More lessons from the 2021 State of the Media
To follow up, or not to follow up? That is the question many PR pros ponder after sending out a pitch. It’s also a question without a definitive answer. (Unless that answer is, “Eh, depends.”)
While following up on a pitch seems like a perfectly normal, professional, and even thoughtful move to make, it can work against you if you don’t proceed with caution.
To help you decide when and how to follow up with journalists, we gathered findings from the 2021 State of the Media report and the recent State of the Media Summit to give you the following guidelines.
According to the State of the Media report, 3 in 10 journalists want two to three days to look over a pitch before a PR pro follows up with them. Nearly the same number, however, say they never want follow up.
When in doubt, look at the nature of the publication you’re eyeing and the timeliness of the story. “The news cycle goes so quickly now that a follow up on a story you pitched more than a day or two ago is almost never going to work unless it’s an evergreen story,” said PRWeek’s Frank Washkuch during the State of the Media Summit.
It’s important to consider the time of day as well. According to the report, the worst times to follow up with reporters are bookends for the day (before 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.) and the sweet spot for following up is between 8:00 a.m. and noon.
Check-ins and balances
As chef’s kiss perfect as you may believe your pitch to be, if you’ve followed up once and give it a minute before you’re “just checking in” again. The majority of journalists (59%) say following up once is enough. (Chances are, they’re either not interested or simply too busy to reply.)
While a significant number of journalists are okay if you send a second follow up, do so any more than that at your own risk: A majority of journalists say they are likely to block a PR person who follows up with them repeatedly.
Of course, if you already have an established relationship with a journalist, it’s probably okay to be a little more persistent – or simply ask them what they prefer. They’ll appreciate your consideration of their time.
Don’t be discouraged
If your pitch doesn’t get picked up, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a bad pitch or a bad fit. Oftentimes, breaking news, bloated inboxes or packed schedules don’t allow journalists time to cover stories they normally would.
The truth is, many journalists actually appreciate a quick follow up to a pitch: “Sometimes I get 300 to 500 emails a day, so there’s a decent chance that there are things I miss,” Monica Zurowski of the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun told us during the Summit. “There are times I get a follow up and think, ‘This is really good. I didn’t see the original email,’ and then I go back and find it.”
But this applies ONLY if you’re following up on a pitch that is relevant. Which leads to our final point…
Do your homework
Above all, the best defense against poor follow-up etiquette is knowing your audience. “If you are completely sure the person you’re pitching is right for your pitch, then follow up,” said The Guardian reporter Gabrielle Canon at a panel during the recent State of the Media Summit. “But if you’re just throwing it all out there and then saying, ‘I’ll just wait a little while and then throw it all out there again,’ that’s going to get you in hot water.”
While you should always do your research before reaching out to journalists, it is absolutely critical when following up. While you should always do your research before reaching out to journalists, it is absolutely critical when following up. Otherwise, in Canon’s words, “If I see your name a lot of times in a row, and it has nothing to do with what I cover, I’ll probably just block you.”
Want more insight from journalists? Get the 2021 State of the Media report.
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About Mary Lorenz
Mary Lorenz is Editorial Director at Cision and writes about best practices and thought leadership for marketing, communications and public relations professionals. She has a background in marketing, public relations and journalism and over 15 years of experience in copywriting and content strategy across a variety of platforms, industries and audiences.