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PR Pitfalls to Avoid: Views from a Journalist 

Azizza Brinson

Lions, tigers, and PR nightmares…oh my! I uncovered it all in my latest conversation with the lovely Sasha Lekach, former tech writer for Mashable and current writer for Forbes Wheels, covering the world of electric vehicles (EVs). 

Sasha has had some standout PR experiences throughout her career; unfortunately, they have not always been commendable from the PR folks trying to work with her. From general pitching pet peeves to some down-right questionable tactics, Sasha reveals it all in our recent podcast episode. Given our conversation was loaded with interesting stories and key insights, I thought I’d make it easy for you and pull out some of the top points to read. 

Of course, our full episode is available to watch on YouTube HERE – or if you’re planning for a nice, almost-summer stroll outside, we have the audio version available HERE for your listening pleasure. Check out the highlights below! 

Let’s just jump right into it. What is your general pet peeve from PR representatives that you hate to see in your inbox? 

Yeah, of course. I’m going to start off by saying that I love a lot of my relationships with PR professionals and I get a lot of great pitches that keep me informed. So, it’s not all nightmares or completely horrifying; however, there are some big faux pas and issues that come up. I think one of the worst, yet common mistakes I see is using the wrong name or the wrong publication. It’s just those little things that get kind of annoying over time. For me personally, I get really frustrated with very general pitches or just totally off-base pitches that have no connection to what I cover. It becomes obvious that this person did not take time to look at what I cover because if they did, they would have realized I am not the right person to connect with.  

So, tell me about the worst or one of the worst times a PR professional wouldn’t take no for an answer? 

I have a lot of those. Honestly, I start ignoring them, which is bad. It becomes just like very persistent emailing, which is usually the main problem. What I find the most egregious is when it switches to a phone call and then like ten. Then I just don’t really want to cover it because this person is being so pushy. Also, most PR people are very good about making sure it’s not like 18 different email chains, but there definitely are the people who start a new email for every time they reach out, which is a big no for me. 

Here’s the golden question: Do you like or dislike a follow-up phone call? 

Don’t call. Unless we have a relationship or we’re working on something together then yeah, I love the phone. It’s great. Or, if you’re like, hey, like, can I call you? And if I tell you yeah then yes, go ahead. If not, stick to email. 

How do you feel about PR professionals pitching you on social media platforms, i.e. LinkedIn and Twitter? 

Honestly, I have had weird people reach out on LinkedIn. I don’t really consider those like official pitches from PR people, like that and Twitter DMs. My thought is if it’s something you Twitter DM me and you have a legit thing, I’ll be like, great, send me an email like that. You then know I’m a little bit interested and willing to hear more, but I want to see it in my inbox and formatted that way because I’m not going to piece together a quick note on LinkedIn and stuff over here and Twitter. I’ve definitely had weird and creepy type of interactions too where people will add me as a connection or there’re people who are very aggressive who have tried to add me as a “friend” on Facebook. And I’m like, no, we’re not friends. I don’t even know who you are. 

What’s the most powerful pitch you received that you just knew you had to take to your editors for approval? 

I do get a lot of good pitches. It’s important I think to make the point really clear on what the news is, what’s happening, and who’s involved. If there’s footage or video that can be provided, I find that it’s helpful to have something to look at so I have a sense of what it is. I’m thinking of one pitch in particular that stood out. It was for a software company and the pitch itself was super boring and filled with tech jargon, but they had a really cool idea, which was to show how their software worked through a virtual dog that I could control. This was a company that I probably wouldn’t cover normally, especially on enterprise software and robotics management, but they were like, “Hey, to show you our software, you’re going to virtually walk this robot dog through the streets of San Francisco via your computer.” And I was like, yes, you did good research because they knew I like to write about robot dogs in particular. I was intrigued by the robot dog, and to me it was very cool. This whole element of like virtual remote controlling something from afar. Anyway, it led to tons of videos and photo content pieces all from this creative and interactive pitch that wasn’t necessarily 100% in my beat, but it worked out really well.