4 client media requests to which the answer will always be “no”

We care about our clients and their PR and marketing goals. However, there are a few things that we just won’t do. Sorry, not sorry.

If you’ve ever worked in a PR agency, you’ll probably agree – dealing with some odd client demands are almost a part of the job description.

Look – every brand wants to achieve the best possible result with every media publication, and we get it. So, when possible, we try to accommodate client demands and do whatever it takes to help them reach their goals. 

However, there are things that are simply out of our hands and requests to which the answer will always be ”no”. Not only is the success rate extremely low, but what’s worse – by accommodating such requests, we risk damaging our (and the client’s) reputation.

Here are four things we just can’t do:

1: ”Ask the journalist to change [insert something that was mentioned in the press release]”

A press release is an official company statement to the media, which, once sent out, gives journalists permission to use it for writing their stories. That includes using facts, announcements, quotes, and everything else mentioned in it, which can’t be changed after distribution.

In other words, it’s not the journalist’s job to, upon receiving a press release, make sure that quotes are coordinated with all parties involved or double-check that the CEO’s name is spelled correctly. This is something that needs to be done prior to pressing the ”send” button. 

Journalists are busy people who receive tens and even hundreds of pitches every day, try to meet deadlines, and usually work on several stories at the same time. They just don’t have time to correct your mistakes.

The same applies to information available on the company’s website – everything mentioned there is considered publicly available and thus usable when writing articles. So, make sure all information is correct, clients mentioned have given their permission, and all statements are true and fact-checked.

2: ”We need a few days until we prepare our quote – just ask the journalist to wait”

Journalists often work on tight deadlines and thereby, they also give short deadlines for their sources to provide information for the article if they want to be quoted. Subscribe for HARO requests or follow #journorequest on Twitter, and you’ll notice that deadlines for submissions are, in most cases, the same or the next day.

In other words, if you want a journalist to mention you in their article, you can’t keep them hanging for several days. As much as you want your submission to be polished to perfection, in this case, you just have to admit that good enough is good enough.

Similarly, every time you send out a press release, you have to be ready to answer journalists’ follow-up questions right away. Not in the evening, not the next day. Take as much time as you need to prepare the press release, but don’t make journalists wait if they are already working on the story.

Even if a story is arranged thanks to a personal connection with the journalist, making them wait days for answers to their questions is still risky. In the fast-paced world where thousands of stories wait to be told, too much hesitation is a waste of journalists’ time and may cost you a publication.

3: ”Tell the journalist to add a backlink to our website”

Whether or not a journalist or blogger adds a link to your website usually depends on the policies the specific media has. For example, we’ve noticed many mainstream media such as Forbes, Wired, or The Next Web rarely add backlinks to company websites they mention in their stories. An exception can be profile stories or feature articles but even then a link is not guaranteed.

Forbes contributor Will Townsend wrote a conference review and included a backlink to the conference’s website. Further, in the same article, he mentions several companies he met at the event, though those are all link-less mentions.

What’s more, you have to understand that we as PR professionals mostly communicate with journalists, while editors are those who make the final decision to add or remove a backlink. Therefore, asking journalists to add a backlink is rather pointless – not only is the decision not their call, they most probably won’t even pass this demand on to their editor since they know the decision was based on the publication’s policies.

In short:

We *can* ask…but we won’t pose it as a request. And to be honest, we don’t even want to ask. Why? There’s a small chance that we’ll succeed and a big chance we’ll only waste the journalist’s time. 

The good news? A link-less mention still contributes to your SEO efforts and you can still highlight it in your ”As seen on” section on your website.

4: ”Ask the journalist how much he/she wants for a story”

If you want to offend a journalist, offer them cash to write a story about your company.

Paid stories are paid stories, and most media offer branded content opportunities if you’re interested in partnering. Whereas independent journalism is unbiased, uncompromised, and follows a certain code of ethics that states: professional journalists must refuse gifts, favors, and other kinds of payments that may damage story credibility.

By offering a journalist money, you show that, in your opinion, he or she is bribable and unethical, and thus – unprofessional. Now, ask yourself: would you be willing to collaborate with someone who questions your professionality and work ethic? Probably not.

To conclude

To make our collaboration with journalists smoother and improve your chances to gain publicity, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Always polish your press release before you send it out, but don’t sweat the small stuff and act fast when all the journalist needs is a quick comment for their article. When it comes to backlinks, having a backlink to your company website is great, but don’t be disappointed if there isn’t one – that still helps your Google rankings. And finally, offering money for publication is a definite no. We won’t do it, so don’t even ask.

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