130 Ways to Annoy a Journalist

We recently asked a group of journalists if PR people had ever annoyed them with their press releases.

It wasn’t hard to get them talking.

Complex attachments requiring passwords, a lack of usable photos and faux-caring enquiries into a writer’s health and / or well-being were all sure to get on their nerves. But if you’re guilty of these heinous misdeeds, fear not: most journalists receive so many emails that they’re unlikely to remember it was you, and most marketers [myself included – CC] have committed at least one of these crimes. So – let’s just all remember for next time, ok?

In the name of education, as well as comedy value, we’ve listed a selection of our journalist panel’s answers below. Read on for our top 130 ways to annoy a journalist – we think you’ll find them amusing and cringe-worthy in equal measure.

  1. Make a tenuous connection to a news story. Royal wedding happening? This is a great opportunity to try and get coverage for a cordless drill!

  2. Be sure to include some form of excitement about it being Friday / the weekend, despite the fact that most journalists work at weekends. And sign off with a kiss. [‘FriYAY!’ *Bangs head against desk.*]

  3. I love nothing better than a cheesy line about enjoying the sunshine in the email when I have been on deadline and have barely seen daylight all week

  4. Follow up with hourly phone calls – specifically aiming for periods when huge global stories are breaking

  5. Call frequently, ideally as soon as the release has been sent, asking for coverage and, if not, WHY NOT?

  6. Write URGENT in the subject line for a press release about something that is happening in a month’s time

  7. Fill it with meaningless jargon about key performance indicators and leverage

  8. “To: C-list editors” in the subject line. I had that once

  9. EXCLUSIVE in the subject line, with everybody listed who’s getting it

  10. Ones with subject titles IN ALL CAPS are reliably rubbish

  11. Once had a press release about an album whose predecessor apparently “literally flew off the shelves”

  12. First line: “Three years ago…” For a release about a band. I nearly replied with a definition of ‘news’

  13. Describe something as “with a difference”, “reimagined”, “unique” or “with a twist”

  14. Oh! ‘Engagement’, and ‘reach out’, without the context of; shiny, sparkly ring signifying betrothing, and song by The Four Tops

  15. ‘Content/content providing.’ *hands get a bit fisty.*

  16. Had one recently which claimed to actually alter the fabric of time!

  17. Misspell the product/service in a few places, so it’s not clear which is the correct spelling

  18. “Please do hesitate to contact me with any questions” was a sign-off that got my attention – briefly

  19. Send it the day after an important date: ‘Amazing Looks for Halloween!’ (on November 1st). And then send it again a week later

  20. Send me a long and detailed pitch for a feature idea THAT IS IN MY CURRENT EDITION. And refer to the interviewee as a ‘bran manager’, This happened today in the same pitch email

  21. “No, we can’t send you a review sample because they’re all out with our community of Instagram influencers.”

  22. Weird Capitalisation and a Reluctance to Send pictures or Media until After emBargo

  23. Remember To Use Lots Of Random Initial Capitals especially in People’s Titles. Makes it look more important, some PRs seem to think

  24. Ensure you’re promoting a company with a stupidly rendered name like ORGan’iq.

  25. Make sure to start it with: Dear <insert name here>

  26. Don’t tell them what the release is actually about until at least the third paragraph

  27. “Nice to e-meet you” is always a nice touch. [cringe]

  28. Geographical irrelevance, eg sending it to a York paper when the subject matter is based several hours away

  29. Assume everyone is in London, always. I particularly enjoyed this when the word ‘Scotsman’ was in the email address they’d sent it to

  30. Send at least three times just to make sure they got it and to see if they are interested in following up…

  31. Don’t forget to include the fact that every email sent with a press release needs to open with “Hope your well?”

  32. Try inserting some spurious connection to location and / or celebrity e.g “Fred, who went to school with the drummer from local band Firestix…”

  33. I had one last week where the email began ‘Dear Sirs’.

  34. Don’t bother breaking the copy into easily scannable paragraphs or bullet points

  35. Include the words cutting edge, innovative, disruptive and solution. Also – be sure to have a quote that says how excited and proud the person is to be launching the new product. If it is launching it IS new – that one used to really grind my gears

  36. Be sure not to show any understanding of my publication or readership or what we write about. And make me email you for high-res pics instead of putting a link in the press release

  37. Start “Dear <name>”. Start the subject line with “Re:” so it’s obvious it’s a re-sent test email

  38. Have a 152 word opening sentence (true story). Finish with “If you’re not the right person in your organisation, please forward”

  39. “Link to images attached. Get in touch for password”

  40. Whatever you do, do not include any photos – I mean, who needs photos available 24 hours a day when writing to a deadline?

