Dear Colleagues:

Let's be honest. Who among us isn't occasionally put off by the behavior or communication style of people we work with? Our individual "pet peeves," whether they're chronic mistakes, wrongful actions or dreadful behaviors, make us question our colleagues' abilities or motives. They may reflect people's style or training, but some habits can undermine our relationships and business communications - and keep us from achieving our goals.

In this issue of Marketing Coach we take off the gloves and take a swipe at "pet peeves" shared by journalists and public relations and communications professionals. The chance to correct an inadvertent habit may help us work more harmoniously - perhaps even more effectively.


In This Issue
Journalists' Pet Peeves
PR Pros' Peeves
'See Below' for 15 Email Pet Peeves
Ivy's Turn...
Surely you have your own "pet peeves." We want to know what they are! So, email me at or post to @IvyCohen if you have any you'd like to share. We'll include a few of them in the following issue of Marketing Coach. ( the NEXT issue).

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Journalists' Pet Peeves about PR Pros

According to Vocus

  • Continuous calling: Editors will be in touch if interested. It's a turn off when PR pros call and leave multiple messages.
  • Pitching multiple angles: If an editor isn't receptive to an idea, there is no need to keep pitching other angles. If the subject matter doesn't fit the publication, then changing the angle isn't going to help.
  • Following up by phone: Don't assume we didn't get the email, or that we're going to respond within seconds of your hitting 'send'.

According to PBS Media Shift and @muckrack

  • Don't start emails with "how are you?" when we've never met. #muckedup
  • "Since you just wrote about ______, thought you'd be interested in _____." No, I just wrote about it.
  • Pitches for "story ideas" (no, that's my job) or for "free articles" (seriously?!)
  • (1) no photos or links to photos, (2) UK releases that arrive the day after the US release; (3) PR not around
  • 1) double pitching people in the same office, 2) random connections - a hooker that has written a book is not a "business" story

In Writing...

As published in Ragan's PR Daily by Laura Hale Brockway

  • Capitalization of common (non-proper) nouns drives me to drink. Words such as federal, state, law should not be capitalized unless they are part of a proper name or title, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • Confusion between your/you're and their/there/they're
  • Misuse of apostrophes, particularly 1990's or 40's or EKG's.
  • Modifying absolutes-something can't be very unique. It's unique or it's not.
  • 'Irregardless' is not a word.

In General...

As published in PR News by Lucia Davis

  • Unrealistic clients - "Can you get us on the @todayshow? What about @GMA?"
  • Poorly written materials - "Hands down, the use of the word "excited" in press releases."We are excited to announce..." etc. There are more meaningful words!"
  • Misunderstanding the basic definition of PR - "That marketing is the same thing as PR..."
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PR Pros' Peeves about Journalists, Clients and Colleagues

Staci Smith @StaciMarketing

  • When you place a story along with a quote and even photos, but they don't credit your source (What's the friggin' point?!)
  • You get a call at 4 in the morning to line up an interview. You track someone down within 15 minutes and then the reporter never follows up when you say you have someone ready to go.
  • When you speak at length with a reporter and provide access to sources and information, and they do the story but only mention another/ bigger company by name.

Michael Maloney @MaloneyPR

  • When other PR people get caught doing something unethical and it tarnishes the entire profession

Stacy Callahan

  • Hate when editors don't respond...a simple 'I'm not interested' will do the trick. Feedback that you can bring to a client would be even better.
  • The younger generation of publicists don't feel the need to make phone calls to press. Making calls helps set you apart from others especially since editors receive thousands of pitches per day. This is publicity 101...make the connection and build a relationship.


  • Worse than silence: rudeness! We both have jobs to do, and we both want to do them well. I don't appreciate getting chewed out and insulted because you've had to field 60 callers before I dialed your number.
  • Journalists who go around PR to request an interview with a client, even when they know they're supposed to work through PR
  • Press releases edited by committee. "Take a look" doesn't mean you have to change something, anything. I won't tell you how to engineer polymers or put together your IPO if you won't tell me how to communicate about it with the media. By all means, check the facts and make sure what I'm saying is true -- but please let me decide how to say it so the release gets some pick-up and not a yawn.
  • Clients who don't consult their organization's media relations experts before speaking with the media, or don't update PR after they've done an interview PR arranged for them
  • When in-house PR departments and their agencies don't coordinate with each other when conducting media relations
  • Using jargon or corporate speak instead of plain language
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'See Below' for 13 Email Pet Peeves

Excerpts from PR News article by Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI

  1. Using "reply all"
  2. Being sent an email and then having the sender pop his/her head into my office literally moments later and saying, "I just sent you an email...." followed by telling me the entire content of said email.
  3. 1,000 word e-mails when a simple "yes" or "no" would suffice
  4. Using all caps
  5. Not cc-ing when you're supposed to
  6. Being sent large files over a weekend or vacation
  7. Dear Jose/Carlos/etc. Ummm my name is Eric.
  8. Any email with poor grammar or punctuation
  9. Ridiculously long signatures
  10. Subject lines that have nothing to do with the message itself
  11. Smiley faces - they aren't cute and they aren't professional
  12. Anything with "please advise immediately" goes to the "I'll respond tomorrow" pile
  13. "See below"
For the complete article click here.
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Ivy's Turn...

Journalists who:

  • Interview a spokesperson and then use their information without attribution
  • Ask us to call back later and then not take the call...ever
  • Inform PR you are not the right reporter at your outlet, but not referring us to a colleague who is covering that story or beat. (We really appreciate your knowledge and hope you'll save us from endless research and hunting. We don't like being pests or calling the wrong people.)

Clients who:

  • Conduct research or prepare reports to publish and promote without involving PR in the strategic development of the survey or content conceptualization. If you want your work to be newsworthy and have strong external audience appeal, it's usually best to get input from those who will be building and placing the story.
  • Go out with press releases for the purpose of brand building (aka not hard news) and expecting they will be covered by the media
  • Commit to a deadline and then letting it pass without communicating

Communicators who:

  • Restate the same idea multiple times during the same email or conversation as a way to explain something...I either heard it the first time and didn't agree or repeating it won't help make it more appealing.
  • Exaggerate. Adjectives are valuable descriptors, but when you embellish and don't live up to the hype, credibility is lost.
  • Partial response. If you are working, get back to me on all of my questions and requests. Let me know if you need time to gather particular information and a reply will be delayed. Otherwise, it means more rounds of email until I get all of your feedback and direction that I need.
  • No proof. If you make big claims, then back them up or they won't be believable.
  • Generic file names that are impossible to locate by search
  • "The following" as in "may I help the following guest". It is grammatically wrong. This may not belong in this Marketing Coach, but it's a huge pet peeve of mine, and I had to get it off my chest.
  • Good vs. well
  • Start multiple sentences in a single document or email with "I"
  • Use semi colons to string together a list when commas are the correct punctuation
  • Periods after sentence fragments
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