8 Types of Annoying PR People

I’m a PR guy, and I know a number of other PR guys and gals who I respect more than I can even put into words. But let’s face it. Our industry is plagued with some pretty annoying people. These are the types of PR guys who waste journalists’ time, overcharge their clueless clients, and use ridiculous PR speak, like “synthesize goal-oriented mindshare” or “client-centric functionalities.”

I’ve come up with a list of 8 different types of annoying PR people. Check it out, and after you’ve had a few laughs, add your own types of annoying PR people by leaving a comment below.

1.     The Impersonal PR Guy – If you’re making a pitch to a journalist, at least try to make it personal. Refer to the journalist by name, and make reference to some of his or her past work. Sending generic, effortless pitches is a surefire way to have your story ignored. Stop taking shortcuts!

2.     The Hyperbole PR Guy – There’s nothing a journalist hates more than getting a press release full of all hype and no facts. Just state the facts, and cut out all the extra fluff. Words and phrases like “leading,” “unique,” “best in class,” and “excellent” are typically subjective and have no place in a news piece.

3.     The Unavailable PR Guy – You need to be available whenever a journalist comes calling. If you can’t get back to journalists in a timely fashion (remember, they have deadlines), they’ll start to view you as unreliable and untrustworthy.

4.     The Disrespectful PR Guy – Journalists are busy. They’re constantly being bombarded with press releases and phone calls from other PR guys, and they’re always facing tight deadlines. You can’t expect them to sit on the phone and chit-chat with you all day long. Be respectful of their time, and they’ll show you respect too.

5.     The Bribing PR Guy – You’ve gotta love this PR guy. He tries to bribe the media by sending various gifts. Here’s a tip. Rather than trying to pay the media, why not learn how to write better pitches and be more effective at following up?

6.     The Overly Controlling PR Guy – Obviously, it’s important that a PR guy ensures his clients come off as good as possible in the media, but you can’t be that pain in the @$$, overly controlling PR guy who tries to control every word said about your clients. Journalists hate PR people like that, and they’ll avoid working with them at all costs.

7.     The No-News PR Guy – It’s shocking how many PR people still don’t have a basic grasp on what the word “newsworthy” means. 90% of the press releases out there are just pure, promotional garbage that have absolutely zero news value.

8. The Whiny PR Guy – Get over it. The media isn’t going to break their backs to make sure you’re always happy. Things won’t always go your way. Want to cry about it? You’re in the wrong business.

What are some other types of annoying PR people? Share yours by leaving a comment below.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of the Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases here:

11 Responses

  1. Katie says:

    As a small company doing your own PR it’s very easy to think that your product is newsworthy and great and everyone should know about it, but then you think is it REALLY newsworthy and doubt whether journalists would be interested, without experience it is sometimes hard to know

  2. Jackie says:

    I agree with Katie. I am in charge of PR for an organization of over 400 members in the construction industry. What seems newsworthy to us or our membership is nearly always overlooked by jounalists. Case-in-point: Legislation was passed recently impacting all contractors state-wide. Though instrumental news to us, it was apparently not newsworthly to local media.

  3. And what about the “PR Girl?”

  4. Martin W. says:

    I’ve been in PR for 15 years and I can tell you that journalists are way more annoying than PR people. Here’s my list of the top annoying journalists:

    1. The no show. He’s responded to my pitch and said he wants to interview the CEO of my client. Big win! So I prep the CEO for the interview, write talking points, rehearse, educate the CEO on the journo’s past coverage and areas of interest. At 2PM eastern on Tuesday the CEO takes time from his day to sit by his phone…and the journalist never calls. When I finally reach him at 4:00 that afternoon to find out what happened, the journalist says, “Aah, I found another source, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.” Thanks. Thanks a lot. We really appreciate that. [Insert rolling eyes here.]

    2. The tease. The journalist (usually from a top tier outlet) responds to my pitch, expresses interest, asks some clarifying questions…then disappears. I’ve gotten all excited that I just landed an opportunity with my client for Forbes (or some like outlet) and now the bubble has burst.

