PR pros: A guide to decipher journalist replies

Your go-to guide for translating those “hmmm” and “we’ll consider it” responses to your pitches.

When pitching PR stories, you’ll come to recognize common responses from journalists.

The responses will run from happy acceptance to disgusted confusion, and it can be tough to gauge exactly what they mean. Instead of taking years to discover them, how about I just list them for you?

1. “Sure, that might work.”

This might sound like a non-response, but it’s typically what a journalist will say when there’s a good chance he will print your press release. It’s rare for any reporter to jump up and down for joy when you pitch him a PR story, so this response is the best you can get.

It means the journalist can “see” the story on the printed page. He can’t guarantee he’ll include it by any means, but his acknowledgment that you have a good idea is all you can really hope for.

2. “Hmmm…”

Your basic idea might need some sprucing up. A rough equivalent of “hmmm” is someone telling you your story is “interesting” and walking away. It’s obviously not interesting, but because the journalist doesn’t know how to tell you that, she just says “hmmm.”

This response means it’s time to decide whether the story is truly newsworthy. It may just be putting readers to sleep.

3. “We’ll consider it.”

This can go one of two ways. First, and most likely, the newspaper where your journalist works is really busy and he or she has no time to think about the press release. Or, it could just be a way to get you off the phone.

This is a good time to mark the journalist as “maybe” in your notebook and make a note to send a follow-up email later. Don’t bother with a phone call—you won’t get much of a response whatever the case may be. Send a polite email and consider yourself lucky if you hear back.

4. Helpful journalists

Some journalists—typically the “not swamped right now” ones—will say no to your pitch but will give you tips on how to fix it. They’ve seen many pitches and releases before, and know what it takes to get a press release printed. Listen to them. Your release could be anything from the aforementioned “not newsworthy” to a jumbled and confusing idea.

If you ever run into a journalist like this, mark her with a huge gold star because these journalists are as rare as unicorns. Editors are more likely to fit this role.

5. Unhelpful journalists

Unfortunately, because the journalist is busy or doesn’t care, you may get a “no” response that isn’t helpful at all. This “no” can range from a curt “No thanks” to a more passive aggressive “We’re not taking press releases at this time.” The only thing you can do when you face a non-helpful “no” is to move on.

What are some responses journalists have given you?

Mickie Kennedy is the CEO and founder of eReleases and blogs at PR Fuel, where a version of this article originally appeared.

Topics: PR

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