Grabbing the attention of a journalist is one thing, but getting a response can feel like a roll of the dice. Some journalists reply to all pitches, some reply to none. This can often make PR Pros feel like they are in a state of limbo. On our podcast Coffee with a Journalist, we sit down with a new guest every week to get the inside perspective on various journalism topics from responding to their inbox to how they craft stories. Read more how these 4 journalists covering tech, news, and retail respond to their inboxes.
How do They Respond?
One aspect of pitching that at times is difficult to find an answer for is why journalists are responding to pitches in their inbox. Many have said, “make sure the pitch is relevant to what I write about and not a story I’ve already written.” Let’s see what these journalists had to say on the subject.
Early-stage startups reporter for TechCrunch Natasha Mascarenhas talks about the percentage of emails that are pitches and how she interprets subject lines and responds to well-known contacts in her inbox:
“Sometimes it’s follow-ups for… I think, let’s say 65, 70% are pitches. So I don’t click through every single email. I scan through every page. And if it’s one by someone I know, I’ll click on it. Or if it has a headline slash first sentence that feels like it wasn’t written by a robot, then I definitely click into it.”
For NBC News Reporter Dave Ingram, his response tends to be silent because he’s focused on the story. He told us:
“For me, the work is interviewing people, researching a company, or researching a question I’m trying to solve for a story. Preparing for interviews, the actual writing of stories. Email is none of those things.”
There is hope for pitches and a lot of times a pitch is only the sliver of an entire story. Dave Ingram shared more about this:
“Yes, there are a lot of times when I will open an email and say, “That could be the kernel of a story,” although usually I’ll have four other stories I’m working on at the same time. I will save that email in a folder and come back to it later, or note it in a “works in progress” file or something.”
Wall Street Journal reporter Ann-Marie Alcantara sheds light on the infamous follow-up email and how she responds:
“I did once count someone following up with me 32 times. I literally counted because yeah, it was just … I was like, this has been too much for me. I generally don’t like the follow-ups, because as I explained in my process, if I already know I want to respond to you, I’ll just keep it in my inbox or file it in a certain way and I will get to you eventually.”
Lastly, here is a great explanation from our first guest on the second season of Coffee with a Journalist, Alex Wilhelm, about having to manage time and juggle multiple tasks throughout the day and why it’s tough being on the side of PR:
“And so you’re going to have people that respectfully want some of your time or attention or help or work. And that’s perfectly acceptable. If I was on the other side of the coin, I would do the exact same thing. So I have no beef, but also I have a team to run, and I’m on podcasts, and I got stuff to do. So I have to be as efficient a human as I can be. I’m a good capitalist cog.”
For deep dives behind these amazing journalists, check out their full episodes on our podcast Coffee with a Journalist. Each week, we sit down to talk with journalists from the world’s leading publications to gain insight into their journalistic origins, storytelling processes, and everything in between. Learn more about your favorite journalists through our candid conversations over coffee. Be sure to subscribe to stay informed on our latest guests and episodes!
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