No matter how long you've been in PR, there are times when you feel like your media release has been thrown into an abyss of rejection. The deafening silence not only causes you to feel insecure, but also leaves you wondering whether your email ever made it into the journalist’s inbox in the first place.
On one hand, the lack of response is understandable. Journalists receive dozens of new pitches every single day, so trying to keep up with the constant influx of emails while meeting story deadlines can be a difficult and daunting task.
But on the other hand, we as PR practitioners have our own job to do too. Every unanswered pitch puts our reputation on the line, with clients or bosses breathing down our necks, holding out hope for coverage that will most probably never come.
While it may be tempting to go on and complain about journalists who don’t reply to emails, dwelling on negativities won’t do you any good.
So, in the spirit of moving things forward, we’ve listed a few mistakes that may explain the deafening silence and increase your odds of a reply.
- You didn’t offer an interesting story. One of the most frustrating things for a journalist – aside from people not answering their phones when it’s time for an interview – is being overwhelmed by an inbox full of bad pitches. As PR practitioners, it is our job to ensure our pitches stand out from the get-go. This involves presenting newsworthy, timely, and relevant stories that speak to the beat of the journalist and publication. Humanise your pitches as much as possible by moving beyond simple facts, and ensure you can apply the “so what?’’ factor to your story (i.e., why should they care?).
- You sent it to the wrong person. Great writing won't save your pitch if it goes to the wrong inbox. Even if you’ve worked with a journalist recently, it still pays to double check their contact details before you send out a pitch. Whether that involves checking their Twitter account, sussing out AAP or giving a quick call to the newsroom to ask if so-and-so is still the correct contact for what you’re pitching, sending the pitch to the right person makes a world of difference.
- Your pitch is too long. Journalists are generally very busy, and spend only a few seconds skimming through each email – if that. Get to the point right away by using the inverted triangle method and placing the most important information at the top of your pitch. With many journalists now also accessing their emails on the go, it’s also important to keep your subject lines short enough for mobile.
- Your email subject line was misleading or uninteresting. This one speaks for itself. With journalists receiving hundreds of messages a day, the reality is that pitches live and die by the quality of a subject line. Make sure yours stands out from the crowd by using short, descriptive, 8 to 10-word subject lines that present the offer clearly.
- You didn't create a sense of urgency. This seems basic, but it's very easy to forget a call-to-action (CTA) in your pitch. You don't just want the journalist to consider it. You want them to cover it now. Get the idea across that this pitch is on a time-sensitive event or issue.
- You pitched like you were selling something. PR is not advertising. Your pitch should be about the reporter and their publication's needs, not your own. This means it must be descriptive, compelling and relevant, not pushy or self-promotional.
- The reporter just isn't interested. Even if you’ve crafted a well-researched, tailored pitch and followed the above steps, reality is, journalists still may not be interested in the story or may not have room on their calendar to cover it. At the end of the day, this isn’t something to take personally. Instead, cut your losses and move on!