Everything the Public Relations Industry Wants to Know About Journalists

…but might be afraid to ask. Consider the following list a series of tips and tricks for dealing with intractable or just plain obnoxious journalists. Heeding them may make the public relations process that much easier.

If I’m writing a negative story about your company and I call you at 5:30 P.M., giving you thirty minutes to respond before my deadline — yes, I planned it that way.

I just want a quote for my story. Tell me what I want to hear and get off the phone.

You’re talking too fast for me and I can’t write down everything you’re saying. But it’s OK. I’ll just pick a few things you said and use them out of context.

I’m basically mad that you’re not kissing my butt right now. Don’t you know my paper’s circulation?

I just want to get this story over with. If I stare intently at the phone, maybe you’ll call back and give me the information I need.

I’m not really going out of town. I just don’t want to attend your event.

I actually do know the right person for you to call at the paper, but they’ll get mad at me if I give you their phone number.

“My sources tell me” is my way of getting you to confirm information that I don’t know to be true.

“Well, that’s not what I’ve been told” means I’m now doubting my sources.

“You can email a statement” means that I’ve figured out I’m not getting anything out of you of relevance and I need to go the bathroom.

Regardless of what I say, I’m writing the story and relying on my sources for information, not you. Unless, of course, you happen to go off-the-record and give me something good.

If I call you with a question about your competitor, just give me all the dirt you have and I’ll write a nasty story about them. Believe me, I will remember your help on this one.

Yes, I read a similar story in a Canadian newspaper. Just change your quote from the last time and act like I’ve come up with a new angle. It will make me feel better.

I received your email. I just didn’t bother reading it.

I received your phone call, but I deleted the message before you said your number.

If I tell you to “email it to me again,” that means I deleted your original email. Just like I’ll delete this one.

That sound you hear on the other end of the phone, that’s my eyes rolling.

You sent me an email with a press release as a file attachment. No.

Your company/product/organization doesn’t interest me and I will never write about it. However, my editor may give me a stupid assignment some day, an assignment which forces me to actually contact you. If that’s the case, I expect you to help me with the story.

The only reason I’m allowing you to pitch me over the phone at 4:30 P.M. is that I’m trying to look busy so I don’t have to write another story.

You’ve caught me in a good mood and I’ve decided to listen to your pitch. I may even ask a few questions. But then an email from my brother arrives in which he relates his latest softball exploits and I’ve now totally lost interest in anything you have to say.

What’s your name again? And your company is called?

Your press release was poorly written and I don’t even cover retail. Why did you send it to me?

My paycheck hasn’t cleared. So yes, we can have lunch — on you.

My paycheck hasn’t cleared. So yes, we can have drinks, and lots of them. On you, of course.

It really annoys me that I can’t interview your president/chairman/CEO/etc. without you on the phone.

I’m leaving you a message, but I really hope you don’t call back. Mostly so I don’t have to change the line in my story which reads “the company did not return calls seeking comment.”

My deadline is really 6:30 P.M. I just said 4:30 P.M. because I have Yankees ticket and want to have a few beers before the game.

I didn’t realize [insert new internet craze here] was so utterly boring. Please tell me, how are you going to make money on [insert new internet craze here]?

The truth is, I’d love to write about this, but my editors don’t care and my readers probably don’t care. And that’s just a sad fact.

It’s Friday afternoon. Now is a good time to slip some bad news onto the newswire.

I would have given your story coverage, but you embargoed it to three other newspapers and a newswire service, so I’m ignoring it.

I’d rather just quote you as a “company spokesperson” because I’ve already forgotten your name and can’t even tell if you’re a man or woman now.

I read that story in the Wall Street Journal and I know you B.S.’d them. Great job!

I can’t believe you put my story on your web site’s press page. Don’t you even realize it was negative?

I was talking to a journalist friend and he said you have a big mouth. That’s why I called.

I probably couldn’t do my job as well without you, but I’ll never tell you that. Never.

Don’t believe everything you read.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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