Having been in a newsroom for two decades, I can attest to how inundated reporters are with email and phone pitches from PR pros. And with shrinking newsrooms, I can only image it has gotten much worse.
To help PR pros tasked with cold-calling reporters and editors with pitches, here’s a basic list to help understand why journalists are not calling you back.
First, let’s just assume that reporters do not actually pick up the phone when you call, because they rarely do. Blame it on not enough time, deadline, or that they are out in the field getting stories.
Why would a reporter not call you back?
1. Your pitch is not engaging.
Yes, this is the primary reason reporters ignore your pitch. Newsworthiness rules, and “so what?” pitches will be deleted immediately.
2. You’re pitching the wrong person.
There has been shuffling of assignments under the guise of doing more with less, so pitches that go to the wrong reporter will be deleted rather than forwarded to the right reporter.
3. You are from out of town.
This one is hard to swallow, but reporters assume that calls from an out of town PR agency will not be newsworthy for local readers. This is especially true for smaller media outlets.
4. Your pitch does not have a local angle.
Publications rely on wire services to cover national stories, and they will rarely pick up on a regional or national story unless there is a strong local angle.
5. You have a track record of providing lame story pitches.
This is about relationship-building and being a good source for reporters, not just a mouthpiece for a client. If you regularly fill up voicemail with nominal pitches, even the most newsworthy pitch will get deleted. Be a good source, understand when to avoid pitching junk, and remember that no one owes you a favor.
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor with 20 years of communications experience. He heads up the crisis communication/issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.