Pepper Spray PR: 9 Media Relations Tactics to Snuff Out Today


Unless you were hiding under a rock this past Thanksgiving (which for some, is an understandable move), you heard about the woman who used pepper spray in a Walmart in Los Angeles so she could ensure her take of good deals. Add that to the police officers who pepper sprayed student protesters at UC-Davis.  The awareness of pepper spray is at an all-time high. In the spirit of “stretch PR” in which a communicator takes a newsworthy item and finds a dubious connection that the press might latch on to, (ie – pitching a story about your locksmith company in light of the NBA lockout),  I hereby present 9 media relations tactics you might want to metaphorically pepper spray to oblivion:

1.  Using the following words or phrases in your press release: “the leader in,”  “solutions provider,” “the best” and  “ground-breaking” (not true)
2. Leaving a reporter a voice mail message without stating the reason for the call (as good as nothing)
3. Worse than above, calling to make sure a press release was received (desperate)
4. Contacting a journalist for the first time – during a crisis or product launch (ineffective)
5. Sitting in on a CEO interview and clarifying statements or points to be, er, helpful (annoying)
6. Friending a reporter on Facebook and worse yet, liking and commenting on his/her postings multiple times a week (creepy)
7. Not having a drink with the journalist – having lots of drinks (inappropriate)
8. Having an online press room without a real person listed as a contact – ie  “info@” emails  (useless)
9. Pitching a story idea to a reporter and expecting coverage.  (If only it were that easy)

What other media relations tactics would you pepper spray?

– Diane Schwartz

  • Katie

    I would love it if I never received another press release attachment. Nothing makes me slam the delete button faster than an email that reads, “Please see attached! THANKS!” and the attachment is called something lame like “press release.” Tell me what it’s about and don’t make me open up a word document.

  • Meredith

    One of my snuffed out tactics is writing an article essentially listing out things media relations professionals do wrong and not listing alternatives or reasons why (unhelpful).

    So friending a reporter on Facebook and “liking” their content is a no-no now? I completely and utterly disagree. Facebook is a means of engagement. If you do it right, you’re building a relationship. If you mean being PUSHY on Facebook is a no-no, then word it better and suggest a best-practice.

    Calling to follow up on a press release is also frowned upon these days? Then what do YOU (the apparent expert) suggest as alternative?

    We all know that the world of public relations is evolving and anyone who knows what their doing in this field is well aware that being a pushy car salesman does not a talented PR pro make.

    I agree with most of these items and also agree with Katie that sending attachments will only scare some folks away from opening them. But in a world of “no,” I think it would be helpful to find a “yes” or two lingering in the rafters!

  • Karen Johnson

    I agree with Meredith on the Facebook thing … I have not only “friended” reporters but we engage regularly in non-work related discussions. It’s part of building a relationship. Of course you shouldn’t be annoying or creepy or stalking, in real life or “online” life. If you do that you have no business in this business.

    On the following up on the press release – I’ve discovered in 20+ years that this is one PR people will never win. Some reporters appreciate it, with others it’s their pet peeve. The fact that reporters will use a follow-up against a PR person is my pet peeve, quite frankly. My “older school” reporters seem to appreciate it; the new and younger ones seem to find it annoying. I take it on a case-by-base basis. If the news release pertains to an event or hard deadline, then I will more likely follow up, just as I would with an RSVP item. If it annoys them, well, hopefully we can move on. I have to have enough confidence in my clients these days to expect that any reporter worth his or her salt will see value in our news and overlook something that might be a little personally annoying.