PR professionals are trained to send reminder emails to the media or make follow up calls. But if you’re not seeing success, despite numerous attempts, there is a very simple reason behind it.
“The hard truth is that the journalist is simply not interested,” Sujin Thomas (pictured), editor of Business Insider Singapore and Malaysia, said at Marketing’s recent PR Asia 2017 conference.
Thomas advised PR professionals to “move on” if they did not receive a response from journalists – even after sending out reminder emails. He added:
Usually, if we don’t reply, it means we don’t want to. Or we’ve decided that the story is not for us.
“Learn to deal with rejection. We are not trying to be rude because we dislike you, but sometimes we just want to say no,” he added.
Echoing his sentiments was Deepa Balji, head of communications for APAC at Publicis Media, who was also a former journalist with the likes of Mediacorp and Marketing magazine.
Balji said during the conference, the quickest way to frustrate a journalist or an editor is by not taking “no” for an answer.
Rather than being “pesky”, she told the room full of PR professionals to accept rejection, and find out what the publication’s editorial agenda is to create a win-win situation.
Pitch tip 1: Know the journalist
When reaching out to journalists, there is unfortunately, no template guide or a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Instead, Thomas stressed the importance of learning more about the publication, understanding the types of stories and the tone before actually pitching. As such, PR professionals should have different angles when reaching out to different media outlets – rather than one pitch for all.
When pitching to big newsrooms with more than 20 journalists, he also advised PR professionals to contact specific beat reporters directly, as they will have knowledge of the stories they have covered. While the editors do know the stories that have been covered previously, they may not have time to speak to PR professionals.
If a press release needs to be disseminated, it should ideally be short and concise. This can be done by using bullet points to highlight the key points in the release, rather than writing chunks of paragraphs, Thomas added.
Pitch tip 2: Get your timing right
For different news publications, the peak periods might differ. By and large, mornings are a busy period. Nonetheless, if your news is extremely pressing, it is a good time to reach out to the media given that many news outlets assign breaking news in the mornings.
In Balji’s experience, the best time to catch a Bloomberg or CNBC TV producer is between 10am and 11am. While the time of contact may differ among media outlets, she added it was important to be empathetic towards a journalist’s deadline and meeting it.
One way to stay on their good side is to “surprise and delight”, she added.
“If you said you will get back to them by 5pm, delight them by sending them responses by 3pm,” she said.
Thomas also added that despite mornings being busy, it was still a good time to pitch breaking stories. However, calling the media at two or three in the afternoon, would be equivalent to throwing them a curve ball as everyone in the newsroom is already working on their assigned stories.
He added that journalists ideally prefer talking directly to the source/clients for time-sensitive stories and with PR agencies for news features or lifestyle pieces.
“If it’s urgent, give the media a phone call straight away. Otherwise, an email is fine as well,” he said.
Text messages, on the other hand, should be sent within working hours. Also, while some editors and journalists have no qualms about being contacted via social media, Thomas said he was only comfortable if the PR professionals have a working relationship with him.
If you are cold calling us, don’t reach out via social media because most people see platforms such as Facebook as a personal aspect of their lives.
Pitch tip 3: Have “no agenda” lunches
Thomas said there were, of course, conventional ways of reaching out to the media such as meeting them regularly for coffee and lunch.
“Some of the PR professionals who I have worked with very closely over the years are those that I meet up with on a regular basis,” he said.
Agreeing with him was Balji, who stressed the importance of relationship-building breakfasts and luncheons, as they allow PR professionals to connect with the media on a personal level.
She added her team often runs “no agenda press catch ups” to simply build relationships. When asked how she justifies these lunches to management, she said she keeps a record of the stories published.
“If you have [these lunches] just once or twice a year, the dividends they yield are unbelievable,”she said, adding:
Relationships with journalists are never transactional.
“And I have been in situations where the editors have bought me lunch especially if we’ve worked together for a long time,” she added.