This has been a popular question from our blog readers. Several of you have asked, “What’s the best time to reach a journalist?” The honest answer is there is no “best time” and every journalist is different. That said, there are some general rules of engagement you can use to get through when you need to and to avoid being hung upon.
- Is this a good time for you? – for starters, always use common courtesy. This goes beyond your media calls. Sure, there are plenty of journalists that will say “no” just to get you off the phone, but most will give you a minute to two.
- Be prepared with an elevator pitch – an elevator pitch is typically used for describing “what you do” in the time it would take to go from one floor to the next in an elevator. In this instance, prepare an elevator pitch for what you’re calling them about. Think in terms of Twitter, where you only get 140 characters. Once the journalist gives you that minute, you should go right to your elevator. If they’re interested, keep talking. If not, proceed to the next bullet.
- What would make this pitch more interesting? – try to get some advice on the call that will help you with other pitches. If the journalist says “I never write about this type of story,” ask them who does. If they tell you, “I just wrote a story about that, and I won’t cover it again for a while,” ask them when a good time to follow up might be. If they’re just not that in to you, move on to a different contact.
- What if you can’t find the number? – good salespeople know how to get around the gatekeeper. So do good PR people. While most journalists prefer email, I’ve had far more success with phone pitching – particularly when I don’t waste their time. If you can’t find a direct number for the journalist, call the main number and ask to be transferred. It may sound like common sense, but it works. If you get voicemail, leave a message with your elevator pitch.
- Repeat your name and number. – nothing annoys people more than having to listen your message over and over again to hear the phone number you rambled off. Speak slowly and repeat your name and number. This could improve your chances of getting a call back.
- Consider social media. – if you’ve got a great story, consider contacting the journalist through Twitter, LinkedIn or (on rare occasions) Facebook. Again, use your elevator. Ask when a good time to reach them would be and leave it at that. Social media is more casual. Keep it brief, cordial and professional.
- Confirm how they like to receive information, and when the best time to reach them is. Regardless of their interest in this pitch, you’ll want to know how they like to get stuff and what the best day and time is to reach them. Forget what it says in your “pitch tips”, that information might be outdated. Once you know this, make sure the rest of your team has this information. The better your team is at working with the media, the easier it will be for all of you to find success.
- Maybe there is no “best time”? – there are some journalists who prefer to never be contacted. For them, there is no best time. That also means anytime will do. Even difficult journalists work with PR people on stories. The trick is getting their attention and giving them something of value – something they are genuinely interested in. There are plenty of other posts on this blog that deal with that topic, so we’ll leave it there for now.
In conclusion, there is no “best time” to reach journalists consistently, but there is the best time for each journalist. It’s up to you to figure it out. We have a popular weekly business paper in Atlanta I’ve worked with for years. Friday, Monday, and Tuesday are generally the best days to reach journalists here – though each one has its own preferences. If you call them on deadline day (Wednesday), you’re not going to have much luck. Similarly, if they call you on Wednesday, you’d better return the call quickly, or you’ll miss out.