    3. The bombastic jerk. The journalist doesn’t like my pitch and feels the need to act like a condescending and patronizing jerk. Dude, just press “delete.” We don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

    4. The procrastinator. We had a fabulous interview. The journo and my client hit it off and chat like old friends for an hour. There’s exciting back-and-forth, and man…it really looks like this article is going to be a love letter to the company and its new product, and the publication is spot-on for the client and the audience it is trying to reach. We hang up the phone and its high fives and attaboys all around. Then a week goes by. Two weeks. A month. The journo won’t respond or responds with platitudes about how he’s focused on other pressing matters and will get to the story shortly. My client is constantly asking me, “What’s up with that story for When will that run?” I have no answer. This can go on ad infinitum. I literally have one “pending article” where it’s been TWO YEARS since the interviews and the journalist still tells me, “Yup, I’m gonna run that story. Next issue.” [Insert more rolling eyes here.]

    5. The angry procrastinator. See #4 and add the journalist giving me attitude every time I ask when the story is going to run. I literally had a journo yell at me for politely checking in on when a segment was going to air – a story my client invested dozens of man-hours to prepare for. “This isn’t Woodward and Bernstein stuff! The story will run when it runs!!” he screamed at me. Meanwhile, the CEO who spent time preparing for this is asking me every week (yep, you guessed it) “When will that piece air?”

    I’ve seen enough articles complaining about PR folks by journalists, and we’ve been afraid to strike back for fear of being blackballed. But journalists need to understand that they need to behave, too. In its ideal state the journalist-PR relationship is symbiotic, kind of like the remora and the shark. A little decorum on each side would be nice.

  5. John T. says:

    Hey Martin—I’ve been in PR for 25 years and totally agree with you on all points. I could add more examples, but i think we all got the point. Part of my earlier career was as a journalist, so I know both sides. It comes down to respect. As a journalist, you need to be respective of (good) PR people because they can make a journalist’s job easier. I applied that same respect when I became a PR guy. Respect the journalist, and he/she will give you the best shot. I believe that the “8 types of annoying PR people” existed 15 years ago. Certainly some exist today. I think they are in a minority. The smarter ones today know what journalists need and how to get it. Perhaps it time for “annoying types of journalists” to do their part as well. JMO

  6. Andy says:

    This 20-year PR pro applauds you, Martin! Well put. Very well put. As John said, it goes both ways. Mutual respect is key.

  7. Martin W. says:

    John you’ve gotta add more examples. This could be fun and cathartic!

  8. John T. says:

    Ok Martin, here’s a couple more:

    Loosing emails-Part 1: A well-known business reporter did a major story on how the VC community wasn’t funding semiconductor start-ups like they used to. Clearly he didn’t do his homework, because my small startup along with about 6 others I follow had recently gotten additional funding. Of course, you can’t just call a National business reporter and tell him he screwed up. No one benefits from that. So I did the next best thing. I put together a pitch highlighting 4 start-ups (one of them mine) that received venture funding because of their unique business model of partnering with corporate sponsors. I sent the pitch off and heard nothing for a week. I continue to follow up to no avail. Finally, I get an email back saying that it was a “good” idea and that he’d consider using the idea in the future. So there was some hope for my client. Not a week went by when a lead story on the front page of the business section by this reporter came out on the exact subject I pitched. And of course, no mention of my client or the others…but three totally different companies. I dashed an email out to this guy asking him why no mentions. His response, “I lost your email and didn’t have your contact information.” I was thinking, but didn’t say it: “All seven emails?”

    Loosing emails—Part 2: Let’s take a poll to see how many journalists really “loose” emails or just trash them when they come in. I’d prefer to get a TBNT email from a pitch to an editor who likes being pitched via emails rather than an “I didn’t get your email” response.

    The “no time to talk to you” journalist: Why is it that journalists never seem to have time to talk to people, but you can see their personal Tweets and Facebook posts appear non-stop over the course of a day. Do they get paid for Tweeting or reporting. This is becoming a real issue, especially with trade journalists, who seem to spend much of their time these days being “very busy” on things unrelated to their jobs.

  9. The In Your Face PR folks who assume that because you write a healthcare tech blog you’d naturally like to write a post about National Watermelon Week or National Grilled Cheese Month (not making these up!).

  10. This is worthy of a ‘Preppy Handbook’ like infographic!

  11. I see some of your points, but ‘The No-News PR Guy’ fails to mention that social media and Google have changed the rules of press releases. The press release is no longer just for journalists eyes, they now act as a tool to speak directly to customers and help with SEO, so the breadth of topics a press release addresses has changed. Though they obviously shouldn’t be written in the style of ‘promotional garbage’.

    And one other point – not all PRs are guys! 🙂

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