The PR and marketing world is full of things that divide opinion (apart from GA4 – we all seem fairly united on the inconvenience that has caused). One such topic that pulls in different views is whether or not to follow up when you’ve made a pitch to an editor or journalist.
Whilst many people swear their second email is always the most effective, an equal number of journalists are very open about the fact that they don’t appreciate follow ups. Personally, and perhaps slightly controversially, I’m actually not a huge fan of it.
I prefer to put my eggs in basket number one and only follow up sparingly. Perhaps I’ve missed out on the odd ‘yes’ over the years, but I also think the stronger relationships I’ve had as a result means I haven’t needed to follow up that often.
That said, there are occasions I think it’s worth it. There’s no right or wrong answers, but there are some important things to bear in mind when going for that second bite.
When to follow up
Obviously emails do sometimes get missed, or they get saved for a less busy time, and by then they’re five pages deep in someone’s inbox. A short and polite second email can make sure a good idea sees the light of day and can be appreciated by both parties.
If you’re really confident the idea you’ve put forward is relevant to the writer and the publication you’re targeting, and you’ve checked they haven’t already covered it(!) there’s usually not much harm in contacting them again.
If you’ve pitched to someone who is usually very receptive and you think it’s unusual they haven’t replied, then again it might be worth a nudge. This is especially true if you contacted them on a Friday afternoon for example, and it’s become a distant memory by Monday.
I also think if you’re offering someone an exclusive and they haven’t replied, it’s courteous to try them again before you move on, and this saves any awkward moments if they reply two weeks later and you’ve already made an arrangement with a rival publication.
When not to follow up
Generally speaking, whether or not you choose to follow up will largely depend on what you’ve pitched. If I’m approaching a client’s core trade press with fairly middle of the road news, I’m not going to push them.
For many people, it’s when they’re pitching article ideas that they automatically consider a follow up email. My personal preference would still be to adopt a more selective approach here, but it’s generally considered more the norm.
That said, I wouldn’t make a habit of always following up to the same publications.
It’s also wise to make a note of who hasn’t responded well to follow up emails or anyone you know doesn’t like it.
How to be less pushy in your follow ups
Wherever you fall in the follow up spectrum, I believe there is an art to doing it well (hence my title!). Here’s a few tips for getting a better response from that second email:
- Don’t make it feel like a chase – no one wants to feel nagged, and in this instance you’re the one asking for a favour, so keep it as friendly and polite as possible. Where possible, I also prefer to refrain from phrases like “did you get my email” and “have you had a chance to look at my ideas yet”.
- Offer additional value – this can help your email feel less like a chase. If you can follow up and offer additional images, or a personal quote from an expert, on top of what you originally pitched, you’re potentially tipping them over the edge to a ‘yes’, whilst also avoiding a direct chase.
- Give it enough time – we’ve all had spammy emails and LinkedIn messages from people we don’t know, offering irrelevant services, and these are always the ones who seem to have sent you at least three emails within the first week. Don’t be one of these people.
- Find other ways to nudge – sometimes if I just want to remind someone I’ve messaged them without them feeling like they’re being chased, I might just connect with them on LinkedIn or view their profile. It sounds silly, but I’ve had replies to emails I’ve been waiting on for a week, just half an hour after doing this.
Following up on a great idea can be the difference between making it happen, and forever thinking ‘what if’, but I would always prioritise long-term relationships over short-term gain.