PR Tips | The Fine Line Between Persistent and Obnoxious

PR Tips | The Fine Line Between Persistent and Obnoxious

In public relations — and life in general — there’s a fine line between regularly contacting a person and annoying the heck out of someone. I reach out to dozens of reporters and editors every day. So I’m constantly straddling this line.

When pitching a story, how many times should I follow up with a journalist? How frequently should I call or email?

There is no simple answer to these questions. But here’s what I’ve learned in the course of doing it on a daily basis: The hotter the story, the more aggressive the pitch.

If I’m pitching an oped by Joe Biden on how he negotiated the fiscal cliff deal, I’d be doing editors a huge favor by calling them every hour, because I can guarantee that every editor in town would kill to have that piece in today’s paper.

Alternatively, if I’m pitching a story about a new flavor of dog food, I’ll be far more selective and careful not to annoy journalists who aren’t interested.

Either way, most people don’t mind an occasional “follow up.” But when they’re busy — especially editors at top publications — following up too frequently could put your name on the X-list. And your client’s piece in the trash bin.

So always respect a journalist’s schedule. If he or she is on deadline, offer to call back at a better time. Get a feel for each journalist’s preference. Some prefer a quick email; others would rather chat on the phone. Incorporate those preferences into your pitching strategy whenever possible.

I can’t place every story in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. But if I’m giving journalists what they want (i.e., a good story), then I can dramatically improve my success rate through persistent, but not nagging, contact.

Kristen Thomaselli