in: Public Relations
by: Sabina Hitchen
Oh how I know this place well - anyone who has worked for more than a few months in the world of public relations as a brand doing their own PR or as a publicist is probably familiar with this scenario as well. You're writing back and forth with an editor or producer, heck you may have even done a story or two with them, they may have told you about how they love your product, service or expert tips, and then out of the blue they disappear. They don't reply to your emails, they may stop reaching out to you for your products, and you are left wondering if it was you that did something wrong. The good news? It rarely is you who did something wrong. More likely than not it's for a host of other reasons and their silence does not necessarily mean "this is the end" in terms of you're work with this person our media outlet. Because this is a situation we get asked about on a regular basis at Tin Shingle in our forums, I'm first going to outline why this happens, and then what you can do about it.
Why is No One Replying to Me?
The first step in this situation is to understand that this lack of response probably has very little to do with you. Members of the media are busy, they do not have time to explain why they aren't using you (or anyone) in their stories. If they did they'd be spending the majority of their day doing just that. They say no more than they say yes, which means that you won't always get follow up emails. Even if they have chatted with you in the past. If you can look back on your communication and see nothing you did wrong on your end (dropped the ball on a conversation or request for instance) it's most likely not you, it's them. Meaning they just don't want what you're offering at the moment, they have no where to place it, or maybe they need a breather from your brand/type of product/expertise in their outlet. There are so many reasons that happens. These decisions can come from the "powers that be", can be swayed by advertisers, and can even be made due to personal reasons. Torturing yourself, taking it personally or trying to pinpoint the exact reason they aren't writing you back is a waste of time, and in small business, time is money.
Another reason for their lack of response could also be because they have not seen your emails or had the time to respond to them. Heck, they could even have your pitch or idea filed away for a future story. The bummer is that you don't know that on your end so you feel that you were left hanging, but you cannot let that affect your productivity or feelings, you just have to move on and do your PR thing (more on that below).
In my "PR Glory Days" I placed amazing people and products in media outlets from Today Show to O, the Oprah Magazine and the same situation happened with me too. Instead of taking it personally or spending more than a few minutes trying to figure out which of several reasons they could have for not responding, I forged ahead. I kept pitching them (and other people), I kept connecting via Twitter, I kept my head up and my mind positive, and 95% of the time they eventually circled back around to me.
Sometimes this took weeks, sometimes it took months, but fortunately for me I wasn't wasting my precious time overthinking it. To end this section on the "why aren't they responding" let me give you one quick and personal anecdote: I recently heard from a reporter who apologized for not responding to several emails I'd sent as she was in the process of leaving the magazine she was working for because they were changing the direction of their articles and eliminating her position! She couldn't tell me this earlier and had basically zero head space to deal with the pitches she was getting from me (and hundreds others) while this was all going on. So all of us were in the dark while she was trying to find work and her magazine was changing their editorial style. I share this to illustrate that beneath the surface of a media outlet there is so much going on, you just can't take a lack of response personally.
So what do I do then?
Now that you know that it's probably not you it's them, what do you do? Well just like in dating, when someone says to you "it's not you, it's me" (come on, most of us have been there...) the first thing you do is reflect and ask yourself, "is that the truth, have I been writing great pitches filled with content they could really use?" Once you know that answer is yes, I recommend you practice the "Three P's" of pitching this outlet and person (until they give you a firm "no").
Be persistent: Don't call or email them every day, but send regular pitches out (more often for short lead outlets like TV or websites because they update content more often, 1-2 times a month for magazines). This will ensure they don't forget about you, and even if they don't use you, they are regularly reminded of your awesome products, service or expert tips. It keeps you fresh and familiar in their heads. Also don't forget, when you're writing regular emails, don't just copy and paste the same email over and over again, update the angle and ideas. Just because they aren't responding they may still be reading them, so don't just become a broken record!
Be polite: You should never lose your cool, whine, or bug them rudely. Remain polite whether you're courting them on email or Twitter. People may forget your nice emails but they will certainly not forget your rude ones, and you never want to say "are you getting my emails..." or "why are you not responding". Desperate or rude is never "PR sexy".
Be patient: As the saying goes, the best things come to those who wait. I think one of the biggest lessons a business can learn (that most PR pros know all too well) is that press hits and media relationships are often a marathon not a sprint. They don't always happen instantly or quickly. Even if they wrote you quickly in the past, they won't always do that moving forward. Being patient is key. Knowing that they may be holding you for a future story is key. That said while you're being patient, polite and persistent do not forget this one last word of advice....
Make sure you're not putting all of your eggs in one basket! Don't spend so much time focusing on a few magazines or television shows that you stop pitching or making time for other outlets that could be just as good - and perhaps more responsive - to you! There are several media outlet fish in the publicity sea! Don't miss out on them while waiting around for one fish. Sure, keep that fishing pole out there, but throw your net out to others as well!
Need more help crafting a killer pitch? Check out this podcst that covers writing the perfect pitch to land national press!