As PR teams know, creating and distributing content is one thing; getting journalists to use it is another. The way we conduct media outreach is critical, especially with reporters receiving hundreds of pitches and press releases each day.
From relationships to cold outreach, the way a publicist reaches out to a reporter is key. One of the most effective ways to do so is through email. Gone are the days of calling reporters and pitching them over the phone; most prefer a simple email with relevant details. But how do you know when to follow up and how? Here are a few ways to successfully pitch and follow up with reporters.
What should a follow-up look like?
Keep the note short and to the point. Reply with the original pitch underneath the follow-up note. This way the reporter can see the full details of the original pitch. If possible, include a new data point or link the follow-up to something timely that broke in the news and is relevant to the topic at hand. This may make it more enticing for reporters.
Timing is everything
Be aware of reporters’ schedules and deadlines. Send pitches and follow up emails in the morning between 9:00 and noon; that’s typically the sweet spot. An early note is more likely to be noticed and potentially turn into a media interview or feature. Avoid reaching out after 4:00 p.m. as reporters are wrapping up for the day and may miss it.
Pitching earlier in the week (i.e. a Monday or Tuesday) also helps a pitch be noticed, and it can offer enough time to conduct any follow-up emails through the week, without sending too many too closely together. Research shows three in 10 journalists want two to three days to look over a pitch before someone follows up with them. So, space out any outreach.
Also take time zones into consideration. Most media outlets are based in New York City but with the popularity of freelancing and working from home, journalists may be spread throughout the U.S. You check reporters’ social channels for their location. This will help determine the best time of day to reach out.
How many follow-ups?
The majority of journalists (59%) say following up once is enough. But based on the amount of feedback received or the time of day the first email was sent, you may need to send another follow-up just to be sure.
While a significant number of journalists are okay if you send a second note, avoid a third follow-up. Most journalists say they’re likely to block a PR person who follows up with them repeatedly.
Of course, if you already have an established relationship with a journalist, it’s probably okay to be a little more persistent – or simply ask what they prefer. They’ll appreciate your consideration of their time.
News cycle matters
Keep in mind that if you didn’t get much feedback on a pitch, there might be something occurring in the news cycle that takes priority. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back the first time.
Most reporters have very full inboxes and may be working on breaking news, so when they see the follow-up email they may never have even seen the original one. This is why a follow-up is important. It may spark the reporter’s interest and elicit a response.
Do the research
While you should research before reaching out to journalists, it is critical when following up. Check their previous coverage and make sure that reporter covers similar topics to the one you’re pitching. A little research will also help you personalize outreach and show the reporter you’re current on their work. Citing a previous article they wrote will help your email stand out.
Other ways to follow up
Depending on the subject matter of the original pitch and its timeliness, you may want to go beyond email for outreach. When pitching something to broadcast journalists, start with an email. But call the news desks at each station first thing in the morning before the crews leave for field coverage. Briefly mentioning the announcement over the phone helps ensure it will be brought up in the news meeting and potentially covered as a story that day.
What about social platforms? Journalists will vary on preferences here, but if you know the reporter fairly well, it may be useful to DM them on Twitter. Or, if you don’t have the best email address or want to get a conversation going, it can be a good idea to reach out on social media – usually Twitter or even LinkedIn. Once you get a response going, you can then politely inquire about the pitch or ask for a better email address.
Overall, journalists are under deadline pressures, constantly dealing with overflowing inboxes, and regularly juggling several stories or pitches to their editors at once. Our role as media relations reps is to smoothly hand over information in an effective and timely way. Using simple but judicious follow-up lets us be more effective and productive.