  41. Talk about franchises, annual turnover, vertical markets and generally big up your company in the first three paragraphs. Then send it to consumer press


  43. Don’t bother with any contact details at the end

  44. “I’m not sure if you read my previous 27 emails…”

  45. Attach an out-of-focus, low-res photo

  46. Oh yes, do please ring me at lunchtime to make sure I got your press release about something that is not at all suitable for my readers, I love that

  47. Ensure that any quotes are clunky and unnatural, the kind of thing nobody would ever actually say out loud

  48. Here are the contact details for the expert we’ve quoted but haven’t warned her about this press release so she’ll be delighted to hear from hundreds of you and won’t be free to talk until 2019

  49. Don’t forget to invite the journalists to events that have absolutely nothing to do with their publications. I’m getting endless press releases about food packaging summits in Ireland. I’m a tech hack, and I work in Devon

  50. Start the subject line with ‘RE:’ to make it look like you’re responding to an earlier message from me. Drives me crazy!

  51. Bonus points for a Z-list celeb endorsing technology they don’t understand, and double bonus points if said technology is blockchain

  52. Use plenty of clichés, and as many adjectives as you can fit in

  53. Send it to completely the wrong area…so an event in Newcastle-upon-Tyne sent to a journalist in Newcastle-under-Lyme…. this happens A LOT

  54. Neon is the new black. Sex is the new black. Mindfulness is the new black. Velvet is the new black. Saying anything is the new black is, apparently, the new black. Arrrggghhhh!

  55. Vegan. Oh god. Vegan

  56. Make sure to send it only as an attachment, Also, include: “if this should be directed to someone else at your publication, please send me their names and contact details.” (This is so fun!)

  57. Put an EMBARGO on it with the date of two days’ previously

  58. Invite me to an event that happened last night (this has happened). [Even worse, send a release telling you how wonderful was the event to which you weren’t invited.]

  59. Attach a word document with small, low res photos embedded into it, saying “I’ve attached some great images for you to use”

  60. Invite the press to a launch. What it is you’re launching is currently TBA, but, “Take my word for it, it’s exciting. Do you want to come?”

  61. Put “Press Release” in the subject line of the email. Just “Press Release”. I have a nemesis PR who keeps doing this. [To be fair, if all PRs put the phrase ‘Press Release’ in the subject, it would be so much easier to organise mass ‘search and delete’ sprees…]

  62. Only offer an interview with someone with no real authority in the organisation. Someone like the new deputy cloakroom manager.

  63. “WHY don’t you want to talk about the importance of physical activity with an Olympic gold medalist?” “One, the aforementioned Olympian is from Nova Scotia and I’m in Quebec, and two, our piece is about physical education and immigrant youth, not about your silly project, so we’d really rather have a few immigrant teenagers and a high school gym teacher, thanks.”

  64. Use a really tiny font and no paragraphs [Yes. Really tiny ‘fun’ handwriting font…] [Comic sans! And clip art!]

  65. Include a WeTransfer link that expires five minutes after the press release is sent. [At least once a week I find a way to lose at WeTransfer.]

