You have spent a lot of your time and effort crafting and pitching a press release, thought leadership article, interview or case study to media on behalf of your company or client. But a few hours, days or a week passes, and you find it hasn’t received the level of attention you were hoping for. If you work in a public relations role, this is likely a familiar story. But it’s not always the end of the story.
We’ve all watched over recent years as increasing numbers of media outlets have shut their doors and editorial teams have been drastically cut back. This is a situation that is only expected to get worse. As COVID-19 restrictions continued last month, Buzzfeed announced it would be removing its Australian editorial team. Newscorp also announced the end of more than 100 Australian local and regional newspapers, with 76 moving online and 36 closing altogether.
It’s no wonder, then, that editorial teams are struggling to keep up with their inboxes and only have time to pay attention to the emails that stand out most or are from their most trusted contacts. So, what’s the best way to follow-up a media pitch? Here are some important things to keep in mind so you get the right kind of attention from editors, rather than just getting on their nerves:
First thing’s first, is the story, article, case study or interview that you’re pitching actually worthy of a follow-up pitch? If you sent the content to the editor as a long shot because you thought it was vaguely of interest to them or you weren’t quite sure if it was of interest, then the answer is probably no.
Before following up, do your research and be sure the content ticks the box for the publication – make sure it’s a topic of interest to its readers, that has previously been covered by the publication or that the editor has previously shown an interest in.
Remember that you’re not the only one pitching to editors and journalists – there are many organisations and PR professionals out there. Give them at least a small window to work through their backlog of emails before clogging their inbox with something new. If you’re pitching to a media outlet running on a daily news cycle, breathing space might look like a few hours. Whereas, if you’re pitching to a weekly, monthly or bi-monthly publication, breathing space is more like a few days, a week or a couple of weeks.
To make your follow-up pitch more enticing, or to give you a legitimate reason for sending a second email, is there something extra you can offer along with the content? Can you offer it as an exclusive, even if just for a limited 24-hour period? Or can you offer a quality image that complements the content? Or an interview with an expert on the topic so the publication is more involved in developing the story? Or if the budget allows and the publication offers it, can you supplement the content with some advertising?
The more you’re able to familiarise yourself with a media publication and editor, the better position you’ll be in when it comes to successfully pitching.
When is the publication’s editorial deadline? This allows you to get your initial and follow-up pitch in well ahead of deadline. It also means you know exactly when to steer clear of contacting an editor when they are under the immense pressure of a deadline.
Where is the editor located? It’s handy to know so you’re not contacting them on holidays or when they might be affected by a localised incident such as a natural disaster. If you do contact them at those times your pitch will be buried at the bottom of their inbox.
Research from Cision found that more than 90 percent of journalists indicated they prefer email as the primary means of contact. It is highly likely that most editors would prefer a follow-up pitch via email. However, in some cases there is also the option to do a follow up phone call. This might best apply to pitching stories that are most suited to daily news media outlets, where there is less time available to follow-up.
If you are following up on email, don’t blast out the same follow-up pitch to multiple editors. An editor is more likely to pay attention to a follow-up pitch that is specifically directed at them.
When sending a follow-up pitch, keep it as brief as possible, and shorter than your original pitch email. If the editor has overlooked your original pitch, the follow-up pitch should be designed to quickly catch their attention with the most interesting and relevant details. It can then also have in the email trail the original pitch email if they would like to look back at more detail.
If an editor doesn’t respond to your original pitch and a follow-up, it’s likely they’re not interested. Don’t continue to send the same email over and over, as your emails may be marked as junk. This could block your future pitches (which might be of higher interest to the editor) from landing in their inbox.
Additionally, if the editor sees that you won’t pester them endlessly with a story that isn’t of interest to them, they will be more likely to pay attention to your emails and pitches in the future.
Editors know their publications and readers best and they are juggling a lot in their roles. Don’t ever make assumptions or demands of them. It’s important to respect their decisions, whether that’s to publish or not publish the content you’ve pitched. When they choose to publish content, thank them for their interest in the story and offer to help with anything they might need in the future. If they are not interested in the pitch, politely accept their decision and, in some cases, you may be able to invite feedback on why the content wasn’t of interest.
There are so many factors that can impact a media pitch. By getting to know the media and editors you work with on a regular basis, as well as being respectful and professional, you put yourself in the best possible position to become a trusted and valued source of content for your media contacts.
Corinne Nolte is Communications Director – Technology in Mulberry’s Melbourne office and is committed to delivering strong communications strategy, content, thought leadership positioning, media relations, and digital marketing for B2B clients.