The journalists of today are bombarded with a torrent of stories, making it easy for PR pieces to get lost in the shuffle. As PR, communications, and media relations professionals, following up with journalists is an essential practice but doing it effectively to ensure your press release gains the attention it deserves (while trying to not pester journalists) is a difficult skill to master. In fact, 63% of PR professionals report that getting reporters’ attention is a top challenge. In this article, we delve into the art of how to follow up with journalists, exploring best practices, the right channels, and the best PR tools to keep your story at the forefront of journalists’ minds.
Best practices for your next follow-up message
Mastering a follow-up involves striking a balance between persistence and understanding. Employ these techniques to ensure your follow-up approach remains effective without being intrusive:
1.Wait for the right time:
After sending your press release, it’s natural to be eager for a response. But as we mentioned, journalists receive numerous pitches every day. So it’s best to assume they can’t respond immediately and you should give them a reasonable amount of time before reaching out again. In terms of email follow-ups, resources recommend an average waiting time of two to four days.
Additionally, it’s best to keep in mind that journalists’ days are dictated by strict deadlines. So it might not be a good idea to email or phone before 10 a.m. when journalists are planning their day or are close to publishing at the end of the day. This will vary depending on the type of journalist you’re engaging with, so understanding how their schedule works is essential to ensure you reach them at the best time.
2. Personalised Messages:
As a general rule, it’s always best to understand who you’re trying to connect to. This will help you tailor your follow-up messages to each and every journalist to show genuine interest and respect for their work as well as increase the likelihood of capturing their attention.
To craft a message that resonates, consider the following strategies:
- Respectful Persistence
One of the main challenges of a follow-up message is ensuring your message reads as persuasive rather than pushy. So when you craft your follow-up message, use phrasing that’s respectful and avoid pressuring them in any way. Express your continued interest in collaborating and acknowledge the value of their time.
- Show respect and knowledge of their work
To demonstrate that you know exactly who you’re talking to and aren’t mass mailing them, consider referencing their previous work or recent articles that also resonate with your story.
- Reinforce Your Story’s Relevance
Journalists are experts in their subject area and understand their target audiences better than anyone. Nevertheless, since they receive a high amount of stories it could be extremely beneficial to lay out exactly why yours in particular matters in the current media landscape. Highlight its timeliness, uniqueness, and potential impact on their target audience.
In the ‘2022 PR Media Report’ by Global Results Communications, more than half (58%) of 1,015 journalists who were surveyed said that when they dismiss information received from PR professionals, it’s due to misalignment with the target audience of their publication/outlet.
On top of that, they rated respect and understanding of what they want and need as the most important characteristic of a PR pro that they appreciate the most. So ensuring the relevance of your story is clear to them when crafting a follow-up message will help not only get their attention but also win you some brownie points.
- Address Potential Concerns
If a journalist expressed reservations or concerns in response to your initial pitch, always address them in your follow-up. You’ll need to demonstrate that you heard them, value their feedback, and are willing to work collaboratively. This will be extremely beneficial to building strong journalist relations for future collaborations.
- Clear Call to Action
Ensure your message is as clear as possible with a clear call to action so they know exactly what you’re asking of them. Whether it’s scheduling a call, providing additional info, or sharing relevant materials, setting an obvious next step makes your message quick and easy to respond to.
If your team is empowered with full visibility of the latest interactions and engagement with journalists you can be confident that follow-up messages are well-coordinated and consistent. This is vital to prevent redundant or conflicting comms. On top of that, a team that works together can pool their insights, for refined messaging and an overall optimised approach.
4.Offer Additional Value:
If your last interaction wasn’t enough to get them interested, just drawing attention to your previous email may not be enough to hook them. Remember, your follow-up is a great opportunity to offer additional resources or info beyond what you offered in your initial message to prompt a response. Keep in mind, that journalists tend to love data. So leverage this as immediate evidence that backs up your narrative and makes your pitch more enticing. This extra value will give the journalist more of a concrete reason to engage.
A pro tip from our guide, ‘What Makes Journalists Tick? Six Media Relations Rules to Live by’ shares that “Providing data serves your shared goal of telling a compelling and accurate story and is a sure way to build a solid reputation as a go-to source and subject matter expert.”
In addition to data, consider it’s worth going the extra mile and include images and video in your pitch material, giving journalists everything they need to produce multimedia-rich online stories. Increasing amounts of media outlets and publications are giving their journalists page view targets to hit which means they have to think differently about their stories and how to attract and retain audience attention. This will primarily be through multimedia as the Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023 explains, there will be
“[…] an explosion of creativity in short-form video storytelling in youth-based social networks. This year we’ll see more publishers embracing these techniques while videos get longer in the search of sustainable revenue.”
