Going to the Drive-In and Calling Reporters
A recent trip to the movies reminded me of this frequently asked question: Should I call a reporter to check that they got my press release/pitch?
As a general rule (meaning of course there are always exceptions) calling a reporter to see if they received your press release usually just annoys the reporter.
Because the reporter is probably very busy not only writing or researching their next piece, but also wading through the dozens–if not hundreds–of press releases and pitches they get per day. Also, calling a reporter who is on deadline can get you on their bad side–permanently. Make sure you know their deadline before you call, and if you must call, the first thing you should do after identifying yourself is ask “Is this an okay time for a quick chat?”
Okay, but what the heck does this have to do with going to the movies?
Getting your message out to the media is like going to a drive-in movie (stay with me, folks!): you want to come early for a good space, but not too early, or you’ll spend a couple of boring hours waiting for the sun to go down in your good parking space, listening to corny music and swatting mosquitoes. If you come too late, you’ll get stuck behind a family of three in an oversize SUV that nearly blocks the screen. Same idea with your pitch or press release: make sure you send it out in a timely way.
Most daily or weekly publications/broadcasts won’t remember your pitch if you send it months in advance, and pestering reporters for weeks in the interim will probably get you nowhere. Conversely, if you send it three days out from your launch or event date, then you’ve equally shot yourself in the foot. Being a little early, say two or three weeks, is not a bad idea for most pitches–that gives you time for follow up. Ultimately, timing is really down to how well you get to know the rhythms of reporters and their publication. (That’s where the services of a good PR pro come in handy, too.)
Anyway, I recommend you make a point to follow up via email first. This way the reporter can respond to you when their schedule permits.
What if the reporter never responds to my email?
In my experience, most reporters will respond to your second follow up email (if not the first one). If they don’t, it could mean one of a few things:
- The Pocket Veto. They saw your pitch/press release and aren’t interested–and they’re too busy to reply to you about it.
- Hmm. I’ll get to that soon. The reporter is interested, but on deadline or too busy to focus on it at the moment.
- They haven’t read it yet.
If you’ve made repeated attempts via email and feel the pitch/release is worthy of the reporter’s attention (and you need a definitive yes or no) then by all means call. But make sure you can spell out your pitch quickly and you’re respectful of the reporter’s time. Also, here are a few tips from a reporter on making your pitches and press releases ready for their closeup.
Okay, the dancing corn dog says it’s time to hit the refreshment stand. Enjoy the movie and good luck with your next pitch!