Journalists receive a multitude of emails every day from businesses trying to get coverage. If you want to stand out, you should do your research to get your email right.
When sending a press release to a journalist it can be the small things which put them off responding to your email. This can be simple things such as calling them the wrong name, getting the publication wrong or spelling mistakes. You may have seen our previous blog listing 8 simple reasons your press release sucked, all of which can be easily avoided by proofreading or asking someone else to read it for you.
Another reason may be because you don’t know enough about the journalist before sending your email i.e. what type of stories they’re currently looking for, what stories they’ve already covered and their pet peeves. All of which can be quickly resolved by one simple task that won’t take long to do - a light social media stalk.
On social media journalists often air their views and comment on current trends or stories. By looking over a journalist's social media before pitching to them could mean you avoid saying or doing the wrong thing. Mainly focusing on Twitter, but LinkedIn works as well, you can find out little things which may help you when contacting them.
Below we’ve put some examples of journalist tweets which can help you when sending them a press release or pitch.
Understanding the stories they’re currently looking for (or not)
Twitter is a great place to find out what journalists are currently looking for, especially via the hashtag #journorequests. Visa versa journalists also normally share topics or stories they’re not looking for. This could be because they’ve already covered the topic, had too many pitches or simply because they do not agree with the message. By looking at their Twitter feeds prior to pitching your business you may save yourself time by emailing a journalist who has shared their disinterest.
please, please PRs, I know you're just doing your job and maybe you didn't write the press release but stop emailing me about losing weight, extreme diets, weight-loss tea, skinny coffee, new year new body, diet pills. I fucking hate it.— Emma Gannon (@emmagannon) December 5, 2017
Things I don't care for: reports about automation in the workplace, the impact of GDPR, lack of digital skills, the number of cybersecurity breaches ... and the list goes on!— Yessi Bello-Perez (@yessibelloperez) November 9, 2017
This could also relate to a journalists deadlines i.e. if you’re questioning whether you’re sending your pitch too early or too late, you may find the answer on social media. For example, Christmas starts in July only for glossy magazines and print publications. However online magazines won’t start planning until late October/ early November. Be careful not to send your releases too early.
‘No doubt you’ll be putting your Christmas issue to bed shortly.’— Alicia Grimshaw (@Alicia_Grimshaw) October 10, 2017
I think UK productivity could get a major boost from time saved by PRs just not sending comment on news that happened a full 24 hours ago— Lynsey Barber... probably hasn’t seen your email (@lynseybarber) November 21, 2017
Understanding the journalist's pet peeves
Everyone has a particular pet peeve that may put them off working with you. This could be a certain buzzword or phrase that they dislike. Many people often dislike people beginning an email with ‘Hope you’re well’ as it’s so commonly used it loses genuine interest. For other people it can be a range of words, but how are you meant to know this about a journalist without meeting them first?
As I’ve mentioned before journalists often air their views on Twitter, including buzzwords which irritate them. Whether this a message you share with your product or common phrase used in emails you don’t want to rub the journalist up the wrong way before they’ve read your whole release or pitch.
Now, I’m not saying phrases such as ‘Hope you’re well’ or buzzwords such as ‘e-speaking’ will ruin your chances of being covered, some journalists may simply look over it. Yet when pitching to a journalist it is always better to start on the right foot rather than the wrong one.
GAH, if I see the words ‘guilt-free’ one more time on a press release, I will cry. CHOCOLATE ISN’T EVIL LEAVE ME ALONE.— Angelica Malin (@jellymalin) October 17, 2017
Please don’t use the term 'e-speaking’— Alicia Grimshaw (@Alicia_Grimshaw) November 3, 2017
Another pet peeve the journalist may have is the format in which you send the email. For example, we’d normally suggest you copy and paste the whole press release into the email rather than attaching it as a PDF, or sending images in a dropbox link rather than attachments as this won’t use as much space in the journalists inbox.
Why are people still sending press releases in PDF format?— Yessi Bello-Perez (@yessibelloperez) December 7, 2017
PR friends, when you send emails with “URGENT” in the subject for something distinctly non-urgent like cocktail recipes, it really doesn’t help stressed-out journos with anxiety. Please spread the word. 🙃— Angelica Malin (@jellymalin) December 6, 2017
Understanding what the journalists like
As well as gaining an understanding of what the journalist dislikes from their social media you can also find out what they like i.e. subjects they’re interested in or products they’ve used. This can be especially helpful when pitching to a journalist as you can mention this in your email to show them why you believe they will be interested in your business. It is always more effective to show a journalist you’ve made an effort to find out a bit more about them.
In addition, this can be useful when you wish to send them a sample of your product or ask them to a meeting. For example, if you’re a tea brand and you know they like particular flavour of tea from their previous tweets, you then know to send them this flavour. Furthermore, if you know they like to drink green smoothies then ask them to meet you for a smoothie rather than a coffee as it may spark their interest.
By taking a quick look at journalists social media before contacting them can help you understand more about them and therefore you will be able to tailor your pitch or press release to them. I’m not suggesting you need to know their whole life history, however, knowing a little bit about them will help you garner their attention.
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Written By: Camilla Holroyd, Media Relations Manager
Camilla is the all-important portal between JournoLink's businesses and journalists; connecting them on a daily basis through press releases, Twitter engagements and editorial requests.