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The Roxhill PR Commandments

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Set yourself apart as a PR who means business by always following these simple PR commandments

When we speak to journalists, the same PR niggles come up again and again. These are small things, but they can really grind if you’re a top editor seeing them day in, day out so keep reading for Roxhill’s essential PR commandments.

1. Thou shalt always read a publication before you pitch

This is the first thing that all top journalists tell us when we talk to them which is why it’s our first PR commandment. Journalists want you to understand their publication before you pitch, so that you can suggest a story that will immediately slot into their pages. This will save them time twofold: firstly because you’re not pitching things that they can’t possibly use, and secondly because they can lift your idea and immediately commission, with no need to adapt it to work for them

2. Thou shalt always spell the journalist's name correctly

Oh it’s so basic, and yet goes wrong so often. Several journalists we’ve worked with have said if the name isn’t right on the email, it’s an instant delete, and will tarnish that PRs reputation into the future. Particular things to watch out for: journalists whose surname can also be a first name (don’t confuse the two); using shortened versions of names when you don’t know the journalist well enough.

3. Thou shalt always research the journalist before you pitch

This is to save you time. There is no point pitching, for example, a skiing trip to a travel journalist who hates winter sports; a new opera to a music journalist who writes about hip hop; or an organic meat box story to a vegetarian. They won’t pick up your idea. Pitch those stories to writers who do love those things, however, and you’re onto a winner.
PR commandments

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4. Thou shalt not follow up too quickly

Obviously it depends on how time sensitive your pitch is, but there are few things that annoy journalists more than premature chasing. We’ve had reports of PRs chasing an hour after sending a non-time sensitive release; chasing every day for a week; or even same-day following up by sliding into a journalist’s DMs. Reasonable time frames: for stories that must be written that day, two hours after the journalist gets into the office; for non-time sensitive pitches, three days.

5. Thou shalt not ask for copy approval

Nothing turns a journalist off like a request for copy approval. No reputable publication will do it, and you only stand to lose face by asking for it. If a client insists, perhaps the best way to proceed is to say you’ve asked, but the publication has said no, without actually asking. This also applies to requesting for interview questions in advance, and sitting in on interviews.

6. Thou shalt always label the images

An image is no use to a journalist if they don’t know what it’s of. If you’re sending over multiple images, save them time by clearly labelling and captioning each one in the metadata. Seems like a small detail, but incorrect images can cause major headaches for publications, and sending photos with all the info included saves journalists, especially online ones, a serious amount of time.

7. Thou shalt be efficient

Journalists are busy people, and few attributes serve them better than efficiency. Dynamic publications such as The Telegraph or The Times work to tight deadlines, so if you pitch them something and they say they need to turn it around quickly, you need to move fast. Do not reply to a journalist request asking for a deadline – it’s always asap. Have all the assets and info ready when you pitch, and if you need to request something from the client/another source, manage the journalists’ expectations and ideally execute the task with as much haste as possible.

8. Thou shalt not pitch something that ran last week

Nothing demonstrates that you’ve not read a publication more obviously than pitching something they just covered. They won’t be covering it again any time soon, so save your time and theirs, and don’t pitch. You may feel that it’s worth emailing if you have a client that could have worked for a piece they just did, but was not included. From a journalist’s point of view, this is not helpful unless you can bring a new angle to the table that they could use at a later date.

9. Thou shalt triple check emails before you press send

There are certain key bits of information that all journalists need above and beyond the angle and main elements of a story. Details such as images, prices and web links must be included so they don’t have to waste time contacting you to get them if they are interested in your story. Before you hit sent, do a cursory check to make sure you’ve got everything in there. Ideally a journalist should be able to run the story without talking to you – make sure the info is there to enable them to do that.

10. Thou shalt not over promise and under deliver

Far better to under promise and over deliver but better still is to be plain honest. Tell a journalist exactly what you can deliver on and then everyone knows where they stand. If you say to a journalist that they have the exclusive they tell their boss who tells their boss. If they then see that a similar feature has run in their competitor title all hell will break loose and they’ll never trust you again, which means they might well not work with you again. Managing expectations from good/bad imagery to the delay of a project is far better than glossing over the truth.

11. Thou shalt not ask the question journalists dread the most

The final of our PR commandments, the phrase no editor wants to see in an email, or hear from a PR: ‘What are you working on?’ Close runner up: ‘have you received my press release?’!

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