Choosing the appropriate comms channel for your follow-up can significantly influence its effectiveness. Not all journalists prefer the same method of communication, so it’s essential to be adaptable. Here’s what you should consider when following up with a journalist:
Email remains a staple in professional comms especially with a recent survey revealing that 92% of journalists prefer to receive pitches via email on a one-to-one basis. This allows for a personal introduction, efficient communication tracking, and easy file sharing. If this is the best method for you, there are a few key tactics to keep in mind. Firstly, ensure your subject line is engaging and clear, as it’s the first thing a journalist sees. Additionally, make sure your emails are concise, easy to digest, and get straight to the point. Recap the essence of your story, emphasise its relevance, and enquire about their interest in covering it.
If you choose this route, keep in mind that if you’ve already established a communication thread then following up by replying to that thread will help to provide context and continuity.
- Phone Calls:
PR Week revealed that nine in ten journalists would prefer PR professionals pitch via email instead of phone calls. However, while phone calls can be intrusive if not handled correctly, there is that small percentage of journalists who still prefer them so it’s once again, very important to understand who you’re reaching out to and how they work.
Additionally, with email now being the main form of professional communication, inboxes get full fast. So a call could be the best way to directly follow up with your contact and avoid your message getting lost in a sea of emails.
- Social Media:
Depending on the journalist’s social media activity, direct messages can be an effective way to follow up. If you choose this channel, avoid coming across as overly familiar or informal. Similar to email, keep the message professional, short, and relevant.
You can win additional brownie points if you’ve already been engaging with your contact on social media platforms. Liking, retweeting, or commenting on their posts is an unobtrusive way to build rapport and establish a connection, making your follow-up less of a cold outreach.
As mentioned above, 63% of PR pros report getting reporters’ attention is a top challenge. On top of that, 55% say they lack the bandwidth to pursue opportunities. Using the above techniques for composing follow-up messages and selecting the best comms channels is a crucial foundation for enhancing media comms strategies. But how can you further enhance efficiency so you DO have the time to pursue new opportunities? The answer lies in the following strategies and PR tools designed to optimise your tactics and streamline the entire process:
- Keep a Database:
Maintain a comprehensive database of journalists you’ve interacted with. A media database and outreach tool will be your most effective resource for contact management, interaction tracking, and streamlined outreach efforts. You can continuously track your contact’s preferences, interests, and past collaborations with you. All this info will be key to guiding your follow-up strategy and help you tailor your approach to each individual.
- Leverage Media Management Tools:
Remember, your follow-up is an opportunity to offer additional resources beyond what you offered in your initial message and as mentioned above, multimedia is on the rise. So if there isn’t any in your first message, consider adding it to your follow-up.
Ultimately, to build high-impact comms, you need to be able to successfully add images, shareable videos, and even sound files in addition to other attachments. And you’ll want to be able to do this with ease to save time and spare yourself from headaches. One of the last things you need is a file size error when you’re trying to send a quick follow-up. With a media database and outreach tool, your media-rich files will be hosted within a single platform so the size of your file will never be an issue. Whatever file you send to a journalist, they’ll be able to select and download it with ease, removing any risk of mistakes and ensuring that your message packs a visual punch.
Journalists want you to help make collaboration with them easier. So they’ll appreciate you taking this extra care.
- Enhance Your Team Management:
To ensure all your comms are well-coordinated and consistent (and to prevent any mix-ups with redundant or conflicting comms), you need to optimise your team management processes. To add this best practice to your strategies, your first step is to ensure everyone has full visibility of journalist interactions. And it’s best if they’re all stored and accessible in one place.
A media response desk is the key to this one, allowing group access to a timeline that captures all interactions of your team with every media contact. Your team will improve their workflow and save a significant amount of time and resources with the ability to store responses, coverage, and interactions with the media.
- Offer Everything in One Place:
We’ve gone over the value of sharing relevant info with journalists and having it easily accessible to you and your team for quick follow-ups. But consider taking that a step further and making all the info related to your press release instantly available to journalists upfront in a dynamic online press room. This is a game-changing strategy that’s incredibly helpful to both you and journalists. You’ll both benefit from the convenience and time-savings, and it’ll be easier than ever for them to access the material and resources they need to cover your story.
With a tool such as an online newsroom, you create an overall seamless experience from posting press releases and hosting media-rich content for journalists to download, to sharing news to your social media channels and in direct messages. On top of that, you can streamline how interactions are monitored with contact profiles that will store all the historical timelines of activity such as conversations logged, press releases sent, and earned coverage.
This tool is the ultimate resource for you and journalists, making your job easier while enabling them to access all assets and resources related to your press release in one place.