How to annoy journalists

Are you as annoying as David Cameron?

This post was prompted by a small but noticeable flurry of reporters who used Twitter last week to ‘vent their spleens’.

1. Be impenetrable

Send editors a news release with an opening something like this: ‘Market leading unheard-of Company X (Nasdaq:UComp X08) today proudly announced the availability of market-leading, fault-tolerant 24×7 enterprise solution to optimize system integration…’

2. Be unaware

This can apply to a wide range of factors, from deadline times, editorial tone/policies, regular story themes, target readership, image requirements, what’s been previously written on your story subject or an individual’s contact preferences. Or it could be that the caller hasn’t yet worked out that no journalist welcomes a conversation that starts: “I’m calling to see if you received our news release. You have? That’s great, will you be using it?”

3. Be over-familiar

Chances are that you’ve never met. So keep things business-like and get straight to the point. It’s probably best not to mention that you have a hobby or interest in common unless there’s a clear connection and relevance to the story idea you’re pitching.

4. Be behind the news agenda

Pitching a story idea connected to something that happened yesterday, unless it gives the reporter a significant new angle or development on that event, is unlikely to be welcome. Hard news aside, editors plan stories around forthcoming event calendars relevant to their readers. So find out what’s on their news and story agenda, and make your pitch in advance. Do it in a timeframe that fits your target’s publication cycle.

Any one of the above will mark you out as irritating. But my favourite example is someone who managed to be doubly annoying in one call to FT columnist Andrew Hill recently. Hill’s response, via Twitter:

“Welbeck: never heard of you, but you may wish to reconsider your tactic of cold-calling biz journalists on deadline to sell financial planning.”

What else should I add to this short list? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to annoy journalists. And feel free to use this SlideShare I recently added:


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