Why journalists don’t return your emails

Why journalists don’t return your emails

Editor's Note: Last week, Julia Sahin wrote a post here on the Muck Rack blog titled "Eight Things I Wish Journalists Knew About PR." The post garnered a lot of attention, including nearly 200 shares on social media, an active conversation in the comments and responses from journalists all over the world. We reached out to Andy Paras, Social Media Editor for Post and Courier, to see if he'd like to share his opinion. His response to Sahin's post is below.

Recently PR consultant Julia Sahin wrote a column about things she wished journalists knew about her job, such as she doesn’t like it when we don’t return her emails and she doesn’t know how to find us. This is my response:

If you’re a PR professional waiting on me to return your unsolicited email you’re probably going to be waiting a while.

It’s nothing personal–and that’s the problem. Most of the time I’m one of many journalists on your list of CCs and BCCs so I know you’re really not writing to me as much as dangling a baited hook. Over the course of the day there are so many hooks.

I pride myself on responding to readers and members of the community, but if you’re just repeatedly emailing me–even directly–to ask me to use your client as a source for stories we’re not writing, that’s not a “symbiotic relationship.” That’s spam. And honestly, I’m afraid that if I do respond you’ll just put me on more lists to receive more emails.

So where can you find me? I’m on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+. I’m there right now developing sources and story ideas. Are you there? Shouldn’t you be? I’ll likely respond to you there because I know you’re talking directly to me (no auto DMS!) and you’re putting forth some effort. That’s why social media has evolved into my preferred form of communication while email–and trying to keep my inbox from overflowing–has become the time-suck.

Time is at a premium these days. Many journalists would love to be drinking a craft beer during happy hour but they’re probably still sitting at their desks. Most journalists have multiple beats and they’re turning in multiple stories about multiple subjects. In most cases the problem isn’t finding a story it’s finding people to talk about the stories they’re juggling. So unless you have a source who can discuss the story we’re working on now it’s not very relevant to us.

You want to develop a pitch we’ll like? Follow a bunch of reporters on Twitter who are in your area or write about your field (we’re really not that hard to find) and pay attention to what they’re writing about. Everything is so fast now that many reporters are writing their stories 140 characters at a time. We’re crowd-sourcing, looking for information. Do you have a client who knows about this stuff? Let us know. We’ll help you out when we can.

We don’t dislike you. Some of our best friends–and former colleagues–are in PR. We know your job comes with its own set of challenges and deadlines and we really do appreciate it when you make our job easier because it’s definitely better than trying to go around you.

Personally, I’ve come to know and like many PR pros I’ve met on social media. They get it. They’re the ones who know it’s not about the hard sell but about building relationships.

Do that and maybe then we’ll go have that beer.

Journalists: weigh in! Do you agree with Andy? What are some other reasons you don't respond to emails from PR pros?

Andy Paras is the Social Media Editor at Post and Courier. He was voted "Best Local Twitter" by the people of Charleston, South Carolina for three years and running. 

Photo: Delete button via Shutterstock

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