5 golden rules of following up with journalists

5 golden rules of following up with journalists

You have the perfect pitch in mind for a big-name journalist at a blog or media outlet with a huge national following. You know this story would be perfect for the audience and your client has provided awesome photos to go along with the pitch. The problem is, you can’t seem to get this journalist to get back to you.

We’ve all been there. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as hearing radio silence on the other end after sending a terrific pitch. If you really want your story to get out there, you are going to have to follow up.

Here are five rules you must follow when circling back around on a pitch if you want to make sure your story makes it to publication.

1. Be Nice. Sounds obvious, right? After all, the old cliché “you catch more flies with honey” was coined for a reason. But you wouldn’t believe how many PR types get downright nasty when a journalist doesn’t get back to them right away. While it’s always maddening to be ignored, do not get snappy, mean or offended when someone does not get back to you on a pitch. Instead:

  • Stay polite
  • Offer the person the benefit of the doubt
  • Acknowledge that they are very busy and may have missed your pitch the first time

Journalists will not be bullied into printing your piece. If anything, they’ll be so annoyed that they will send all future pitches from you and your client straight into the trash box without reading them.

2. Make it Easy. You wouldn’t believe how many times a PR person sends out an interview offer, but the person being offered for the interview is no longer available. Guess what? That journalist is never going to believe that PR person again. When you are reaching out with a pitch, make sure it’s as easy as possible for the journalist to follow up on. As soon as they get back to you, serve up the story on a platter. This will make them more likely to take your pitches seriously in the future.

3. Keep it Short. Don’t write “War and Peace” when you just want to see if the blogger actually read your first pitch. There is something to be said for the one-line follow-up. It’s quick, to the point, and incredibly easy for your target to read and comment on. Sometimes big-name journalists and bloggers are inundated by so many pitches that they really do miss a few or forget to reply. The one-line follow-up takes that into consideration and brings the issue back to their attention in a simple and straightforward way.

Even if you decide to write more than one line, keep the follow-up as short as possible. Remember, you want to show that you respect the fact that the people you are targeting receive dozens of pitches each day. A short follow-up proves that you value their time.

4. Offer Something Enticing. Sometimes when you follow up, you can tweak your pitch so that you’re offering something even better than the first time you sent it. Perhaps it’s an exclusive with the company president. Or maybe it’s a set of new statistics that have popped up since the first pitch. This could be the thing you use to draw in the journalist or blogger.

For example, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was all the rage over the summer. A client of mine, CJ Pony Parts, completed the challenge and donated $1,000. In the follow-up, I mentioned that CJ Pony Parts has just pledged to give another $5,000 to ALS research if their YouTube video about the challenge receives 10,000 views — and hey, Mr. Journalist, it’s getting pretty close now, don’t you want to help make that happen?

5. Give it Some Time. Yes, you may be impatient to get your client’s message out to the world, but that’s honestly not the big-time journalist or blogger’s concern. They are busy people, and they may already have dozens of stories they are working on right now. So, don’t make the mistake of sending a pushy follow-up just 24 hours after sending the initial press release or, worse, following up just a few hours after the initial release lands in their inbox.

Give it some time, at least a few days, but preferably more, to let your target work her way through her inbox. If it’s been four days or more and you’re pretty sure the release was ignored, then it is okay to follow up. But if you do it too soon, you risk ticking off the very person you’re trying to get to write the article.

The Bottom Line

Patience, pluckiness and politeness will get you a long way when it comes to following up a pitch. And don’t forget to use the right name — you are fighting an uphill battle trying to convince a blogger named Jon to write about your client if you keep referring to him as John.

What follow-up strategies do you swear by? Share them in the comments below!

Adrienne Erin is an outreach specialist at WebpageFX who has pitched (and followed up with!) thousands of bloggers and journalists. She writes for SiteProNews, Search Engine People, and Socialnomics. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit her blog, Design Roast, to see more of her work or get in touch.

Photo: Rule list via Shutterstock

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