View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. News
June 26, 2024

‘So many damn follow-up emails’: Jay Rayner tells PRs to stop ‘driving me nuts’

Observer food critic driven "nuts" by common behaviour from PRs.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner has urged PRs to stop sending follow-up emails to irrelevant pitches and do a “minimum amount of research”.

Rayner was prompted to make his call after receiving emails from PR pitching platform Synapse inviting him to attend a webinar called “Is rejection killing the PR industry?”

Rayner was irritated by the multiple emails about it (which came, he said, “ironically” considering Synapse was designed so that PRs can post press releases for journalists to find and decide whether to follow up, avoiding the traditional inbox clutter).

In a message to Synapse chief executive Charlie Russell, which the journalist agreed could be shared more widely as an open letter, Rayner wrote: “The way far too much of the PR industry behaves has been driving me nuts for a long while now… I receive literally hundreds of emails from PRs a week. And what staggers me is the vast number that have absolutely nothing to do with my beat.”

He cited emails received within a 24-hour window about a children’s festival in Leicester, a wellness guru, Iron Man, financial analyst reports and celebrity real estate.

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

“It is clear to me that a staggering number of you put together random, unfocussed lists of journalists and then just send them everything, despite it being irrelevant to them.

Content from our partners
Mather Economics and InsurAds combine to help publishers boost revenue
Press Gazette publishes ultimate guide to reader conversion and monetisation
Slow online ads cost UK publishers £50m a year: Here's how to fix them

“And then you send follow up emails. So many damn follow-up emails. The record is five, but three is common. If I replied to every single PR email that was of no interest to me I would literally have no time to do my job.

“What do those of you who send follow-ups think happens? That an email which is entirely relevant to our work has come in, that we’ve looked at it, but then gone out on the lash and completely forgotten what our job is? If I don’t reply it’s because it is of no interest.”

Rayner also criticised restaurant and food PRs that invite him to review a restaurant he has already written about or offer to book him a table “when I have made clear many, many times that I book my own tables, under a pseudonym, give no prior warning of a visit and that we do not accept comps. The latter is even in my social media bios. It would take a minimum amount of research to check any of this out.”

However, he added that he works with “a lot of very good PRs”, adding: “I trust and respect them… Good PR is a serious and vital skill.

“But I am constantly astonished by the amount of unfocussed drivel sent my way, accompanied by follow-ups. I am sure the clients who pay for it would be equally appalled if they knew what was being done in their name.”

Rayner received backing from Mark Borkowski, a PR boss and non-executive director of Synapse, who agreed: “We must face the stark reality: journalists are drowning in a deluge of irrelevant pitches, often numbering in the thousands daily. This chaotic approach is not just inefficient—it’s a disservice to all involved.”

Back in 2006 Rayner wrote a diary for Press Gazette in which he criticised an emerging PR practice of the time – sending press releases digitally.

He wrote of catching up with emails: “Mostly this means sending furious replies to illiterate PRs who think it’s OK these days to send press releases as massive attachments so I have to print them out for them. It isn’t.

“I have a simple policy: if it’s not on hard copy I won’t look at it. I could quite happily survive without any press releases at all.”

Jay Rayner’s email to the PR industry in full:

Dear PR colleagues,

Synapse recently emailed me (multiple times, somewhat ironically, given their mission to stop this) about how you all deal with rejection. I thought I’d give my thoughts from the other side.

The way far too much of the PR industry behaves has been driving me nuts for a long while now. I am the restaurant critic for The Observer. A quick google would make it clear that this weekly column is my main job. I also write a monthly column in OFM and very occasional features, all of them around food. Nothing else.

I receive literally hundreds of emails from PRS a week. And what staggers me is the vast number that have absolutely nothing to do with my beat. I just had a look over the last 24 hours. They include releases and emails about a children’s festival in Leicester, the odds on Robert Downey Jnr returning as Iron Man, something from a wellness guru, stuff on celebrity real estate, a few financial analysts reports on a greetings card company, and another on car production. In truth this was quite a small crop. Usually it’s worse. It is clear to me that a staggering number of you put together random, unfocussed lists of journalists and then just send them everything, despite it being irrelevant to them.

And then you send follow up emails. So many damn follow up emails. The record is five, but three is common. If I replied to every single PR email that was of no interest to me I would literally have no time to do my job.

What do those of you who send follow-ups think happens? That an email which is entirely relevant to our work has come in, that we’ve looked at it, but then gone out on the lash and completely forgotten what our job is? If I don’t reply it’s because it is of no interest. This, I should say, also happens with emails about restaurants and food which arguably are relevant to me (though many of those aren’t either). A side issue where restaurants are concerned. I am always amazed by the PRS who email me, inviting me to review a restaurant I have already reviewed. And then there are the enormous number who offer to book me a table, when I have made clear many, many times that I book my own tables, under a pseudonym, give no prior warning of a visit and that we do not accept comps. The latter is even in my social media bios. It would take a minimum amount of research to check any of this out.

As a journalist I work with a lot of very good PRs. I trust and respect them. I should also say that as a writer of books, presenter of tv and radio and as a live performer, I am regularly PRd. Good PR is a serious and vital skill. But I am constantly astonished by the amount of unfocussed drivel sent my way, accompanied by follow-ups. I am sure the clients who pay for it would be equally appalled if they knew what was being done in their name.

In short, if you don’t want to deal with so much rejection, target your message.

Jay Rayner

The Observer

Topics in this article : ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network