5 irritating habits of reporters when calling PR pros

There was a huge response this week to our post about the Top 5 Mistakes PR Pros Make When Pitching Journalists. Among the responses we received was this great one from a PR industry veteran, who highlighted some of the more irritating habits of some journalists.  

So...what kinds of behaviour by reporters can make PR people cringe, see red or crawl under their desks in the fetal position? What questionable tactics do PR people see right through? Check out the following list that we've published verbatim from our reader/contributor from the PR industry:

1. Calling at 3:00 pm on a Friday for a comment on a story

Chances are the people that can appropriately brief the spokesperson on the issue are gone for the weekend, so there is no way you are going to put your spokesperson up for an interview on something he or she is not well briefed on.  When the phone rings on Friday afternoons, I can often be heard screaming or sobbing. My colleagues have been warned.

2. E-mail or phone a PR person on a Sunday and expect a return of your call promptly

I try to keep an eye on my BlackBerry during weekends, I really do. But I still haven’t inserted and stitched it inside of my arm yet!  I had one guy leave me a message on a gorgeous sunny Sunday and when I called him back on Monday, he was mad at me for not returning his call sooner than that. I do have and want a life!

3. “But I only need 5 minutes of the president’s time”

That’s never the case.  An interview never lasts five minutes and we all know it. Once the reporter has the spokesperson on the phone (or in person) he or she will try to suck the most they can can from him! Don’t think we don’t know that! And it may be “five minutes” for you, but that’s not the case for the spokesperson who has to be briefed on the subject. Add another 15 minutes at least!

4. “This is my last question”

We all know that an answer to a question prompts another question, which prompts further response, which prompts another question, and so on and so on.  The interview will end when it ends…

5. “I swear I won’t share your spokesperson's cell phone number”

Yeah, right!  I had this happen once and learned a lot from it. Completely trusted the producer and gave her my spokesperson’s cell phone number until, a couple months later, another producer calls my president on his cell. What happened is that they put the contact number in a data bank that is shared by all the network staff.  Never doing that again!

Thank you once again to the PR pro who took the time to respond with this great list. We've chosen to keep his/her identify anonymous for career-preservation reasons. So what do you journalists or PR folks think? Any issues with this list? Any gripes you'd like to add?

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