sentence or two for each:

·      Who are you?

·      What’s your product/event?

·      What problem does it solve?

·      Who are your competitors? (Don’t say you have no competitors; we check)

·      What’s your point of difference to them?

Don’t jump on the bandwagon

It may seem tempting to write to the journalists who have previously covered your brief (e.g. 10 textiles designers from South London to watch) but believe me, all it will do is annoy them. No journalist is going to pitch the same article to their editor again for at least a few months. It’s even worse if this contact comes from a PR professional who really should know better!

Even worse is when someone contacts an online published journalist saying I see you wrote about X, I make one of those too, perhaps you could incorporate it into your original piece. Um, how about no?

It’s perfectly fine to introduce yourself and offer to show us around South London when we’re next in the area. Maybe you have a point of difference to those featured? Offer a different perspective or angle or the story and we just might revisit it in the future.

Don’t be too expansive

You’ve got an event/crowdfunding campaign or product launch coming up. You send an email to every journalist you can find not to mention tweeting at them and a message on linkedin. This will ensure that no one will work with you again.

If you’re offering the same information to everyone, then you’re not offering us anything unique or exclusive. Learn what media sources might be a good fit. A journalist that writes about cars doesn’t want a press release from you about your latest music. It goes straight into the delete box.

Don’t stalk us

I’ve had PR people and businesses send me daily emails wanting to know when I piece will be published-sometimes accompanied by friend requests on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Writers have no control over publication dates. Sometimes an editor will refuse a piece for reasons they are unable to share like deals with advertisers or competitors that provide sponsored content. (As readers expect online content for free, this is just the way it goes).

That said, it’s ok to politely enquire when the piece will go to press. Keep us updated with your progress in case we are able to freshen up the article before it goes to press a few weeks/months later.

Don’t email us every week

We might have written about your first product but it doesn’t mean we’re in a position to write about every single update. Think about how else you can stay relevant and on our radar.

Build an ongoing relationship

As journalists, we’re genuinely passionate about what we do. Whilst we may not be experts on the minutiae of every topic we cover, we do talk to lots of people every day, and thus we’re in a great position to champion you and your cause to others if you impress us.

Whilst we can’t necessarily write about the same topic twice, we’re always looking for trend analysis, commentary on topical issues (especially if you can offer a solution or different perspective), end of year wrap ups and predictions into the following year.Make it easy for us by offering your expertise.

Being a journalist is a bit like being a perpetual student in that you constantly have pieces of writing due or overdue. We juggle many balls in the air and work on umpteen articles simultaneously. But we’re always on the looking for a great story so think how you can best ensure we hear yours.

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