01 November 2020 Guest Contributor

Earned media (that oh-so-coveted free media coverage of your brand or small business) is invaluable for building buzz.

But as its name suggests, you've got to EARN it. Don't just sit back and twiddle your thumbs after you send an email pitch to a journalist or distribute a press release. Whether you're pitching a story to a local newspaper or any other media outlet, these follow-up tips will make sure your PR efforts are effective. 

The 4 Commandments of Following Up With a Journalist

WARNING: Continue reading at your own risk. Only follow these tips and strategies if you want a journalist to get excited about your story, and share your company or brand with her media's entire audience.

1. Take a Breath

A recent study of more than 1,000 journalists found that one out of every four journalists receive 10 or more pitches a day. Now, consider your already busy inbox. Then, imagine if you were pitched 70+ stories a week from different brands, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

While your new event or product release might be exceptionally exciting to you, the journalist has a lot on her plate. A slow response doesn't mean you're being ignored — the journalist probably just hasn't scrolled down that far yet!

Wait two or three days before reaching out. If you're too pushy, you might just get marked as spam (and no one likes spam, except for maybe Hawaiians).

Of course, there may be a few exceptions. For example, if you're pitching to a radio show or a TV station about something that's time-sensitive, you might want to follow up the next day. 

And if you're pitching a quarterly print magazine, they're likely working many, many months ahead on their editorial calendar. Consider waiting a week or two. Or better yet, check their media kit — most make it available online — to see when ads need to be submitted by (that's a good clue of how much lead time you have before your window closes).

2. Pitch With a Twist

The low-effort way to send your first follow up is by simply asking, "Did you get my previous email?"

But let's be honest. How well has that been working out for you? If you've succeeded in getting the media to knock down your door, we wouldn't be here, would we?

In fact, in this day and age, emails rarely if ever get "lost." If you didn't get a response yet, it's likely because whatever you initially sent to them didn't appeal to them. If you want to clamber out of the journalist's deleted folder, you're going to have to step it up a notch. 

Your goal here is to make it as easy for the journalist as possible. The less work you make for them, the more likely they'll take your story and run with it: 

  • Research the publication or media outlet. If you already did, do it again. Look at past stories they've run, research their editorial calendar, and even look up the background and interests of the journalist you're talking to.
  • Give them a pre-made story. Take your initial release or pitch, and provide at least two fresh, unique angles that would appeal to their readership or their editorial calendar. Show, don't tell, that your pitch meets their needs and the interests of their readership.
  • Add a deadline. Show that you've done your research and mention a specific magazine issue or TV broadcast segment that you think your story would fit in best. This also adds some motivation and fire under their behind so they're more apt to pay attention and get back to you. 

3. Re-Send Without the "RE"

Don't just reply in the same email thread as your original pitch. In the worst-case scenario, the journalist deleted your previous pitch and this just reminds them that they already "vetted" you.

In a best-case scenario, it highlights to them that you've pitched them before. Even if you think they'll like your new pitch, you've psychologically primed them to turn you down.

Instead, send your follow-up to the same person, but in a brand-new email with a fresh new subject line.

4. Don't Follow-Up Again

They say that the third time's the charm. But for most journalists, the third time puts you on the do-not-answer list.

If you're consistently being ignored, learn from it: 

  • Perhaps the outlet isn't the best one for your small business or product
  • Maybe the outlet is right, but the writer you've contacted is in the wrong department or covers the wrong beat
  • Maybe the outlet and the journalist are a good match, but your pitch itself is off
  • The best follow-up to a media release or a story pitch is often a brand-new pitch to someone new. 

Every pitch you send (including the ones that get ignored) is a learning opportunity to hone your craft and flex your earned media marketing muscles. Embrace the challenge, and it will pay off in dividends.

Ready to Send a Media Release or Story Idea That Gets the Media's Attention?

If you want to be a source for journalists who are actively seeking new story ideas, join SourceBottle today. The media wants your story. Get free publicity now!