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How to annoy editors

by | Mar 3, 2024

What are the most annoying, automatic-delete emails that land in reporters’ inboxes?

The pet peeve question was posed to the Baltimore Sun’s top editors during a recent meet the media discussion hosted by the Baltimore Public Relations Council.

Number one annoyance? A recent spike in pitches proclaiming “New Study: [Insert State] Ranks [1-50] As [Insert Company or Message Being Promoted]”. As Senior Editor Kamau High put it, “There is a surprising number of people pitching those and they are automatic deletes. I will send anyone who sends this pitch to spam.”

[Note: in my role with the Capitol Communicator I get these “survey” pitches every week, maybe daily, and they are wildly off target and not something we would write about.]

Vague subject lines don’t help either. “A subject line that just says ‘pitch’ or ‘for consideration,” offered Kendyl Kearly, breaking news and education editor.

Get to the point quickly. As Leeann Adams, senior visuals content editor, advised, “If you have an event, make sure it’s clearly stated and get to the point early on. If I’m starting to get into the second or third page of your email to understand, that’s just not happening.”

Another tip: “Second emails that say ‘correction’ but don’t say what’s being corrected,” said Amanda Kell, director of content/enterprise and investigations. “When I get a second press release that says ‘correction,’ say at the top what changed.”

Others mentioned the mistake of sending a pitch to multiple editors and reporters at the same outlet, but one-by-one so each recipient thinks it was only sent to them. That causes lots of problems, including the time waste of multiple reporters independently working on the same story at the same time. They ask that you openly cc everyone you are sending it to.

This happens with the Capitol Communicator as well, with PR people sending individual emails to me…and to DC editor Phil Rabin. This doesn’t help as we’ll both begin working on a story only to find out later that one of us has wasted their time.

Most of these tips aren’t new, but they’re essential common sense for media relations today. Make their jobs a bit easier. What PR missteps have you seen? What tips can you share?

Jeffrey Davis is regional editor for Capitol Communicator and head of Baltimore PR firm J. Davis Public Relations, LLC. He is the regional PR representative of the national Public Relations Consultants Group (PRCG).

About the Author

Jeffrey Davis

Jeffrey A. Davis, APR has more than 25 years of news media and national public relations experience and heads J. Davis Public Relations, LLC, a PR and social media consultancy. A three-time PRSA Maryland president, he serves as Maryland regional editor for the Capitol Communicator and is co-founder of Podville Media in D.C. where he co-hosted the "Practically Social" podcast. Jeff is the regional representative of the national Public Relations Consultants Group (PRCG). He began his career as a reporter at daily newspapers in Ohio, New Jersey and at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis.

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