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It happens to all PR folks. You work on a great pitch, you identify the reporters and outlets you’d like to approach with that pitch and you pitch them when the time is right (for you). And then…crickets.
Talk about frustrating — but it’s a frustration we’ve all shared.
I’ve seen some of the best pitches get the silent treatment. In my earlier days as a PR pro, my instinctive reaction to a flopped pitch was to think I’d done something wrong. “Maybe it wasn’t such a good pitch,” I’d think. Yes, there are usually ways that a pitch can be tightened up, but sometimes even the best pitches don’t return desired results.
There are all sorts of reasons that a reporter might sleep on a pitch, but one of the most common is that the timing simply wasn’t right.
Not a bad pitch, just bad timing
Of course, as you road-mapped your pitch, you considered your own calendrical needs — but just because the timing lined up for you and your business doesn’t mean it did for the reporters on your list. Many reporters and editors operate on an editorial calendar, and if the topic you reached out to them about doesn’t fit into any of those pre-established narratives they’re exploring at a given moment, there won’t be room for it.
Also, members of the media are slammed with deadlines, and there are fewer of them responsible for delivering more work than ever before. If you happen to ping the inbox of a reporter who is trying to beat multiple deadlines, source leads for upcoming stories and juggle all the other demands that come with reporting, chances are slim they’ll be able to give your pitch much immediate attention.
These are just two common reasons why a pitch, even to the right reporter, may be ignored. Before we discuss what you can do when you find yourself in this situation, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what you can do to potentially avoid these situations.
This is not a failsafe step, but as you’re building out your pitch and making plans for when you’re going to distribute it, it’s not a bad idea to shoot a quick message to reporters on your list ahead of time to give them a heads up about the fully built-out pitch you’ll be sending them in a week or two. Consider it a pitch teaser. This way, you’ll be giving them a chance to work it into their schedule in advance.
It’s also good to get your hands on the editorial calendars of the publications you know you’ll be pitching to throughout the course of a year. Some outlets put these calendars online, but for others, you may have to ask for them specifically. If you’ve got these to plan around, you’ll know exactly what they’ll be needing and when they’ll be needing it, and you can sync up your pitches with what they’ll be looking for.
How to stay top of mind/what to do in the meantime
Even the best pre-planning can’t guarantee coverage, so when you find yourself in a “crickets” scenario, there are a few things you can do to stay top of mind (without being a bother) so that when the timing is right, you’ll be top of mind.
- Plan a prolonged follow-up: I usually do only one immediate follow-up on a pitch. Sometimes I’ll do two, but you can usually bet that if you get no response after one follow-up, they’re not interested or the timing isn’t right. However, I do think it’s worth putting a note on your calendar to do one prolonged follow-up about a month after your initial outreach. Maybe the reporter you reached out to was in the middle of a hair-on-fire couple of weeks, and a gentle nudge later on might catch them in a milder moment.
- Keep them in the loop: Unless you’re outright spamming a reporter, it’s completely fine to shoot them relevant updates every so often — notes like “hey, I thought I’d pass along this new feature blog of ours,” or “just wanted to share that we made this list,” or “here’s some interesting data we just pulled.” So long as you’re positioning yourself as a resource and not being pesky, this is a great way to stay top of mind.
- Pitch new people: It’s easy to become so fixated on getting a particular reporter or outlet to cover your business that you overlook other great opportunities. If you’re not getting the responses you need, find new pitch targets. Just because you don’t immediately land your dream article doesn’t mean there aren’t other possibilities out there that could be just as valuable.
When the time is right, be a great resource
Recently, one of my clients got an email from a reporter at a major national outlet who needed a quote and some additional insights for a story he was working on. We’d wanted to work with this particular reporter months prior, but it didn’t pan out … back then. But we stayed in front of him, and when the time was right, he reached out.
When a similar situation emerges for you, be that resource that gives them the information they need to write the best article possible. If you do that, don’t be surprised if they ping your inbox again in the future.