Calvin Coolidge once said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.”
While he’s right about the value of determination, he also said that at a time when there was no internet and it was virtually impossible to fire off instant messages. And ohhh, how we’ve become so good at doing those via text, email, WhatsApp, etc.!
It’s imperative to balance persistence with patience when you are pitching a content idea to a reporter.
Keep in mind that reporters often receive as many as 500-1,000 emails daily. Not weekly… DAILY!
Unless timed to an event in the news cycle, guest posts (just like yours), usually don’t hold the level of urgency as a product or company announcement with a set launch date.
With that in mind, here is what NOT to do when following up with busy reporters:
Give the reporter time to digest and explore your pitch. While there’s no hard and fast rule, it’s best to wait at least two and as many as three business days between your initial email and your first check in.
"Hey, did you get my email?" on its own won't cut it. EEK. Be polite, and offer the reporter new reasons why he or she should pay attention to what you have to offer. Balance the ask and persistence without sounding pushy or demanding. Pull out the “what’s in it for me” to show them exactly how they (and their readers) benefit from your story.
You must always aim to provide new value. For example, if a current event that wasn’t happening when you sent your original pitch is now super timely and relevant, tie it into your abstract to make your follow-up that much more compelling.
Another example, if you’re pitching an article about a virtual reality gaming system, you can say, "… since I originally sent you this pitch, the [hot new] VR game was released, with 100,000 copies sold on the first day. Your readers will be even more excited to hear about how this headset will make playing games like [new hit game] even more realistic.”
Other ways to add value to your original pitch is to share a different perspective, or introduce ways you can expand on your initial abstract’s topic.
You May Also Like: Anatomy of a Perfect Pitch
This is where your persistence comes in—reporters are often active on social media like Facebook or Twitter. Check their profile to see what they’re talking about... and who they’re talking to (retweeting, following, etc.). If there’s a conversation you can organically chime in on, take the opportunity to get their attention.
Don’t just tweet at the reporter, “Did you get my email?” Stay cool and engage in what they’re saying in an honest and authentic way, adding value to whatever it is that person is discussing. If it’s inauthentic, it’ll just be extra noise they need to cut through and won’t make a positive impression. Also, if you can make connections that would be helpful to that reporter, do it—regardless of if it ties into what you’re trying to pitch. Slowly, once a relationship is in the works, you let that person know you've been trying to reach them and why.
For example, when you tweet at someone, your name pops up. So when the reporter sees that same name in their inbox, she or he may be more likely to open it.
While it might feel hard to not take a pass personally, keep in mind this happens to everyone. It happens often and it will happen again. The pitch may not have been the right angle, topic, or spokesperson, but certainly shouldn’t be thrown away. You can always try another reporter at that publication, or move on to the next media outlet.
Aside from these top six tips that will help you follow-up without being annoying, heed Coolidge’s advice, and remember that persistence is part of the process. You are seeking progress, not perfection!
As you ramp up your own authority and credibility for your practice and your own clients, consider enrolling in my new LinkedIn Learning course called “How to Build Your Own PR Practice.” To learn more and enroll, please click here.