Here’s how to drive journalists crazy

Please read this article if your job includes sometimes working with internal or external public relations folks.

What follows is a list of things PR people do that drive journalists crazy. The items on the list come from the editorial staff of Pensions & Investments, which has, collectively, more than 400 years of journalism experience, meaning more than 400 years of dealing with PR people:

• Getting news releases and story pitches from people who didn't do their homework. They don't know what P&I covers and/or what beat the reporter they're pitching covers.

• Sending news releases to, or leaving voice-mail messages for, multiple reporters and editors — without revealing that other people on staff have been contacted for the same reason. This is a huge time waster for us.

• Being inaccessible or otherwise unhelpful with news releases. This includes not returning our calls, not responding to our e-mails and not allowing us to attribute anything to him or her after the PR person blocks our access to anyone at the company about which the PR person wants us to write.

• Continually calling or e-mailing to see if we received a news release. We each get hundreds of news releases every week — many not relevant to our readers — and generally don't respond unless we're interested.

• Offering us an “exclusive” when that's not really the case. Rather, P&I, for example, was the only U.S. publication or the only business-to-business publication to get it, which is not the same as giving it only to us, which is the definition of an exclusive.

• Being required to get answers to questions for a story from the PR person, and not someone within the company involved in the business we're writing about, when the PR person doesn't know the answers and has to get them from others anyway. We would have saved time and energy if we had been allowed to go directly to the source.

These are, by the way, real-life examples. We withheld names to protect the guilty.