When first trying to make contact with a journalist,editor or media outlet, you need to send out a media pitch with newsworthy and relevant information that will get picked up by the media. Once that step has been completed, you need to have an effective follow-up process for companies to ensure that your pitch has been read or acknowledged.
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In most cases, companies have already sent out a media pitch. Even so, they are usually left in the dark as they wait to hear back. Having a follow-up plan directly after the first email is crucial for any company’s overall strategy.
Creating the PR follow-up email
Since journalists and media outlets receive hundreds of emails daily, they need to filter through them quite quickly to decide whether they want to pick up a story. That could result in an email being overlooked due to sheer numbers, or the journalist deciding that it may not be the right fit for them. However, to find the real answer to why your pitch did not get the attention that might be rightfully deserved, you need to determine the best way to get media attention. According to recent email marketing statistics, many brands are missing the mark here.
There is no standard set of rules when it comes to creating a follow-up email. But, certain practices can significantly increase the success in getting a higher open rate and response rate.
1) Email Subject Line
The subject line of any email gives the reader their first impression of you, and this should be taken very seriously. You may have sent a well-written, informative pitch. Even so, the entire pitch could be overlooked if the subject line does not draw attention. Keep in mind that emails with personalized subject lines get a 26% boost in open rates.
Ideally, the headline should clearly and concisely capture the message in 6 to 10 words and you should avoid making it too gimmicky, too misleading, or too humorous, unless the humor adds something to the message. A good subject line should create curiosity and help in developing a relationship with media connections. Subject lines that contain all caps, excessive punctuation, and vague content are the ones that go straight to the spam folder rather than the reporter.
2) Start the email with simplicity
The tone of an email also plays a significant role when it comes to open rates. While the advice is usually to maintain a professional tone in an email, this is not always the case. An effective email should ride the fine line between being overly friendly and being too professional.
Research can help you know whom you are speaking to, how they would like to be addressed, and what content they are looking for.
3) Be direct
As mentioned previously, journalists and editors skim through their inboxes to find topics to write about. For this reason, you need to make sure that your subject is worth reading and writing about if you want to capture and retain their attention. Don’t bury the lead in the body of your pitch. The message needs to be stated transparently, right from the get-go.
Using the Inverted Pyramid technique is perfect because it helps you present all the necessary information at the beginning of the email. Regardless of whether you are attempting to provide original research, deliver an interview with an executive, or want to share news about a new product, you need to be concise. Make sure that the journalist or media outlet has all the necessary information to write a story about the company, but don’t ramble on and on about irrelevant details.
4) Connect the story
The follow-up email should be somewhat related to the initial email pitch. However, rather than just resending the pitch, you should offer some new information to help the journalist or media outlet write their story. Also, a pitch should be personalized to the writer, publication, or audience.
While the purpose of sending out an email pitch is to get media attention, a pitch is also designed to jumpstart relationships with journalists or media outlets. This helps you to have successful media outreach in the future and establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry. You do not need to go into the relationship knowing everything that needs to be known about the media professional. However, it does not hurt to demonstrate that you are familiar with their previous work. After all, if you include personal touches such as appreciation of a journalist’s previous work, you’re 6x more likely to be successful.
5) Show Authenticity
As with any other relationship, your company’s connection with media outlets should be authentic and truthful. Any story you pitch should be mutually beneficial to both parties rather than being purely promotional for the company. It is worth repeating here that transparency is of utmost importance in any messaging related to your company. After all, a lack of transparency could damage your reputation.
Journalists are not just expert writers; they all got to that point because they are expert researchers. Suppose a company withholds important information that media professionals should know. In that case, they will find out and could either decide to pull the plug on their story or choose to put a negative spin on the content provided. At this point, it’ll be too late for you to redeem yourself.
6) Include pitch points
When it comes to providing information about a story, you should not just think of yourself. On the contrary, you should aim to make a journalist’s job as easy as possible. Compile all the information in a neat little package that provides everything from engaging photos and infographics that can be shared on earned media or owned media. A fact sheet with all relevant facts, features, and background information is the best way to do that. Some companies opt to get a professional media kit designed so that they can present all this information in one place.
This relevant information can be included as an attachment in the follow-up email. It is imperative to mention that you’ve included attachments if this is the case. It’s important to state this clearly, because some journalists may be paranoid about opening external links if it is not safe. It also calls attention to extra documentation so that they aren’t overlooked. To save a journalist the hassle of downloading an additional document, you can also upload the documents to a press page on your website and include a direct link in the email message. This way, you can establish a level of trust between your brand and the journalists.
7) End the email professionally
The best way to end any email pitch or follow-up email is by including a clear call to action that tells a writer what the company wants and why they should pick up the story. However, you need to avoid using language that implies you are desperate for media attention. You need to present your story with confidence and proof that the information you have provided will be worthwhile for the journalists while maintaining a professional relationship.
In order for a follow-up email to be successful, you need to directly state that you have an interview opportunity, follow-up story, or news about the company. Make it clear that the interviewees are happy to provide as much detail as necessary if the journalist is interested in picking up the story.
How to do the follow-up
Once you have created your follow-up email, you need to know when and how to send it out. Generally, you should only follow up two times at most. If there is no interest, you should either move on to another journalist or topic or revert and develop more creative content to entice the media professional.
Sometimes, however, a lack of results from their PR efforts may dishearten companies. If this happens to you, don’t just assume that you will never get media coverage. It simply means that you need to refresh your content or hire PR professionals. These people can help you create all the necessary content required to achieve media coverage.
Let us now look at how to go about the follow-up process.
1) Understanding the timing
A company may have the best pitch, but if it is not sent at the right time, then all the time and effort that you have put into creating your pitch could turn into a waste of time.
You should wait for an appropriate amount of time to pass before sending a follow-up email. By waiting some time, you give recipients enough time to read through and respond to the initial pitch.
According to media relations experts, a follow-up should be sent out 24 hours after the company has sent the initial pitch. Waiting for 24 hours is necessary because it takes away the air of desperation from the company. You need a balance between rushing things to achieve unreasonable expectations and waiting so long that people forget about you.
2) No bombarding journalists
As stated previously, two follow-ups are the ideal number of emails to send after the original PR pitch email. There are many reasons for this.
Firstly, sending emails to the same journalist or media outlet after not getting any attention previously will be a waste of company time and resources. After all, sending a similar email multiple times is not a guarantee that you will get the media attention you want. Rather than pushing the same story over and over again, it’s wiser to focus your time and attention on other opportunities.
Secondly, no one enjoys getting constant emails after they have decided to forego a story. Filling a journalist’s inbox with multiple messages could make you look unprofessional and push a journalist to blacklist you.
Finally, the magic number is three emails. This includes the initial email and two follow-up emails. In the final email, you need not put so much emphasis on the story you’re pitching. However, make it clear that the opportunity is still open, just in case journalists decide to pick up the story. You should leave your contact information, and include any relevant links or materials. A cordial, professional message expressing regret that you could not connect at that time is a nice touch. Remember that it takes time to develop a relationship with a journalist, and you may need this specific journalist or media outlet sometime in the future. By maintaining this connection, you will have a better chance of connecting with them in the future.
Whether or not you have a follow-up plan determines whether you will achieve media coverage. The critical thing to remember is that there are many factors that might result in a journalist not responding to your pitch – you must not get discouraged if your media outreach did not succeed the first time around. All this means is that you need to come up with more creative ways to pitch your story and adjust your approach accordingly. You can do this on your own or you can hire PR professionals who have experience doing targeted pitching for brands across various industries.