You’ve sent a well-crafted, targeted press release and story pitch to reporters and editors at well-targeted news sources.
You made sure the press release contained detailed contact information—including an after-hours contact—yet you’ve received few, if any, replies.
Don’t feel insulted. Reporters are extremely busy and don’t have time to respond to the hundreds of emails they receive each day, but they also often miss genuine news that would be welcomed by their readership.
That’s the time for follow-up messages. Following up properly after sending pitches to journalists, influential bloggers and other online experts is one of the most vital PR skills. Here are some specific do’s and don’ts of successful follow-ups:
Know when to send follow-up pitches
First, accept the fact that some press releases are simply not worth a follow-up, writes Lisa Goldsberry at Axia Public Relations. In fact, press releases on minor staff appointments and updates to your organization’s website might not be worth a press release in the first place. If the reporter has ignored your news release, so be it.
For a release with genuine and relevant news, you can send a follow-up email if you didn’t hear from the reporter or blogger after three or four business days. However, instead of just resending the original message, offer something new or exclusive that wasn’t in the original email. Consider a customer testimonial, links to data or research supporting the original pitch, or links to additional information or photos, suggests Connie Sung Moyle of Vertical Response. If your pitch involved an event, send links to photos of the event.
Avoid calling reporters to ask if they received the email. They’ll likely feel you’re wasting their time. Of course they received it. That’s how email works. If you must call, offer something new, be succinct and be prepared for them to say, “Send me an email.”
Don’t just “check in”
The “just checking in” message is the worst, says Leslie Ye, editor of HubSpot’s sales blog. It’s obvious that you’re checking in and it provides no additional value to the message recipient. “Just checking in” messages are as worthless as they are easy to write.
Ye suggests 23 better email subject lines. Although addressed specifically for salespeople, some can apply to PR and marketing. Here are a few:
- Respond to a social message, and then follow up with more resources
- Reference a relevant blog post they just published
- Ask them “Did this email get buried?”
“Just checking in” messages are warranted in some circumstances, Ye adds, such as when the contact has previously committed to an action but hasn’t come through or replied, or if he or she told you to check back in a certain time.
Follow up at proper times in news cycle
Understand the media outlet’s news cycle and deadlines to avoid contacting journalists or others at inopportune times. “If you are pitching a weekly news outlet that publishes every Friday, don’t follow up on Thursday afternoon,” Goldsberry notes. “They are probably done with that issue already.”
Learn when reporters and editors are preoccupied and on deadline during the workday—and don’t interrupt them during those times. The deadline times depend on the time of publication and/or broadcast.
If they don’t respond after one or two follow ups, the next step is clear: Move on. Don’t take it personally. They likely were not interested. Start working on the next story.
If your pitches generally elicit little interest, consider reviewing your overall strategy. Perhaps you aren’t contacting publications that cover your niche. Review the recommended elements of eye-catching press releases. Review the publications to see what content they are publishing. Talk with reporters and editors to determine what they want to cover. Tailor your stories to their expressed needs.
How to phrase follow-up messages to PR pitches is one of PR’s most frequent questions. The most common pitfall is resending the same message and asking reporters and editors whether they received the initial email. The most effective technique is to add value to follow-up messages by including new information or photos.
A version of this post first appeared on Glean.info.