My PR flack stuffed up big time. Help!

Dear Aunty B,

My company had a good news story and I got the PR company to pitch it to relevant newspaper. They got no response so I rang up the journalist myself.

He told me that the PR agency had spelt the name of the journalist wrong, made spelling mistakes in the release, said to the journalist they would get back with details and didn’t, and then someone else from the PR agency re-pitched the same story to the same journalist. Not only that, the journalist said they also received the pitch addressed to another journalist at a competing newspaper.

I pointed out to the journalist that although the PR company stuffed up and I apologised on their behalf, it did not change the fact that I had a good story to tell. At which the journalist said some unrepeatable swear words and hung up. Who is at fault? Grumpy journalist or PR flack? And what do I do now? This is the best news story I have had for a while.

Annoyed Business Owner,


Dear Annoyed Business owner,

Who is to blame? Yourself, of course. You hired the PR company that had no idea how to do their job.

Imagine this. Your employee sends an email to a client. They spell their name wrong, they don’t get back with details, then a different member of their team rings the client about the same problem and then mixes them up with another client altogether! That’s what you have effectively done to the hapless journalist at a newspaper who is already suffering under terrible pressure from being a cog in an unsustainable business model (print journalism.)

What you have just described are key things journalists hate. Journalists have seconds to make an initial judgement on a story. Bad spelling and lack of detail immediately signals the cookie cutter approach and the journalist presses delete. Reporters want the story first and don’t want to be on a list being peddled around the block.

Lack of detail also signals to reporters that they cannot rely on the detail being right, which means they can’t make an informed decision on whether it’s a good story or not.

If you can, always develop a relationship with the journalists yourself. If you can’t, put your PR company though the ringer before you hire them. Ask them about their approach and check to see they build relationships. Check that press releases are sub-edited and there is the same attention to detail that exists within your own organisation.

Oh and one more thing journalists hate!! The PR company often puts their name on the bottom of the email and not your name. To have to ring a PR company to get through to you… uggghhh.

What can you do now? Take a different angle and approach a different journalist. Tell the journalist that they get the story on their own. And provide them with lots of details including industry statistics than can broaden the story out.

And look around for a new PR company!
Good luck,
Your Aunty B.


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