Published on March 17th, 2014 | by Contributing Author0
The art of the PR follow-up
You did everything right: Drafted a pitch-perfect press release about something newsworthy, put together a well-researched media list where every contact covers your topic, and sent your press release in a personalized email with a compelling subject line. You’re refreshing your inbox every five minutes to see who’s replied and wants to know more.
Nothing. Nada. Crickets.
First, relax a bit. Reporters are notoriously busy, so give them time to sift through the hundreds of emails and pitches they receive every day.
Remember, also: Because reporters receive so much email every day, they don’t have the time to respond to every single one with a “thanks, but no thanks.” Don’t take it personally.
But how do you know they actually read your press release? Here’s how you can follow up without being an annoyance.
What to Do After You Hit “Send”
If three or four business days have passed and you haven’t heard from a reporter or blogger, send him or her a quick follow-up email. Most journalists I’ve talked to don’t mind a gentle reminder.
The secret here is to offer something new or exclusive in your follow-up that wasn’t in your original press release or pitch. If your press release was about a new product or service, your follow-up might include a customer testimonial or links to data or research supporting the need for your new product or service. If your press release was about an event, follow up with a link to online photos of the soiree. (Never send unsolicited attachments!)
Keep your follow-up short and no longer than a few sentences. Include the original press release or pitch below it, as reference, or, even better, link to a version that’s on your website.
To Call or Not to Call
In my humble opinion, following up with a phone call is a wasted effort unless you know the reporter really well. (Exhibit A: This Twitter exchange.)
On the top of reporters’ pet peeves lists, time and time again, is the follow-up PR phone call, particularly the one where the person calling just wants “to make sure you received my press release.” I don’t blame them. Not only were they interrupted, but the caller also isn’t offering anything of value. Imagine getting them all the time. Pretty annoying, right?
If, despite this, you must pick up the phone, make the follow-up call about something new and exclusive that wasn’t in your email or press release, just like you would with your follow-up email described above. Be succinct and straightforward; assume the reporter is working on deadline. Practice what you’re going to say beforehand. And be prepared for the reporter to say, “Put it in an email.” (If you’re lucky enough to get that response, send that email as soon as possible!)
I’ve Followed Up. What Now?
If you don’t get a response after one or two follow-up attempts, move on. Don’t be a stalker; it’s safe to assume the reporter isn’t interested. Again, don’t take it personally. Maybe he or she will bite next time.
You could do some more digging and try another contact at the organization. Make sure this new contact covers your topic, and be transparent about your original email to his or her colleague. No journalist wants to pitch a story to an editor only to find out someone else got the tip first.
If your press release or pitch received very little interest across the board despite your follow-up attempts, take a step back and look inward. Perhaps your press release isn’t really all that interesting to people outside your company or organization. Is there another angle you can take? Or can you piggyback your news onto something that is being covered in the press? Maybe it’s also time to polish up on your relationship-building skills. There are lots of ways to get the attention of a reporter that has nothing to do with pitching, like introducing yourself to him or her at an event or commenting on their stories. Once they recognize your name, the more you’ll stand out in their inboxes the next time you email them.
If you’ve had success following up with press, share a tip or two in the comments below!
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