  66. Use tonnes of business talk. Gentle reminder, leveraging etc.

  67. Oh don’t forget the all-important spurious ‘survey’ with only seven ‘respondents’…crucial!

  68. The PR who tries to personalise the email, but asks if you would like to attend an event on behalf of a competitor title

  69. Addressed to you by name in the address bar, then, Dear Editor, or addressed to ‘Melissa’ and then, formally, ‘Dear Sir’

  70. Send me a low res image of a product with no price, no clickable link, no stockist info. Or send me a long blurb about a fancy pants new hotel with no address details in the email or even on the site

  71. Make it at least 10 pages long with several thousands of words, ensuring that all the sentences make absolutely no sense at all. word soup

  72. Lots and lots of jargon – and acronyms / initialisations without explanation

  73. Mention some posh celeb event or party you weren’t invited to the day after the event in the hope you’ll still write about it or plug that your product, e.g. jewellery, was sported by a celeb at said event and likewise

  74. Open your e mail with “Hi there! Hope you are feeling well/great” when you’ve never previously had any contact or know them

  75. Oh yeah, don’t forget to put every recipient’s email address in the to field, thus gaining bonus points for a notifiable data breach

  76. Go full BUZZWORD BINGO! Creative storytelling, influencers, no budget, exposure, Fab! AMAZING, followers, pop up, rooftop, vintage – because people have *just* discovered this new thing called vintage, pop up and rooftop. It’s in Shoreditch/Hackney. Crowbar in ‘Street food’

  77. Don’t forget to include incredibly basic yet chronic grammatical and spelling errors. [As in: “the new way to loose weight”]

  78. And just in case the press release IS useful, make me go through a 24-hour registration process to access your free marketing images. I’ll definitely want to wait a whole day for you to notify me that you’ve accepted the 13-page password-protected registration form I filled out

  79. Always misuse the word “iconic”. [And see if you can’t misuse the word ‘ironic’ in the same sentence – just for fun.] [Also ‘legend/legendary’]

  80. Make the language as obscure as possible, bury the one interesting fact in the very last paragraph

  81. When you are told by the journalist that they could possibly use the release but have an idea for a different angle, be sure to be chronically unhelpful, and try to steer the journalist towards the angle of the press release because clearly you know what a publication needs much better than the editor of said publication. [Yep, implicitly criticize our editorial judgment. Nothing we enjoy more.] [The sheer arrogance and ingratitude of it all!]

  82. Use emoticons [And #hashtags and excessive exclamation marks!!!]

  83. Don’t forget to include the thrilling enticement of presenter/Love island/former lad rag model ‘DJing’ at said event! [And by ‘DJing’ that’s posing by CDJs with premixed CD, while staring at their phone, and only coming to life if someone asks for a selfie.’]

  84. “Please cascade this email throughout your networks”. Genuine PR thing

  85. Don’t include a real person’s contact details and make sure any image links are for super lo-res pics [And make it a locked pdf file.]

  86. On a related note, send print journalists information about your Christmas range of goods and services, so they can put them in their Christmas features. Send this on the first week in December, as there’s no point annoying them with it earlier, and obviously, print magazines won’t even have started their Christmas issues, three bloody weeks before Christmas

  87. The worst kind is the one that tries to be topical on the back of bad news

  88. I know a PR who addresses every email in block capitals, and occasionally bits of the press releases too. That’s always fun

  89. And start your covering email, “Hi X, I hope you’re really well?” Health PRs in particular seem to be a very sickly lot. My health is fine, thanks

  90. Be sure to include some junk science, especially if it’s about detoxing or preventing cancer

  91. “New and innovative / tailored and bespoke” [I’m reaching out to you..because]

  92. Don’t attach any photos. Not even tiny ones in portrait orientation

  93. Attach it as a Word document, especially a docx that you can’t open with an old version of Office

  94. Attach lots of irrelevant documents and pictures that I have to sift through to find the correct one

  95. Fill the intro with important stakeholder name-checks, but don’t actually explain what the release is about. Use the phrase “in partnership with”

  96. Precede all quotes with reported speech in which the speaker is invariably “thrilled” or “delighted”

  97. Bury a really good story in the last paragraph

  98. End all quotes with an exclamation mark (or, worse, several)

  99. Use regional surveys attributed to a specific location. “80% of people in Dewsbury eat Baked Beans every day”, but actually it’s 4 people from a sample of 5 in the whole of Yorkshire

  100. Have no concept of geography outside London. “Liverpool is in the north, right? So you’ll be interested in this event in Sunderland?”

