How to respond to journalist enquiries
Getting in touch with the right journalist, at the right time of day, with just the right contribution to help them in their work is tough, but not if you’ve got access to requests for content from those journalists you want to work with.
If you’re already making use of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service, receiving relevant requests is just the start of the interaction. To make the best impression on the media in your niche(s) and ensure you’re providing exactly what’s sought after, here are some quick things to consider for getting good results…
1) Is the journalist/publication covering a topic you can help with?
Journalists, bloggers and broadcasters using the Journalist Enquiry Service select the categories most relevant to what they’re asking for – whether it’s, say, cooking products for review (Food & Drink), news of fashion launches (Retail & Fashion), statistics on mental health issues in the UK (Health) or expert comment on global warming denial (Environment & Nature), so you should automatically receive requests that you may be able to help with. Not every opportunity will be quite the right fit for you, though – is it consumer media, when you’re aiming for trade coverage? Just as the journalist wants the right information, you’ll want to make sure you’re replying to the right requests for you or your clients.
2) Has the journalist included everything you need to know already?
Deadline, word count, image or no image, detail – each enquiry likely includes brief information on all of these essentials, so read through each one carefully to make sure you’ve got it all and can respond right away with what’s needed – no unnecessary follow-up questions for the journalist to answer when they’re busy rounding up resources and getting the piece fleshed out. If you’re unsure of anything they’re asking for, double-check what they’ve included in their enquiry before hitting send on your response. No mention of word count for the expert comment they’re asking for? 200 words is a good amount to give if there’s no guidance – the journalist can cut the count down, or ask for more, if needed.
3) Can you give the journalist exactly what they’ve requested?
Wanting to help media professionals out with getting their features filled up with solid stats, product examples and commentary is a good and useful thing – when the help is wanted and what is provided has been put together with precision. For example, a journalist might be asking to speak to an academic with studies on smoking – an offer of information on a product for quitting smoking won’t be useful this time and an email about it is likely to be deleted right away.
4) Can you hit the deadline the journalist has set?
Just as in PR, the journalist’s day is made up of deadlines. As well as the final deadline for filing their work, there are their own deadlines for the gathering of information needed before they sit down to write. Everyone works differently, but receiving a potentially useful contribution when approaching the finishing line for a feature isn’t useful. Most journalists won’t rework/rewrite to include a late contribution in what they’re working on (unless it’s a new and exclusive quote from Elvis, or something equally unexpected) – they may sigh and wish it had arrived earlier and in time for them to use, at the most. And definitely don’t disappear if you’ve promised something to a journalist by a certain time – planning a piece around a contribution that sounded perfect and being left without it is a heartbreaker.
5) Are you being direct in your response?
Journalists can be very scary people – they have the ability to provide you and your clients with the coverage you need, but they’re also incredibly busy and have to be direct in their communications. If they’ve requested specific information for an article, they know exactly what they want. So, if you’ve read a journalist’s request for info and contributions and definitely have what they’re asking for, go ahead and send it over for quick consideration. Starting with ‘I have this, would you find it useful/can I send this over to you?’ and waiting for a yes before you send is a kindness (and personally, I like it) but takes up time with back-and-forth when the clock is steadily ticking towards filing time. Provide what you have if you’re confident that it’s the right fit for them and leave it to the journalist to decide whether or not to use it – if they need more from you, they’ll definitely ask.
Do you have access to experts, statistics and surveys, products for review and people for interview that UK journalists, bloggers and broadcasters are looking for? Take a trial of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service to get their requests directly.
Looking for more information on targeting the right journalists with the right contributions? Check out our How to pitch to… series for sector-specific insight from the journalists themselves.
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