It happens: You spend hours crafting the perfect pitch and the perfect list of reporters and outlets to target.
You’re sure it will be a hit, and then the rejection emails start flooding in (or worse, you get no response at all).
With the right strategy—and a healthy dose of tact and courtesy—PR reps can change a journalist’s mind after an initial rejection.
Try one of these three journalist-approved tactics to find an alternative path to coverage:
1. Find another side to the story your client wants to tell.
I recently received a pitch from a PR rep about her client (a local bank) and how it was making personal banking easier for younger people.
I explained that we didn’t cover personal finance stories, and she replied that this bank also helps local businesses access capital. Because that second angle is much more aligned with our coverage, I agreed to work with the rep on a story featuring her client.
The original story wasn’t a good fit, but with a quick adjustment the client’s accomplishments were highlighted to suit a specific publication. Of course, it’s always wise to do your research beforehand and tailor a pitch to a reporter’s beat, but sometimes outlets change their editorial focus.
If a journalist says the angle won’t work, look through their website and/or previous articles to see whether there’s a different way to tell the same basic story. The result is a unique feature for that publication and additional coverage for your client.
2. Offer your client as an expert source for an upcoming story.
What do you do if there’s no other hook to your pitch—for example, if you’re sending a “non-news” news pitch that the publication won’t cover?
Ask the reporter what features they’re working on and whether your client could offer quotes or insights for one of those pieces. It helps to give us an overview of your client’s areas of expertise so we journalists can better determine where they’d fit within our beats: “My client can speak about marketing, finance and leadership.”
You probably won’t get a story solely about your client, but it’s still coverage—plus, being quoted for their expertise can help establish your client as a prominent industry voice.
3. Do your homework and come back with a better pitch.
So, the journalist won’t take the alternative angle, and they don’t have any stories in which your client can be quoted. That’s OK.
In many cases, a “no” from a journalist means “not right now,” and chances are they’ll consider your client for coverage if the timing and the story idea are right.
The key is to walk away and give the reporter some space; pushing too hard for the same client/story over and over will only land you on their blacklist. (Yes, a lot of us make mental notes when a PR rep is aggressive and pushy, and yes, it does turn us off to working with that person.)
If the above tactics fail you, study up the types of content the publication produces. Look for patterns and recurring themes, both in the topics covered and the way the outlet uses sources. Are there CEO profiles? Q&A features? Trend pieces quoting industry experts?
Based on the data you uncover, brainstorm ways your client might fit into the coverage. Then, come back to the reporter with your ideas and see whether one of them will work.
As you work again and again with the same journalists, you’ll get better at pitching them stories they’ll want to cover the first time around. If you’re still learning the PR ropes or working with a new set of clients, these approaches can help you build strong media relationships.
Nicole Fallon is the managing editor of Business News Daily. Follow her on Twitter @nicolemfallon. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.