Pitch Perfect
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Pitch Perfect

Don’t send draft press releases

More and more, I’m getting pitches from PR folks that are marked as ‘draft’. Honestly, as a reporter, I don’t give two craps if it’s a draft or not — if you’re sharing info with me, you’re sharing info with me.

I’ve had a bit of a break from being a tech reporter, and I’ve gotta say — things haven’t gotten better over the last five years. More than once in the last few weeks, I’ve had people share something with me, then tried to withdraw the information. That’s… not how information works. Even if I agreed to an embargo, the embargo only covers the time of publishing, not the information you’ve shared with me.

TL; DR: You’re effectively leaking information about your own company to the press. Don’t send stuff to a journalist that you don’t want to be covered.

(continues below)

“Hey, so you wrote that XXX is an investor in the company. They don’t want to be named, please,” says the PR person

“Well, are they an investor or not?” I ask.

“Yes, but they don’t want to be named, and they were removed from the final release”

Another example might be that the press release reads that the funding round was for $20m, but the founder insists that they raised $25m. While they are being recorded in an interview. After they were notified that the interview was being recorded for quote accuracy, and, when the founder mentions a different number than what’s in the press release, I double-checked the discrepancy.

At that point, I’m in a really silly situation. An article has gone live with the correct information in it, fully fact-checked, and ready to go. But now, you want me to remove accurate information from the article. Or, I am directly quoting the founder of a company I am covering, but you are trying to get me to change a direct, provable quote that I double-checked.

I appreciate that this sort of thing might land you in hot water with your client, but, without any malice or ill intent: That is what we call a ‘you problem’ in the biz.

In short: Reporters are not a wire service. If you give them accurate information, they can use it. If you give them wrong information, you’re… not doing your job properly.

Please:

  • Double-check the information in press releases if possible
  • Make sure that your interviewees / founders are properly briefed and have the correct numbers in front of them.

I get it, people are human, and humans make mistakes. I will do my damnedest to avoid them, and to fix them as quickly as I can. But here’s the key thing: I’m a reporter. I report. I will (probably) talk to sources other than the ones you put in front of me. I will (probably) fact-check things you send my way.

The key thing to remember is this: we’re not on the same team . We have different missions. Your team is the PR team and the startup, and you’re trying to get coverage for your startup. My team is the readers and my publication, and I’m trying to inform and entertain.

Please, do better. It isn’t hard, and it’s a lot more professional.

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Haje Jan Kamps

Haje Jan Kamps

Writer, startup pitch coach, enthusiastic dabbler in photography.

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