Journalist explains when and how to follow up a pitch

Haven’t heard back from that reporter you pitched two days ago? Take this advice from someone on the other side of your follow-up phone calls.

On at least a weekly basis, I get a phone call from a perky sounding junior PR associate, who says, “Hi, Ms. McCarthy, I just wanted to follow up with you on Client X’s placement on your website.”

I invariably reply, “Huh? Who?” And then try to piece together the fragments of my brain that remember what she’s talking about. Even after she’s done describing the client and the pitch, I usually still don’t know.

Email inboxes are a black hole for PR pitches. Like many journalists, I get a minimum of 200 emails a day, a majority of which are press releases and pitches. Some of the content is excellent and well placed, but most of it is junk—either poorly targeted or plain old boring.

The journalist/PR relationship should be symbiotic, and there are a number of professionals out there who work extremely hard to make sure that is the case. Check out these tips for effective follow-up to make sure you’re among the group that’s making this relationship stronger:

Do follow up. Following up is not inherently bad. A quick, “Hey, do you think this is a fit for your publication?” followed by a few quick facts about your client is an excellent way to stay top-of-mind in a non-intrusive way. I respond to emails and then delete them as a way to keep control of my inbox. Your response and follow up is basically the only way to make your placement happen, just go about it in a smart way.

Don’t nag. Giving your client placement is technically a favor. When you send me your pitch, I could just as easily seek out another expert or product and steal your idea. Placing your client is my choice, and you need to be respectful of that. Multiple phone calls and annoying emails will get you nowhere.

Let some time pass. Following up the next day is useless. Chances are I haven’t even had time to read your email, much less determine interest in your pitch. Give me a few days to consider your material and where it fits. Conversely, waiting too long will absolutely ensure that I have no clue what you’re talking about. Three to four days seems to be a pretty comfortable window.

Provide added value. To make your follow-up message more enticing, offer a laignappe—that is, a little something extra. Provide the journalist with an extra set of statistics, an additional interview, or something else that will help make their story better. This is the fastest way to a journalist’s heart—make his or her life easier, and the reporter will keep you in mind.

Amy McCarthy is a content strategist and editor living in Dallas.

Topics: PR

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