13 PR Types Who Should be On the Naughty List for 2013

Santa's Naughty or Nice List

PR people often get criticized, ridiculed and looked down upon, sometimes for no reason. But there are times when we definitely deserve it. That’s right PR people, there are a few of you giving the rest of us a bad name with your naughty behavior. In fact, 13 types of PR professionals earned a spot on the Naughty List this year.

1. The Email Blaster – Reporters hate this and so should you. Sending out one generic email to a large number of reporters comes off as impersonal, lazy and, frankly, ineffective. It’s not that there isn’t a time or place for an email blast – there is. However, if this is how you primarily interact with journalists, congratulations! You just booked a one way ticket to PR purgatory. With a simple copy/paste and a touch of personalization, you can change how reporters perceive you.

2. The Scaredy Cat – In PR, at one point or another you have to go with your gut and take a risk. This could be as simple as how to deal with a client issue when the boss isn’t around or taking a gamble on a risky pitch. Boldness, confidence and instincts are all a part of PR. As PR pros mature, hiding from taking charge won’t work.

3. The Repeat Offender – Yes, we are all guilty of emailing reporters more than once if they don’t respond. However, it is crucial to not send the same email over and over again. It’s embarrassing for everyone involved and makes PR people look lazy, unprofessional and annoying. If you need an answer, write a new email each time or call. Matt Rosoff, editorial director for CITEworld gives insight as to what can happen if you do this (hint, blacklists do exist).

4. The Buzzword Person – Hey buzz word guy, no reporter, client or PR person wants to “circle back with you,” “reinvent the wheel,” or “grab the low-hanging fruit.” Can we cut this out of our language? While we’re at it, can we take out the words, “robust,” “optimize,” and “social media guru.” I’m just trying to “call out” the unnecessary jargon we use that makes people’s eyes glaze over. “Moving forward,” please make sure to add this to your “action items.” If you disagree, feel free to “reach out” and we can “touch base” about it later. If this doesn’t sound reasonable, please check out Yahoo Columnist and former NYT writer David Pogue’s response to PR pitches.

5. The Anti-Double Checker – These people call reporters by the wrong name in a pitch or don’t think to check what beat they cover. Perhaps they misspell or mispronounce the client’s CEO’s name. Come on guys, it’s hard to get much worse than this. Just ask ReadWrite reporter Dan Rowinski who still gets pitches from PR people calling his employer ReadWriteWeb, which changed its name in 2012. A simple double-check can solve this problem. Everyone messes up, but make sure to learn from it. Better yet, read your materials out loud, maybe even to another person. Not taking the time to do things right can make or break a relationship.

6. The Lazy Man’s Media List/Agenda Compiler – These documents are part of a PR agency’s life blood, so they have to be up to snuff. No one wants to open a media list and find wrong emails/numbers, misspelled names or out-of date publications. Sending an unfinished or sloppy agenda to a client makes your agency look unprofessional. Finally, you personally end up looking bad and have wasted everyone’s time. If you are chosen to put a document together, make sure to do it right.

7. The Clueless Pitcher/Researcher – In the same vein as number six, this naughty person doesn’t do their research. Whether it’s reaching out to reporters or doing research on publications, a PR person should always know the basics: how a journalist like to contacted, beat, style, etc. This chain of tweets between TechCrunch Writer Alex Wilhelm, founding partner, CEO of Knock Twice Mike Barash, TechCrunch Writer Ryan Lawler and author April Peveteaux demonstrates what a PR person needs to look for when pitching reporters. In terms of publications, don’t pitch a byline to a publication that doesn’t take bylines. If you know a certain magazine doesn’t cover product launches, then don’t pitch them a launch! With a little common sense and quick information check, this person can end up on the Nice List if they try.

8. The Long Pitcher – My favorite word in PR is brevity. Lengthy emails are not as appreciated as you think. From the reporters I have talked to, most hate long, intricate missives. The best thing you can do is get to the point as fast as you can. If they want the story they will take it no matter how detailed the pitch, but they need to be able to understand what you are pitching in the first place. If you can’t get to your point in the first few sentences, the pitch isn’t worth sending. Again, David Pogue can shed a little light on this very common problem.

9. The Email Bitcher— This is a very naughty PR person. If a reporter does not respond, most of the time it means they don’t want it. It is in poor form to go back to said reporter and complain about how they should check their messages more. Journalists have lives, as well as having hundreds of other PR people hounding them every day. Sending a complaint email makes a PR pro look immature and unprofessional. This is a great way to not only get on the Naughty list, but a reporter’s blacklist as well.

10. The Mis-Opportunist – This PR person does not take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. They miss out on being able to meet and talk to clients, reporters, other PR people and potential new business without realizing it. There is so much potential to network and make new connections at events or conferences that to not take advantage of this can be detrimental to a PR person’s career. Even though it can be difficult to start conversations with strangers, the benefits will surprise you.

11. The PR “Pro” Who Doesn’t Understand Their Client – A PR person that doesn’t get what their client does will not make it in this industry. We act as the mouthpiece for our clients, translating their stories for journalists and other influencers. We need to know their market, technology and competition as well as they know themselves. Understanding a client product or service can be difficult; reach out to a supervisor if you have problems. At the end of the day, the person who doesn’t understand their clients doesn’t get, or keep, a job.

12. The “Too Cool for School” PR person – They think they are the coolest thing on two feet – they have the contacts, the knowledge and don’t think they need anyone else’s advice. In their eyes, they are better than everyone else. Unfortunately for them, PR is constantly changing and there will always be something new to learn or a new person to meet. Just because someone has a close relationship with a famous reporter doesn’t make them the best PR person. We all have contacts and we should all strive to continually build our reputations.

13. The Script Reader – Nothing is more cringe-worthy than listening to a PR person sound like they are pitching from a script (which they probably are if they sound like that!) One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from reporters is how PR people don’t get to the point, won’t let the reporter answer and sound mechanical. There is no harm in sounding like a human; it might even be appreciated. Don’t be scared to engage with reporters, they don’t bite. Make sure to give the journalist the opportunity to respond too – rambling off a spiel sounds rehearsed, and a reporter will stop listening after a few seconds. Many times a PR pro has only one shot, so make sure it’s a bull’s-eye.

If you know a PR professional doing these things, please place a lump of coal on their desks. It’s tiring hearing from reporters how much we can stink. I propose that this holiday season we give all reporters the gift of flawless PR.


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Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

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