A lack of response is wildly frustrating and really 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.

By Jeannie Clary | J. Clary Public Relations

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

You cut to the core of me, Simon & Garfunkel! You really 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 too 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 pretty 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 saved to start a vineyard…

You’ve been there, I’m sure.

A lack of response is wildly frustrating and really 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. Earlier 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 (e.g. “Jeannie Clary used to get frustrated by pitching great story ideas and not getting a response.” Yeah, I can totally see that on the local news.) 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.) 

Finally, if I may do a shameless plug, visit Pitching Notes. The point of this site is, after all, to provide insight into how specific reporters like to work, what their response habits are, etc. Get tips here, and in turn, add your own experiences.

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

Comments (5)

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  • Anonymous
    Great article Jeannie!
  • msgalfriday1
    I really dislike the phone call where they tell you to email them instead. Why not just tell me yes or no based on the phone pitch? I waste more hours doing follow up emails to silence then if I talked to them on the phone for two seconds. As a member of Pitching Notes I'm finding that helpful, but I think all PR people go through this on a daily basis. Unfortunately it seems to be part of our job!
  • Courtney H.
    Thanks for this post. You raised great points. It seems like they say "just email me" in order to get rid of you. I agree with the poster below. Two seconds on the phone makes a lot more sense than four emails and radio silence. And emailing just further balloons the journalists' inbox, anyway, so why would they want that?

    Even after getting a piece accepted, I had to hound someone just to tell me they'd received it. I just find myself wishing for more common courtesy.
  • L E B
    I agree with Courtney and also find myself wishing for more common courtesy. One reason for no response at all is rudeness. Some journalists are truly too busy sometimes, but others have no respect for the time another person put into contacting them. I blame their mothers for not instilling proper manners.
    I once asked a VERY successful person the secret of her success. Her answer: "I return every phone call."
  • Unsodsnepsomi
    Hi my friend! I wish to say that this article is awesome, nice written and come with almost all significant infos. Iˇd like to look extra posts like this .

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