This post could get me fired.
But I’ve always been one to rock the boat, so I’m going full-steam ahead anyway – batten down the hatches and man the mizzen mast!
Media relations, specifically pitching the media, is a sensitive topic when you work in public relations. For many people and organizations, media relations and the resulting media coverage is why they get into the PR game. Reputation management, investor relations and crisis communications – these valuable PR practices fall way down the popularity funnel in comparison. Were I a betting man (I’m not) I’d say probably 90% of all public relations work falls into the media relations category.
So when Mashable published new tips on how to pitch journalists, as a responsible, professional PR practitioner, I had to take a look. One item from the article caught my eye: “Don’t follow up more than once. This point is short and sweet, the way your pitches should be. Follow up twice, shame on you. Follow up three, four, five or six times, you’re spam.”
In the PR world, specifically the PR agency world, that’s crazy talk. You…can’t…just follow up ONCE. You have to email, pick up that phone, stalk the reporter on social and do whatever it takes to make that contact and GET THE JOB DONE. Surely the reporter just missed seeing your pitch. Or perhaps they’re very busy and your pitch got buried by a zillion other pitches before they could respond and it slipped their mind. Or perhaps, just perhaps, the reporter didn’t understand just how amazing your pitch was! So call ‘em again, and if you reach their voicemail, DON’T leave a message! Don’t rest until you get them live on the phone. Because only then will you have closure. Sweet, sweet closure. And perhaps the golden egg of all golden eggs: media interest!
Look people, I’ve been in the business of PR for more than 12 years. Before that, I was a journalist – so I’ve been on both sides of the pitch-and-follow up fence. Here’s the dealio: while it might ruffle some feathers, I have to agree with Mashable. Don’t follow up more than once. Because that reporter has likely seen your pitch, and it didn’t cut the mustard. These things happen people… for many reasons.
Don’t believe me? I’ve developed a little chart (resisted the temptation to call in an “infographic”!) to illustrate this phenomenon in the likely event you didn’t get a journalist to respond to your recent pitch:
Note: this chart is not based in any real-world or scientific findings.
The only directive more annoying (and pointless) than being asked to follow up multiple times is this one, often delivered by a well-meaning but hopelessly out-of-the-media-relations-loop manager: “find out why the reporter wasn’t interested in the pitch.” ARGH! While your manager might have good intentions, good luck getting a response to THIS query. If a journalist didn’t respond to your pitch, they’re sure as hell not going to respond to a question regarding why they didn’t respond in the first place! Only the least busy reporters of the bunch (the ones not worth pitching in the first place) will take time out of their day to get back to you with a list of reasons why they didn’t respond to your pitch. Or worse, a great reporter WILL respond – with a scathing email sure to parboil the skin off your eyeballs and send even the most seasoned PR veteran crying to mommy.
So don’t follow-up more than once, kids. Don’t do it!
Instead, focus. Focus on the pitch – is it worthy? Are you offering anything new, valuable, interesting or relevant? No? That’s your problem right there. Go back to the drawing board and don’t bother some poor reporter until you have something worth pitching. Do you have the right publication? Are you reaching out to a journalist who covers the topic you’re pitching? Do your homework.
Like the Girl Scouts taught me, Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Al l the follow-up in the world isn’t going to get the media to respond to a craptastic pitch. Sorry chum, that’s #truth right there.
Connect with Racepoint Group Account Director Nate Towne on Twitter at @fancy_lad.