t’s an age-old PR debate: Should you follow up your media pitch? If you do, how soon and how many times?
Many PR professionals struggle to strike a balance between making sure their message gets in front of the right people and becoming annoying by sending too many emails. Then there’s another complicating layer: If too many journalists think you fall on the latter end and mark you as spam, you could be blocked from reaching any media pros at all.
Even with the risk of running afoul of harried PR pros, though, follow-ups have proven to be a useful tool for many of the best PR professionals, and if used correctly, they could be the difference between slipping through the cracks and earning valuable coverage.
I spoke with some PR pros (and a few journalists) to get their best advice on following up. Some of their tips may seem obvious, some may be all-new, and some may validate your current approach.
These tips should help you know how to toe the line between persistence and annoyance, without crossing it:
1. Send a follow-up to avoid messages getting lost.
We all know that follow-ups are useful to PR teams, but it’s easy to forget about the value they provide journalists.
Some journalists receive hundreds or even thousands of emails a day, and sorting through them can be a huge undertaking. With such a high-volume inbox, it’s no wonder that sometimes even the best PR emails can get lost in the shuffle.
This is where a follow-up comes in. Joan Stewart, a publicity expert at The Publicity Hound, says, “As a former newspaper editor, I loved receiving follow-ups because in a hectic newsroom too many things, including great story pitches, can fall through the cracks.”
Chloe Gawrych, a small business expert and writer for Business.org, agrees: “I think it’s completely appropriate to follow up on PR pitches, within reason. Obviously if you’re sending something time-sensitive, pulling it to the top of my inbox can help make sure I don’t miss it before a deadline or event. And if it’s a little less urgent, following up in a few days can remind me that I got it if I had planned to come back to it later.”
2. Keep the relationship in mind.
If you’re pitching the same outlets often, building good relationships with journalists is key to getting reliable, high-quality coverage for your press releases. In this vein, it’s important to consider a journalist’s time and topic relevance before following up, and from there, make a judgment call on how many follow-ups are warranted by your story.
Josh Gallant, a digital strategist at Foundation Marketing, says, “If I’m reaching out to a journalist, I usually stick to one follow-up three or four days after my first email, and it’s just a short reply to my first one to bring it to the top of their inbox again. If you’re sending [too many] follow-ups, that journalist is most likely going to hate seeing your name.” He continues, “Sending seven follow-ups may get you the short-term result you’re looking for, but a big part of your outreach should always be establishing a real relationship with journalists so you don’t actually have to reach out cold the next time!”
It’s also important to be aware of the timeline of your release. If you’re sharing something that’s on a tight deadline, it may warrant frequent follow-ups in a short timespan, where sharing something more evergreen might be more useful with follow-ups spaced further apart.
Dan Sarath, a digital PR executive at Click Consult, advises, “If [a pitch] is time-sensitive, such as an event, [your follow-up] could be the following day. You could also choose to follow up many weeks down the line if something is happening in the news which your pitch would tie in well with.”
Sarath also warns against sending too many emails to journalists you want to continue connecting with, saying, “You can’t force a journalist to write your story and you run the risk of damaging your relationship with them by being pushy.”
3. Provide additional value.
It’s easy to send a generic follow-up: “Just checking in to see if you’re interested in this.” However, these kinds of follow-ups won’t inspire the kind of interest you’ll need to earn coverage—and might even bury your initial information-filled message.