What to do when reporters don’t respond to your pitch

You’ve done your research. Targeted your pitch, and—crickets. It’s frustrating. The author knows, and she wants to help.

“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to pitch to you again.”

You cut to the core of me, Simon & Garfunkel. You understand what it’s like to send researched, targeted pitches to the right media contacts and get no response.

Oh, I’ve botched the lyrics? Paul and Art weren’t concerned with pitching? (Are you sure? I mean, “Scarborough Fair” does seem to build awareness of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme …)

But “The Sound of Silence” plays in my head sometimes after I’ve been pitching endlessly with no responses.

I’m not a newbie, and I’d like to think I’m OK at this media relations thing. I pitch all sorts of clients to all sorts of media outlets. I research. I make sure the angle is something the outlet would cover. I try to find a news connection and interesting statistics. I search for the proper contact. I offer the necessary interview opportunities. I may pitch a lot of people in different markets, but I never do a “mass pitch”—they’re always tailored.

And yet sometimes … nothing.

No responses.

I call. Maybe they say it’s interesting. They tell me to email. No one says “no” outright. I email again.

And then comes the retooling and following up. Then the inevitable questioning of whether you even know how to do your job, wishing you had come up with the idea for Pinterest, wondering if you have enough money saved to start a vineyard…

You’ve been there, I’m sure.

A lack of response is wildly frustrating and hard to explain to someone in need of an update, whether it’s your team, boss, or client. But there are a few things to keep in mind before you quit and head out to Napa on a “fact-finding” trip.

Remember that timing is critical when pitching. This year I started pitching something in central Florida the day before the Trayvon Martin story broke loose. Terrible timing.

I’ve worked with reporters who get in touch after a few rounds of pitches because Sweeps is coming up or the station owner is coming and wants to hear some hot new ideas. Everyone has to answer to someone, even the media, and it’s difficult to know what’s of interest in every newsroom at every moment.

Sometimes it takes a while, too. A reporter I recently worked with got back to me three months after my initial pitch. A reporter in a different market emailed me almost immediately after I’d sent out a similar pitch.

It’s not always about timing, of course, so trust your instincts. If you don’t feel confident in a pitch angle, change it up. We can get so caught up in “getting the pitch out” and getting results that we become blind to possible flaws or areas where the story could be stronger.

Throughout the pitching process, I try to envision how it could play out as a story, even down to the introduction. Try to keep an open mind to allow new ideas to flow that make might for a crucial “tweak.”

Regrouping with colleagues always helps if you need a new perspective. If you’re on your own, reach out to friends in the business or even run some ideas by family members. They may not know “how to pitch,” but they know what they read and watch. Plus, they’re your targets’ target audience. (I know, the audience is your ultimate target—just go with me here.)

If you have other thoughts on how to deal with “The Sound of Silence” (the pitching issue, not my blog post!), please share in the comments below.

Jeannie Clary is the president of J. Clary Public Relations. She also writes for the Pitching Notes blog, where this story was originally published.

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