While it’s in a brand’s best interests to be persistent and energetic with the media, being savvy and accommodating will go a long way. Editors and producers have to pitch ideas and products up the chain the same way brands do. So, let’s make their lives easier, and in turn increase the odds that they’ll want to run with our story.
Make it Count
I had the privilege of recently attending the PR Bootcamp Media Relations Conference in NYC. And if I had a dime for every time someone said “be concise” at this conference, I’d have flown home in first class. But consider this interesting tip from Dr. Oz Producer Sasha Fuller. She says an email may have her attention for 20 seconds until she moves on to the next — and that’s if you’re lucky.
Is it even possible to read all of the product or interview details, key messages, potential story angles, company background and personal contact info in less than 20 seconds? Probably not.
The reality is that your email’s chances of being read hinge on the subject line. This is the real first impression, so make it stick. Journalists receive hundreds of emails every day with subject lines hinting at “New Product for Spring Cleaning!” So what’s different about yours? Tell them before they even open the email.
Also, include photos. No journalist can fully grasp what your product or spokesperson does unless they see it. Embedding a photo in an email for them to quickly scroll through on their commute home from work is a surefire way to make sure they see what you’re talking about.
Pro tip: Hyperlink to high-res photos, purchase links and webpages in your initial outreach so they don’t have to ask for it.
No Phone Calls
I thought I was the only person who truly hated phone calls. Call me a stereotypical millennial, but it turns out I’m not alone in this feeling. The refreshingly honest Molly Simms, senior editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, said when she or a colleague gets a call, they panic a bit inside. Journalists prefer email; plus, it’s how they stay organized and quickly skim their inbox for ideas.
I’m not kidding when I say that every single person who spoke at this conference emphasized, “have patience.” Editors like Hearst’s Taryn Mohrman have been in the game long enough to understand what we do in PR. They know getting ignored is a bummer. They feel the same pain, believe it or not, so let’s remember to be patient and also be respectful with those follow-ups.
Just because a journalist doesn’t immediately respond doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Ellen Byron of The Wall Street Journal shared with us that she’ll file pitch-emails and sometimes come back to them years later.
Yes, years later.
At the end of the day, we all just want to share a compelling story. No one enjoys talking to a robot on the other side of a computer screen, so don’t be afraid to add some flavor into a pitch. After all, the worst that can happen is you don’t get a response, which is okay. Just do your research, be thoughtful and try to win journalists over with an enticing subject line to get the job done.