Journalism

How Do Journalists View Follow-Up Phone Calls?

Most journalists prefer receiving (relevant) PR pitches via email, but how do they feel about follow-up calls? This has been one of the most popular topic suggestions on the blog to date, so I figured I’d take some time to explore the topic further. I’ve received feedback from more than 50 journalists so far, and here’s what I’ve found:

  • 76% of journalists are fine with follow-up calls, provided the information you’re pitching is relevant to their coverage area and/or is time sensitive in nature.
  • 12% of journalists hate you. Well, not really, but they hate follow-up calls and don’t think you should make them. If they think the information is interesting, they’ll call you.
  • 12% of journalists love you. Also not really, but they like PR professionals to follow up. Most in this group said they are overwhelmed with information and don’t want to miss information they may have skimmed over.

I was surprised by the variance in the responses. A high percentage of journalists are fine with follow-up calls; I thought this would be the opposite. Then again, most of the journalists I talked to rely on quality information from the PR community for the stories they work on. There are dozens of journalists and bloggers I can think of that would chew you out if you followed up with them, it’s really a judgment call based on how well you know your information and the journalist you’re pitching.

How to Follow Up a Pitch

If your information is relevant and time-sensitive, it’s okay to follow up. Particularly if you’re offering an exclusive to a journalist and need to know if they’re interested before going to plan B. In this case, it’s also fine to explain the details and your intentions, asking for a response within a reasonable time frame (24 hours is good these days). If your pitch or press release has marginal news value, forget about following up. It’s true if the journalist is interested, they’ll call you sooner than later.

What About Following Up On Pitches Via Twitter?

Twitter can be more a more efficient and less disruptive approach to use for follow-up. If you’re on good enough terms with a journalist – you’re following each other on Twitter – it’s probably safe to DM them when you send important information. If you’re not on that level with them, don’t do it. And I would recommend against using an @reply to do this unless you want to get slammed in front of that journalist’s followers. PR Blogger covered the Twitter pitch follow-up topic back in January, there is some good feedback there to review.

An Alternative Approach To Consider

I’ve always encouraged clients to set up an opt-in email list for journalists interested in their news. If you send your news to an opt-in list with any mainstream email marketing software (we use MailChimp), you can track deliverability, click-thru, and even tie the results into Google Analytics (so you know what else a journalist is interested in on your website). If you use this approach, you can avoid having to make time-wasting follow-up calls to confirm receipt of PR materials. You’ll know if your information was received if it was read and if a journalist looked at additional information on your website. You’ll then be able to prioritize your follow-up efforts based on which journalists are most interested in your materials. You can also provide some great insight into your reach with your PR materials using Google Analytics. I’m really surprised how many PR agencies and corporate communications departments don’t use this approach, it really boggles my mind.

Alternative PR Follow Up Thoughts to Consider

One journalist actually said follow-up shows the PR professional cares about the story they’re pitching, or they’re desperate for coverage. The latter is not a justifiable reason to follow up. If you are passionate about the story, and you believe it’s a good fit for the journalist, you should follow up and be confident in your pitch. Don’t just ask the journalist, “Did you get my press release?” Pitch your story in a convincing and efficient manner. Give them your elevator pitch. If you don’t know what an elevator pitch is, learn what one is and use it as a template for preparing for your follow-up.

The bottom line? Don’t follow up for the sake of following up. Don’t half-ass your phone call and ask if they got the release. Know your subject matter and why it’s relevant for the reporter you’re covering. Try to have something of value you can offer just for that journalist, that you’re not giving to everyone else. That’s the best way to conduct a follow-up call in my opinion.

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