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The 2024 State of the Media Report

Get actionable insight from 3,000+ journalists on what they truly want and need from PR teams.

How to Follow Up on a Media Pitch: PR Advice from Journalists

To follow up, or not to follow up? That is the question many public relations practitioners ponder after sending out a media pitch. It’s also a question without a definitive answer, as not all journalists have the same philosophy on the subject. 

According to the most recent State of the Media Report, most reporters (72%) advise following up on a media pitch at least once, and the vast majority of those say that once is enough. 

Not only do they recommend following up, but many even appreciate it: “Sometimes I get 300 to 500 emails a day, so there’s a decent chance that there are things I miss,” one reporter told us during a recent webinar. “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.”

That still leaves more than a quarter of journalists who say PR professionals should NEVER follow up on a media pitch. And the majority will even block those who follow up repeatedly.

So how do you make the distinction and identify which reporters want you to follow up and which ones want to be left alone?

Media Pitching 101: What to Know Before Following Up with Journalists

To help you decide if, when, and how to follow up with a journalist or reporter, consider the following guidance – assembled from years of research into media pitching preferences.

Timing Matters

According to Cision research, 3 in 10 journalists want two to three days to look over a pitch before a PR pro follows up with them. 

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,” one journalist remarked during a recent virtual event.

It’s important to consider the time of day as well. Our research found that the worst times to follow up with reporters are bookends for their working day (before 8:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m.) and the sweet spot for following up is between 8:00 a.m. and noon.

Keep It Brief

The vast majority of journalists want media pitches that are brief and to the point. Your follow up message should be even shorter. Try to quickly summarize your earlier pitch as concisely as possible – reminding the reporter why this story is particularly newsworthy for their audience, and including any new updates. Be sure to mention your original email’s subject line to make it easier for the journalists to retrieve it for their reference.

Try a New Angle

If your original pitch didn’t get a response, consider offering up a new story angle – one that might be more relevant to their audience or the areas they cover. Alternatively, if there have been any new developments related to your pitch that make the story more timely or compelling, lead with that in your follow-up. 

Persistence Doesn't Always Pay Off

…At least when it comes to media pitching. If you’ve followed up and still haven’t gotten a reply, it may be time to move on: Remember, fewer than 1 in 10 journalists recommend more than one follow up; even more alarming: The majority of journalists will block a media relations person who follows up persistently.  

Reconsider Your Audience

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,” another reporter told us during that same event. “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 contacting journalists, it is absolutely critical when following up.  Otherwise, in one reporter'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.”

Focus on the Long Game

If your pitch doesn’t get picked up, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a bad pitch or that the story was a bad fit. Oftentimes, breaking news, bloated inboxes, or packed schedules don’t allow journalists time to cover stories they normally would.

While not every media pitch will immediately land earned media coverage for your brand, it is an opportunity to start building relationships with journalists. 

More Media Pitching Advice

For more tips on more effective and results-oriented media outreach, consider these related resources:

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.