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  • Writer's pictureAlex McCord

DIY PR: How to respond to journalist requests

Getting featured in the press is universally regarded as a pretty great way to build awareness and improve the credibility of a brand. And, here in PR Land, it’s what we do for our clients every day.

If budgets are tight, or you have the time and inclination, you may prefer to do your own PR, rather than outsourcing it. And many startups have tried their luck by responding to a steady stream of journalist requests issued on Twitter, HARO, ResponseSource or GetQwoted.

But, when you keep getting radio silence in return, it can seem like a joyless task.

Here at Tartle Media, we respond to journalist requests when our clients fit the brief, but we also use journalist request services to source experts for the features that we ghostwrite – straddling the line between hack and flack.

While it’s impossible to get anywhere close to a 100% success rate, there are several ways you can improve your chances of getting into a journalist’s story. Read on for our tips…

Read the request… twice

This sounds painfully obvious, but you’d be surprised how many responses ignore the questions posed. Some journalist requests are irritatingly vague, but most of them specify what they need from you e.g. Max 100-word answers to these three questions.

Reading the request a couple of times can also help you judge whether this opportunity is worth your time. If the journalist has specified that they will be prioritising responses from massive, household-name brands, and you’re a fledgeling startup of two, then your time would be better saved for another request.

A senior editor, shown just after they receive your new comments

Offer comments, not yourself

If a journalist has specified that they want comments, then take a punt: write and send them over. Some PRs and brands make the mistake of emailing to introduce themselves first – partly so they don’t have to write a comment that will never be used. Trouble is, although that saves YOU time, it doesn’t help a time-pressed journalist who will be, at that moment, wading through hundreds of responses to their request to find the best. It’s really unlikely they will have time to reply.

However, if their request is really unclear, there is no harm in emailing them to clarify exactly what they need.

Don’t wait, respond quickly

The deadline might be in a few days’ time, but some journalists will have already started writing their article. The sooner you can respond, the better, as fresh eyes and their full attention is far more likely. Also, it lessens the risk that you’ll forget about it.

Do something different

For most questions, you can gauge what the most common responses will be. If a reporter is asking people to respond and offer their tips for remote working, chances are a lot of people will talk about Slack, Zoom and the importance of good communication. They aren’t wrong, but they aren’t exactly blowing anyone’s mind, either.

Read the question, work out what would be the most vanilla answer, and take a different tack.

Above is someone reading your excellent contribution, thinking about how smart you are

Be helpful

Don’t forget to include the full name of your spokesperson, their job title (but keep it short and don’t use initialisms), the company name, and a link to your website. Note that links may or may not be included, according to the publication’s house style.

If you have some decent headshots of your spokesperson (and you definitely should!), include a link so the journalist can download an image if they need one. It can also help to include a link to their LinkedIn profile, in case the journalist wants to do a little background checking.

Be patient

Many writers don’t have full editorial control and the date a journalist sets as a deadline for responses isn’t an indication of when the feature will be published.

If the journalist has told you that you’ve made it into an article, it’s fine to ask them when it might appear, but don’t burn bridges by hounding them if it’s late.

Also, there’s no need to follow up once your email has been sent – no journalist has time to reply to all 150 people so they simply won’t be able to. If you don’t hear back, assume you’ve not made the cut and better luck next time.

You can monitor the internet for stories by setting up a Google alert containing your spokesperson’s name and the company name e.g. “Emma Smith”, “Metal Makers”.

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