Gain-Stovall Inc. and Announcer Bob logos

Flubs, Fumbles and Flake Factor

Flubs, fumbles and the flake factor – things to avoid in PR

by Rosanne Gain, Co-owner of Gain-Stovall, Inc.

The growth of electronic communication and the advent of blogs, social media platforms and citizen journalism has been a boon to folks in the communication business as it opens up new avenues of direct communication. However, it would be a mistake to ignore or stereotype traditional media outlets.

Just because there are multiple ways to get your message out don’t write off traditional outlets such as print and broadcast media. It’s also a mistake to stereotype print and broadcast reporters: newspaper reporters also blog, tweet and post to the online version of their publication. Likewise, today’s TV reporter no longer just stands in front of a camera looking good. In addition to doing interviews and writing copy, many reporters also lug the camera, shoot and edit their own piece and often post it online. The same goes for radio reporters, some of whom even appear on TV or in video. So much for having a “face for radio.”

When dealing with the media today it is important to understand the many roles a reporter plays, and how to avoid some pitfalls that can trap the unwary.

Ten PR mistakes to avoid when working with the media

There are dozens of mistakes people make when it comes to media relations, but most of them are not fatal. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid if you want to have long-term success with the media:


Not doing your homework. Know whom you are talking to. Don’t contact the food editor when you have a sports idea to pitch. It's amazing how many PR people don't even do a simple Google search before pitching their story to a journalist.


Sounding like a commercial. News outlets have sales departments so people can buy advertising. Remove the commercial from the pitch and focus on the news value to the audience.


Lack of an online pressroom. Ongoing communication with the media can sometimes be a case of “wait and then hurry up.” When they’re ready it’s often on a tight deadline, so make information easy to access.


Not paying attention to deadlines. If a reporter needs an expert to speak on a subject, ask "Are you on deadline?" Once you know the “drop dead” time they must hear back from you, get back to them to let them know if you can help them or not. According to a local print reporter, “With this 24 hour news cycle we are always on deadline.”


Having a vague or unclear message. Get to the point quickly because if a reporter does not get the pitch within the first couple of sentences, the message gets deleted.


Thinking the media is there for you instead of their audience. Your world may revolve around your cause, service or product but that’s not the case with the media. Their responsibility is to their audience and they must provide them with what they want and need in the way of news and information. Want to provide them with news their audience can use? Then think like a reporter, not like an advertising copywriter. Reporters will often want multiple sources for their stories.


Unavailability of designated media contact. This is a pet peeve of many reporters; don’t send out a release when the media contact will be out of the country.


Using wooden quotes, and over-the-top adjectives. Reporters tire of phrases such as, “So and so is delighted to announce…”: of course you’re delighted, otherwise why would you bother to send a release?


Not knowing the difference between appropriate follow up and pestering. There’s a delicate balance between not keeping in touch and inundating a media contact. Since the practice of PR is about relationship building, find out what works for your media contact. 


Providing incomplete or inaccurate information. Reporters are not going to accept what you tell them on faith. A good reporter will fact check and may use other sources to fill out a story.

Remember the three Ts – timing, targeting and tenacity

Be clear, concise, on time and on target with your messages. The successful practice of PR is about long-term relationship building, so when building media relationships, plan to be in it for the long haul.

If you would like a copy of this article in PDF format, please click here