Is it okay to follow up with a journalist?


For many PR and Communications professionals sending out a press release is instinctively followed by a call or email to the journalists. That follow up call is generally to ensure the release has been received, check if any further information is required and ultimately to find out if the story will be covered.

While these are all valid reasons to follow up with a journalist, it doesn’t mean that it’s always okay to do so. Sometimes it’s important to remember that on the other end of the line is a person probably just as busy as you are.
So say you have just sent out a big press release and there are some journalists/outlets you really want to take on the story who haven’t gotten back to you yet. In some circumstances popping them a follow up email now wouldn’t be a terrible thing but there are some incredibly important things to remember if you decide to take that route.

  1. Don’t be overly demanding

Think about what you’re asking of the person, have you given them enough time and are you being reasonable? Ultimately if they decide to cover your story it’s more like a favour than a contractual obligation. Bare in mind that sending them an impatient email making demands on their time will most likely get you nowhere. Protecting your media relationships is incredibly important so you don’t want to do anything to jeopardise that.

  1. Consider your relevancy

Have you considered why exactly someone didn’t reply to you in the first place? Is it possible that your story wasn’t actually very relevant to them? Make sure to look into a journalist’s bio and other work before following up to ensure they are genuinely a good fit for the story you’re pitching.

  1. Journalists are busy creatures

Think about the person on the other end of your email thread. How much advance notice did you give them? Was the pitch sent off last minute and now a quick turn around is required? If the pitch is relevant and timely, generally you will get a good response but often when a journalist doesn’t reply to you it’s because they are busy with other work, pitches and stories. Be considerate of their time and follow up only if you are sure they’ve missed out on something important and relevant.

At the end of the day  it is only really appropriate to follow up with a journalist if you have developed a personal relationship with them or you have cause to believe your pitch would be particularly relevant/important to them and they have missed it for some reason. A tip from us–unless it’s the first case and you know the person you’re pitching well, stick to sending them an email as many people won’t be happy to receive a phone call on their personal line.
To ensure the success of your pitch or press release the first time round we would suggest following these tips:

  • Develop a working relationship with members of the media whom you pitch regularly or are particularly relevant to your field.
  • In your initial press release include as much relevant information as possible so the receiver is not left with questions. If you have any relevant images, including them in the pitch is also a good idea.
  • Be appreciative when an individual or outlet covers your story, contact them to thank them and share the story on social media if available.

Ultimately you should make the process as easy as possible so people will want to pick up your story. Give plenty of notice, plenty of information and don’t be too demanding of their time. To make the news function properly, the media and PR industries need to work together harmoniously.
To easily contact journalists for your story, MediaHQ has you covered. For more information, click here or call Gaye on (01) 254 1845.