Journalists can be the best ally a filmmaker has. Many filmmakers don’t know how to treat them.
Here is how you can really annoy a journalist:
Telling a journalist that your story is true when it isn’t is about the worst thing you can do. The damage done to your relationship is probably irreparable.
Almost as bad is insisting to a journalist that your story is newsworthy. Journalists make their own judgment on whether or not an item is newsworthy. That’s their job, not yours.
Journalists can’t be bribed to include you in editorials. That’s why they invented advertorials and advertisements for which they do take money.
3. No Respect For Deadlines
Have you ever had a telephone call from someone you know right before you are trying to leave, or about to quit for the day? Do you know the feeling you get when you are trying politely to get rid of someone? This is exactly how a journalist feels when you call them while they are on a deadline. You need to understand what the deadlines are for the journalist you are pursuing. Also remember that deadlines vary according to the media you are hustling, be it print, web, TV or radio.
4. Incorrect Databases
Just because you have a media database crammed with 100’s of names you got from a mate who works in ‘new media’ does not mean that you should blast every single journalist with your press release.
Sending your releases to irrelevant or disinterested parties is just a waste of time.
Research your database. Build personal relationships with them. A handful of interested journalists is better than dozens and hundreds of journalists who couldn’t care less about you.
5. Double Hitting
Nothing annoys a journalist in a publication more than if you approach a colleague of theirs in the same publication at the same time. Journalists like to feel special, and need to feel that they have a scoop. Just because you haven’t heard back doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. It probably simply means that they are on ‘deadline.’
Be patient. Wait until they pass on your story, and then ask if they mind if you approach their colleague. They usually don’t mind at this point, although they most likely will have shared your story ahead of time.
6. Expecting Your Press Release Printed Word Perfect
Journalists rarely print your press release. They will reprint facts, ie: time and place of a screening, and your contact details. But not the words from your press release.
A good trick around this is to write them a list of FAQ’s. You can see my FAQ‘s for the 25th anniversary of Raindance. Do this right and they will quote you, and thus will be word perfect.
7. Wrong Media Targeting
There is no point in getting your project reviewed if it is being seen by the wrong people – people who wouldn’t ever be interested in your film. Do your research and make sure your time and energy are used to get the word out to the right audience.
8. Expecting Journalists To Perform Miracles
Overnight publicity miracles don’t happen overnight. PR works best by continually feeding your target media with news article after news article. Remeber too, that one or two articles won’t change your profile much. Your reputation and profile builds over a series of well planned publicity events.
9. Shooting From The Hip
When a journalist puts you on the spot with a tricky quicky question, take a moment to reflect. If you aren’t comfortable, ask the journalist if you can move on. The worst thing you can do is make things up. Then you have to call back and grovel and apologise. When that happens all your good work goes down the proverbial toilet.
10. Believing Journalists Are Vindictive
Mostly this in not true. Here’s what journalists really want:
- a story of interest their audience
- concise, factual information
- detailed information on a topic they are researching
- as little extra work as possible
- to meet deadlines
- to look hip and cool to their employers and colleagues
Some Comments Please:
“PART II: 10 Things Journalists Hate About Filmmakers:
Don’t care what you-say-about-me…spell my name right. Then make sure they spell your name write.
Make sure the journalist, states your claim-to-fame, without typing the words “self promoting”
Not talking to a journalist unless he has a photographer with him/her. No-photo No-Talkie
Never do a video shoot, even viral, if journalist doesn’t have a makeup man. No-makeup No-Shootie
Never talk to a journalist who doesn’t have a budget for lunch. Plus, be careful what you order & eat, for that is what they will write.”
– Dov Simens
“”Lying annoys journalists? Anyone else getting hints of irony here, with just a hint of hypocrisy?”
“As an ex PR consultant turned journalist I think these are the top tips for any campaign. Also another big thing is “not being ready”. There is nothing worse than calling someone and requesting quotes/media packs//information and them not being prepared enough to have the information at hand. The second you’re ready to contact journalists you should ALWAYS have your spokes person well informed and on standby.
Rachael Philipps @thegrainsilo
I wish someone, early in my career, made clear to me the importance of getting and keeping press throughout your career. I moved to New York five years ago and needed a body of press clippings etc for my Visa and had flashbacks of missed opportunities, requests for interviews that I turned down and so on. Needless to say, I was kicking myself. Next project I rectified that immediately. My short film “The Love Game” won a nationwide film competition promoted by Bloomingdales’ in all their stores across the US so I hired a publicist and ended up with a TV interview and 8 press articles ranging from magazine, newspaper to the web. It was worth the money. The experience taught me the importance and power of PR. We are, in a very real sense, taking our name and creating a brand that speaks of quality and professionalism that investors and studios would be willing to entrust millions of dollars to, just to make a film. Suddenly the thought of knowing how NOT to annoy a journalist has very real relevance! Thanks for a great article.