Articles: Blogs

handling a grumpy journalist

Agency insights - 6th January 2017
Depressed speaker

Have you ever felt there’s a wall between you and your potential customers, a wall that looks like a journalist?

You know the kind of person we mean. He never responds to your e-mails or takes your phone calls. He never attends your product launches. All your beautifully crafted press releases go straight from his ‘Inbox’ to his ‘Trash’ without pausing for breath. For whatever reason, this editor just doesn’t like your company…but his magazine holds more influence than any other publication in your industry.


Handling a grumpy journalist


So where did it all go wrong? You must have upset him somehow. What makes journalists grumpy in the first place?

  1. Being told how to do their job: berating a journalist who chose not to cover your last press release is far more likely to create a permanent rift than build a productive relationship for you.
  2. Being expected to do your job for you: including ‘half-facts’ like: “Our sales have risen since last year” in your press releases will only infuriate good journalists, who then need to research the full story before publication. What are the exact sales figures for this year? What were last year’s numbers? If you can’t be bothered to research your company’s news properly, why expect a journalist to do the work for you?
  3. Having their time wasted: you won’t help your cause if you drag a busy journalist across town for an interview in which you have nothing new to say.

Handling a grumpy journalist

What next? Regardless of how the situation arose, you now have a grumpy journalist on your hands (which is not a pleasant image, we know). How do you turn things around?

  1. Try to see the world from the journalist’s point of view. If you can, arrange a short call or meeting in which you put the pressure on yourself to change, not the journalist. Don’t angrily ask: “Why don’t you print our press releases?” but instead ask: “How can we make our news more interesting to your readers?”
  2. Plan ahead. Journalists appreciate time to develop their work and hate being bothered by a pushy company when a deadline is approaching fast. Many magazines publish lists of scheduled features at least a year in advance, so working out in which articles you would like your CEO to be quoted is easy. Set up those interviews weeks ahead of the deadline. Make your company easy to work with and you won’t even need to harass those grumpy journalists anymore – they’ll be calling you.
  3. Offer an exclusive interview or insight into your company…but think carefully about how you use this tactic. As mentioned above, don’t waste the journalist’s time on a pointless meeting. And don’t turn a problem into a crisis. If you show so much love to one journalist, will all the other publications with which you still need to work become annoyed?

Grumpy journalists can be frustrating but if you try to understand their priorities – and, vitally, accept the fact those priorities might be very different from your own – you can turn those obstructive walls into helpful doors.