  101. Send a press release about Bury St Edmunds to someone in Bury, Lancashire

  102. Use lots of industry-specific jargon

  103. Provide a case study, but with no basic information about the person, such as their age, job, or where they live

  104. Give obviously made-up quotes that simply repeat facts from the release and do not express any opinion

  105. Provide quotes that are full of brand names and only praise the thing being promoted

  106. Describe awards as “like the Oscars of the basket-weaving industry”, or whatever shite it is your company does

  107. Write 1,000 words about the fact your assistant chief operating officer has been promoted to senior partner

  108. Ask for a link to your client’s website to be inserted into a story, especially phrased as a demand for a correction

  109. Quote people with really long job titles, capitalised. Dave Smith, Head of External Customer Relations and Partnerships EMEA at Spafftech Inc, said: “I’m thrilled… etc”

  110. When you send the email, write: “Hey there, just thought I’d reach out to you/touch base about bla bla bla…” and continue to include as much jargon/marketing lingo as you can, something that every journalist hates. Oh and then threaten to call said journalist. That ought to bring on a few heart palpitations

  111. Ask me to send you a cutting

  112. Worst ever – attach the document as an image so you can’t copy anything into an editable format

  113. Don’t forget to get ridiculously huffy if you’re asked for the dataset behind your hideous and terrible infographic or your ludicrously bad report based on half a dozen responses to a SurveyMonkey quiz. [I get so much joy from press releases based on pathetic survey methodology. All the joy!]

  114. If you’re lucky enough to get any response from the journo, and they tell you: ‘Thanks, but no’ to your press release, advise that you call them to argue the toss and tell them why what they’re turning down is such a GREAT story…

  115. “Delighted to announce.” / “Offering you a great opportunity…”

  116. I particularly love turning up to an interview I’ve agreed to do having been told all sorts of stuff about what useful things I’m going to hear as we talk specifically about the piece I’m writing, only to find that the interviewee hasn’t been briefed and is expecting a few softball Hello-style questions about his (it’s always his) amazing, lifechanging, revolutionary, disruptive, brilliant start-up

  117. Maximise the number of wanky marketing references that describe sweet FA. Remember to leave your reader wondering what you were trying to promote/why you just wasted two minutes of your time you’ll never. get. back.

  118. Just remembered another one – “can I offer you this ready-made feature?” both doing me out of a job and not bothering to check whether I am a commissioning editor at the moment

  119. When I worked on video games magazines, we loved it when a PR called to say, “I’d like to place an article in your magazine.” We’d direct them to the advertising department, and then have to explain why

  120. ‘Curated’

  121. Don’t forget Wackaging, and ghastly puns

  122. Once you’ve sent it, don’t forget to chase just a couple of hours later. Just in case your contacts aren’t simply sitting there WAITING for this one release to land

  123. If music, ensure use of “sophomore” and “drops” instead of “is released” plus do not forget to attach a 9.99999999Mb picture which when the email finally downloads is revealed to be 99% meaningless shadows and textures. [And make sure to mention the group are the “The next xxxx”, even if they sound nothing like them [memories of Coldplay being launched as the next Radiohead!] [Remember that singles aren’t ‘released’ in 2017. They ‘IMPACT’.]

  124. Begins: “Hey mate, I just wanted to reach out…” [*hands get a bit fisty.*] [Oh there’s an extra bit of spice to that one…. “Hey mate, HOPE YOUR WELL? Just wanted to reach out…”] [Just wanted to reach out and touch base.”]

  125. How would you like to write about this amazing event we didn’t invite you to? [Or “exclusive”, five-star holiday resort, arriving by private plane and with personal chef. Just recommend it to readers, please, though you won’t have visited.] [‘Free drinks’! = Rubbish beer/wine which you need tokens for]

  126. Ones that don’t include basic stuff like RRPs for products, contact numbers, websites etc…

  127. Pepper it with spelling errors and typos (especially in people’s names) and omit apostrophes entirely. Don’t include a link to the client’s website

  128. One that asks “Could you just pop a little news story up about this product that is totally irrelevant to your beat and has nothing remotely newsworthy about it”

  129. Irritating follow-up emails should you be daft enough to open their original gushing email. Then the tone changes to almost hurt that you’ve not been in touch since you were “so interested” in the latest launch of a new type of toilet roll

  130. “Please check your spam folder” ho ho ho

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